Solar Complaints, Predatory Repair Practices & License Number Display Law

Speaking ‘fluent’ regulations is one part of it and keeping an ear to the ground is another when you are providing expert ‘guidance’ to contractors. Listening closely to what is said is always important…

I hear that CSLB would like to make contractor’s aware of several things.

First, with the solar industry booming, the number of complaints the CSLB receives about deceptive solar practices continues to rise.  In fact, while the Board received a mere 59 solar-related complaints in 2010, they received 535 complaints related to solar projects from January 2015 through May of 2016!

There are several areas in which the CSLB recommends that solar licensees pay attention to. Number one, the financing and contract/lease terms.  Given the array of new and significant differences between the types of solar financing, it is extremely important that solar contractors provide their potential customer with a detailed breakdown of how much they can expect to pay by converting to a solar power system.  The increased special financing programs to pay for energy efficiency projects has led to a rapid rise of misunderstandings.  It is important for licensees to fully explain all the terms of these special financing options, which are sometimes attached to their property tax, often at a higher rate than could be obtained through a traditional lending institution.

The Contractor’s Board also warns licensees to refrain from high-pressure sales tactics when contracting for solar installation.

Another source of complaints is solar contractors/salespeople making unrealistic claims regarding energy/money savings. Licensees should avoid overselling cost savings or solar energy system capabilities.

Lastly, be sure to follow the permit process.  According to the Board’s newsletter, “contractors with solar projects must submit design plans that comply with particular city, county, and/or utility standards, obtain the required building permits, and follow through with a safe, quality installation.”

While most licensed solar contractors are honest and do their jobs well resulting in satisfied customers, it’s good for consumers and contractors to be aware of what’s out there.

Another item on the agenda in the Summer 2016 newsletter which contractors should be aware of is the CSLB is cracking down on up-selling. CSLB writes, “These predatory practices have been most prevalent in the warm-air, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) trade, but abuses can occur with almost any repair where a consumer only needing a relatively minor fix is talking into a major – and unnecessary – remedy.”

The CSLB has trained their investigative staff to be on the lookout for these unscrupulous activities that cheat unsuspecting customers, particularly elderly persons.  Investigators are watching for contractors who are called out to do simple inspections or modest repair which then somehow turn into unnecessary complete replacements.  They are also on the lookout for contractors who are dishonestly claiming safety hazards needing immediate repair on products which are in fact in working condition.

The CSLB further warns, “although technically not considered a service and repair scam, CSLB is on the lookout for contractors that cut corners by sidestepping the permit and inspection process.”

I will leave you with one final warning addressed in the Newsletter.  The CSLB is aware that there are still a significant number of licensees who are not disclosing their license number when advertising.  Whether your advertising online, on TV, radio, in print, or even your decal on the side of your truck, you must include your license number (B&P Code section 7030.5).