What if I don't own my home?
If you don't own the building you live in (or don't own it in its entirety), it can be very difficult to install PV - but that does not mean it is completely impossible. Depending on your tenancy and the type of building you live in there are various routes to getting PV installed. There are various options you can try, which we have split by tenancy below for ease.
Some 'owner-occupiers' - those who own the home they live in - may not be able to install PV because they only own part of the building. For example, a flat within a block, or a home purchased through shared ownership. Social tenants are those that live in council or other social landlord-owned housing, such as housing association housing. Private rental tenants are those that live in homes rented through the private sector. The majority of renters will fall into this category.
All may have difficulties getting PV due to lacking control an owner's (complete) control over the building itself. However, it is not always impossible for them to get PV.
Owner-occupied without complete control
If you are in a situation where you own your home but are not able to install PV directly, there normally is still a route to this. Generally, the reason you wouldn't be able to install the PV is because you would be a leaseholder, rather than the (complete) freeholder of the property. In this case the freeholder would have to install the panels, or at least grant you permission to have the panels installed.
This would mean you need to negotiate the installation with your freeholder. Sometimes, it can be as simple as requesting the permission - though you need to be able to prove you have gained permission. In other cases, you may have to present ways in which the installation could benefit the freeholder to change their mind. There is also likely to be negotiation over who pays for the panels (and what happens if you move).
If you live in a multi-unit property, the process is likely to be even more complicated - as the freeholder is less likely to grant permission to something which will benefit one tenant over another. In this case you could consider joining with your fellow tenants to create a community energy scheme, with the community in question being your block of flats.
If you are a tenant in social housing - your landlord may offer you installation of solar panels. Many councils and social housing associations have, or can get access to, pots of money which can fund the installation of solar panels. So, in the first instance, it is worth asking if your housing provider has a scheme to install panels.
If there is not such a scheme, or you do not qualify, many of your options are likely to be the same as for those living in private rented housing.
Private Rented Tenants
For private tenants, ultimately it is the landlord's decision as to whether you can install PV or not. In general, we would not recommend you ask permission to install PV that you will pay for. This is because PV has a long 'payback period' - the time it takes to make back the money you spent on the installation. You would need to either stay in the property longer than this time (normally at least 15 years) or arrange with the landlord what will happen when you move out.
The best option you have is to try to come to an arrangement with your landlord whereby they pay to install PV, and you share benefits in some way. For example, you would pay a rate for the electricity generated which is lower than your supplier but allows your landlord to recover their costs. Since the feed-in tariff ended, there are less benefits for solar panel owners who do not use the electricity themselves. Unfortunately, it is now harder to convince a landlord of the benefits.
Convincing a landlord
Whilst it is harder to convince a landlord to install panels since the ending of the feed-in tariff, there are some arguments you can make.
Firstly, under the smart export guarantee (SEG), any electricity not used in the home will be exported to the grid. The landlord can find a SEG tariff which will allow them to benefit from selling generated electricity. Be aware that SEG tariffs are quite low, so they are unlikely to be convinced by this alone!
You could highlight that the landlord would be able to offer the generated electricity to their tenants, at a rate which is higher than a SEG tariff, but less than a normal supplier rate. This is a win-win for you both - you get cheaper electricity, and the landlord gets a more income from their property. The landlord could also apply to receive renewable energy guarantee of origin (REGO) certificates for their generated electricity. These can be sold for further revenue.
If you are planning to leave the property soon, you could suggest to the landlord that solar panels (and the associated lower bills) make the rental property more desirable. This would help them to find new tenants and reduce periods of their property being empty - where they earn no money at all. At the same time, they would benefit from exporting their electricity to the grid - earning money through the SEG, which reduces their risk. You can also tell them that properties with solar panels attract “sticky tenants” - tenants that stay for long periods of time.
Minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) could also support your arguments. They state that landlords can't rent properties with an energy performance certificate (EPC) below a band E. There is the ambition to raise this to EPC B by 2030. Solar PV can raise this rating. So, you can argue your landlord should futureproof against these changes. This has the bonus of installing PV before the changes are in law - when demand for PV will increase and so too will prices.
Unfortunately, the decision does ultimately rest with your landlord. If you are not able to convince them, you can't have a solar installation on your property. However, that is not the end - you may be able to be involved in a community energy group (or start your own).