Companies need to beware cutting corners when installing solar panels, an expert has warned.

Failure to order a structural survey could have dire consequences, cautions property agents John Truslove, of Redditch.

“There have been suggestions of businesses putting solar panels on their roof without a thought about whether it would support them,” cautioned Mr Truslove.

“The likelihood is they will get away with it because the panels are generally lightweight and there is usually sufficient specification in most roofs – for example so people can stand on it when doing maintenance – to allow for a degree of additional loading.

“But they would be well advised not to risk it and double check first. The ability of the existing roof to carry the load will need to be proven. Some strengthening work may be needed. Don’t just hire some cowboy builder and slam the things up. That could prove a very costly mistake.”

And he claimed some who have rushed to get in first may be storing up property problems for themselves in the future.

Load factors needed to take into account both the dead load – the structure itself – and the imposed load such as snow and wind.

And it was also vital to align the life expectancy specifications of both the roof and the panels.

“The life expectancy of the different products needs to mesh with each other in particular where elements may be relatively inaccessible such as with flat felt roofs. No one should contemplate installing any form of panel or solar energy gathering system without ensuring that the roof covering is in first class condition to start with.

“You don’t want to put up panels and then discover a few years later that you need a new roof, meaning the work all has to be done again.”

Mr Truslove said he was aware of reports of fit-outs having to be pulled at the eleventh hour.

He stated: “In many cases fixing solar panels to your roof is likely to be considered 'permitted development' under planning law with no need to apply for planning permission. There are, however, important exceptions and provisos. For example, if you are a leaseholder, you may need to get permission from your landlord or if your building is Listed or in a Conservation Area.

“Building regulations will also normally apply. It is advisable to find an experienced installer who knows what they are doing and will indemnify their work by insurance backed guarantee.”

There were also a host of related guidelines which needed to be observed – panels should be sited, so far as is practicable, to minimise the effect on the appearance of the building for example.

And he warned that, if short-cuts were taken and subsequently it resulted in someone having an accident then health and safety legislation would come into play.

“For a few hundred pounds it really isn’t worth taking chances,” said Mr Truslove. “It could jeopardise people’s lives – perhaps even your own.”