Solar Panel Fraud or Solar Fraud includes cases involving unfair business practices in the advertisement, solicitation, sale, lease, installation and/or financing of residential photovoltaic systems, commonly referred to as solar panel systems. Though solar panels hold huge potential for the benefit of our planet, and are arguably essential for our future, the general public’s unfamiliarity with this new technology provides ample opportunities for unscrupulous contractors and financiers.
Solar Panel Systems convert sunlight directly into electricity. The sun’s rays excite electrons in the panels (“modules”), which then flow as a direct current (“DC”) to an inverter that changes the DC into alternating current (“AC”). AC is the type of current provided by utility providers through the grid. The AC electricity from the inverter then flows directly into the building for use by the occupants and any excess is sent into the utility grid for use wherever needed. When, the sun is not out or the building is using more electricity than the system is producing, electricity is taken and purchased from the grid as needed. A properly designed system will provide the amount of electricity the respective residence uses on an average year, eliminating almost all of the electricity bill. Connection charges, for example, will still apply.
Contractors are often hungry for the profits possible through solar panel installations, without having the qualifications or skill to design or install them properly. This combination commonly results in poor installations including damages to residences, abandoned projects, or systems that produce too much or too little electricity. Early warning signs include home solicitations, deceptive advertising, and promises of government programs that pay for everything. An area of disproportionate abuse is the financing available through property assessed clean energy (PACE) loans.
PACE loans are financed by government agencies and come in various names through multiple providers (“administrators”). These loans are offered and sold by contractors, do not require a down payment, are paid back through increased property taxes, and are secured by a lien on the property where the home improvements are installed. PACE loans include provisions by which borrowers are required to give up their rights to dispute the loan for any reason. So even if the installation destroys the house or never occurs, borrowers are required to pay back the loan or face foreclosure.
PACE loan borrowers commonly complain that they never saw the loan documents and were unaware of the loan terms before learning a lien had been placed on their home. The loan documents are almost always electronic documents (“e-contracts”), and contractors have become adept at getting signatures on e-contracts before borrowers ever see a copy. These e-contracts are also many pages of fine print and very difficult to understand, perhaps because very few people would consider such a loan. Even worse, due to very lax oversight by administrators, the loan proceeds are often paid to contractors before the work is done. Some administrators do not even require that solar panels work before contractors are paid.
A proper initial evaluation of Solar Fraud cases is document intensive, including all advertisements, contracts, e-contracts, years of electric utility statements, utility interconnection agreements, system production reports, service documents and repair estimates. Keep your records together and organized, and call the Law Office of David Valdez Jr. for an evaluation of your possible claims. As a consumer, you have rights. Though the law is slow in catching up to the practical realities of this new technology and industry, you still have protection against unfair and deceptive practices.