SB1465 would protect public against questionable tactics of rooftop solar companies

Guest Opinion//February 13, 2015

SB1465 would protect public against questionable tactics of rooftop solar companies

Guest Opinion//February 13, 2015

Sen. Debbie Lesko
Sen. Debbie Lesko

“We haven’t been able to sell our home for almost a year. The solar company told us the solar panels would increase the value of our home by $25,000.  Instead the opposite has been true.   Our Realtor has shown our home 149 times, people really like it, but don’t want to take over the 20-year solar lease.  We have moved into independent living and we need the money from the sale of our home. Can you help us?”

This was the phone call I recently received from long-time constituents. A solar company talked them into leasing solar panels for 20 years, even though they are in their 80s.   They cannot break the lease and the buy-out option is not available until 2018.

My constituents are distraught over an issue that is getting more and more attention in Arizona and across the nation.  It is time that something is done.

A bipartisan group of Arizona and Texas congressmen, the AZ Corporation Commission and the AZ Residential Utility Consumer Office (RUCO) have raised serious questions about the financing agreements and sales practices of some of the roof-top solar companies.  Some companies may be doing a good job, but others are not.

As a matter of common-sense and consumer protection it seems to me that a good starting point would be to ask the solar companies to provide complete and standardized disclosures in their leasing and financing agreements. This is what we require in statute from the insurance industry, motor vehicle dealers and mortgage lenders.

Consequently, I have authored and introduced legislation supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.  SB1465 does nothing more than require standard disclosures so that homeowners considering solar leasing or purchase will have more complete, understandable information before making a decision.

My legislation would simply require these kinds of disclosures and provisions:

  • To start, it must be, at minimum, in 10 point type to be readable.
  • Blank spaces need to be filled in.
  • The Price and Total Cost must be included.
  • Tax Incentives and Subsidies associated with the agreement and who will receive those benefits must be stated and defined.
  • Warranty terms and performance standards need to be stated.
  • The terms and credit requirements for a future homebuyer to assume the lease must be spelled out.
  • The assumptions about future electric rates used to determine the savings projections must be disclosed.
  • The customer can cancel within 5 business days.

Consumer protection disclosures are in everyone’s best interest. They protect the homeowner by providing clear and accurate information. They also protect the responsible solar companies with an affirmative defense that they have given the buyer the information they need if a dispute does arise.

This is not a pro or con solar issue; this is a consumer protection issue.  It is my job to help protect my constituents, especially the senior citizens in my community and throughout the state.

– Republican Sen. Debbie Lesko represents District 21, which includes Sun City, Youngtown, Peoria, El Mirage and Surprise.