Do I need my neighbours’ permission for balcony modules?

Young Man Solar Balcony

My brother Ferdinand recently moved into a balcony apartment in Vienna with his girlfriend. Shortly after his arrival, a plastic solar panel was attached to the balcony railing, just as a SolMate should be. It took less than four weeks for a letter to arrive from the property management.

Permission of the neighbours

According to the property management, Ferdinand is only allowed to hang the solar module if all 56 owners agree and must remove it in the meantime. It is understood that other people want to have a say in the design of the common areas. Residential buildings are therefore approved by the building authorities on behalf of all of us. This includes approving the overall appearance of a building. The  Home Ownership Act 2002 then also points out that you cannot deface a residential building.

Section 16 (2) No. 1: The alteration must not result in damage to the building or harm to the interests of the other apartment owners that are worthy of protection, in particular, it must not affect the external appearance of the building […]

Sounds reasonable at first. But where does the impairment of the neighbour begin and where does it end? If you use solar modules to improve the air in the city, is that an impairment? What about ugly balcony furniture? Am I allowed to grow tomatoes and basil on the balcony or might someone find these plants ugly? Where will we end up if everyone hangs a solar module on their balcony?

Those who ask long questions go far astray

Ferdinand left the solar module where it belonged. Outside on the balcony railing. And politely asked the building management for the source that says he is not allowed to hang his solar module. Nothing more came after that.

In retrospect, Ferdinand is glad he did not ask permission beforehand. Otherwise, he would have had to prove that he was allowed to hang his solar module without the consent of the others.

Right to solar panels in the city

According to a presentation on Vienna’s power grid, there are problems with the grid in some districts if solar modules cover more than 30% of the roof area. We are still very far away from that. How will we ever get to such dimensions if everyone has to agree because of every single solar module?

Everyone should have the right to use sunlight wisely as long as it is not taken away from anyone else.

And if a neighbour complains, he is invited for a chat over a solar-cooled drink.