German Caselaw: When will warranty claims for rooftop solar power stations be time-barred?
By Christoph Mank, K&L Gates, Berlin
The question of when warranty claims are time-barred according to the German Civil Code, may differ from contract to contract. Often, warranty claims are time-barred two or three years after transfer of risk; however, for construction works, longer periods of four or five years may be applicable, starting with the completion and acceptance of the works.
The civil division of the German Federal Supreme Court (“BGH“), which is ─ inter alia ─ in charge of construction law, had to decide a case recently in which rooftop solar panels were installed subsequently on the roof of an indoor tennis center. Three years ago, another civil division of the BGH ─ which is in charge of the law related to sale and purchase agreements ─ had to decide a very similar case in which rooftop panels were installed on a barn. In the case of 2013, the BGH ruled that warranty claims for the solar panels, which were only delivered and not installed by the vendor, are time-barred two years after delivery. According to that decision, the rooftop solar power station is not a building or a “structure,” which it needs to be considered to qualify for the five-year warranty period. Only the barn is a building, and the solar power system is not relevant for the construction and the continued existence of the building; the solar power system is only used for generating electricity.