Agent, Broker, and Seller Sued for Roof Damage Caused by Solar Panels

By Lisa Scoble posted 03-01-2018 08:11 AM



The Situation
A buyer approached a residential real estate agent to purchase a single-family house. The agent located a property that met the buyer’s needs, including a state-of-the-art solar panel system that was installed about one year earlier. 

The buyer asked the agent whether the solar panels could adversely affect the roof. Although the agent was unfamiliar with the installation of solar panel systems, he informed the buyer that the seller installed a new roof when the solar panel system was installed and that the roof would be fine. The buyer purchased the house.   

The Problem
The agent was unfamiliar with the installation of solar panels and their potential impact on a roof’s integrity. No office policies or procedures were adopted by the broker to alert agents of potential installation issues concerning solar panel systems. No procedures were implemented by the broker to identify and correct mistakes by agents. 

The Mistake
The agent assumed the roof would not have problems, because the roof and solar panel system were recently installed. The agent did not advise the buyer to obtain an inspection of the roof by someone familiar with solar panel system installations. 

The Result
Several months after closing, the buyer noticed the roof was leaking in several places under the solar panel system. When the buyer entered the attic, he noticed many areas where the roof appeared to be punctured by the mounting hardware for the solar panels. 

The buyer hired a contractor who confirmed the underlying roof and solar panel system were improperly installed. The buyer sued the seller, agent, and broker. The buyer claimed he relied on the agent’s representations concerning the roof. The buyer alternatively claimed the agent and broker concealed the defective installation. 

The agent and broker could have avoided litigation if they followed pre-established office procedures pertaining to transactions involving solar panels. This would have alerted the agent of the installation of solar panel systems. He would've discovered that the underlying roof required vigilant inspection, especially when the underside could be viewed from an attic. Unlike traditional roof repairs, solar panel repairs may require removal and re-installation, which adds to costs.

An awareness of these issues would have prompted the agent to inform the buyer of the need to carefully inspect the roof and panel installation. As a further precaution, the agent could have recommended that the buyer retain a roofing specialist or engineer.  

This article was produced in conjunction with XL Catlin and is not to be taken as legal advice.