Solar leasing programs are very popular, driven, no doubt, by the allure of something for nothing. After all, the lease programs insist that for nothing out-of-pocket you can start saving today - an appealing pitch that is only rebutted when the homeowner does some serious homework. This is not a new topic for us, and our post pointing out the Top 5 Reasons to Avoid a Solar Lease!, is one of our most popular posts ever.
But an encounter with a potential client this past week highlighted yet another peril in the form of the deceptive salesman.
Just another rip-roaring, bulls-eye salesman...
A couple of days ago we got a call from a woman who had been referred to us by one of our clients.
She had been thinking about going solar and had in fact signed a lease agreement with another company before she spoke with our client. "Whoa," said the client, "you better think twice about a lease. You should really talk to the folks at Run on Sun before you go forward with anybody else." The woman told us she had until Saturday to cancel her contract so could we please come and see her right away? Given that she was a referral and time was tight, we scheduled her site evaluation for the next day.
What we found when we got there was a two-story, blue tile roof, littered with roof vents! Once you allowed for clearances on all of those obstructions, as well as with the setbacks required by the local Fire officials, there was very little roof left for solar. (We estimated maybe 3 kW max.)
But the contract that she had signed said that this other solar company was going to put 5.7 kW on her roof! How on earth did that reach that conclusion?
Don't buy solar from this guy!
The answer was simple: the sales guy came to her home with a stock contract that contained a provision buried within the fine print that allowed them to "revise" what would be installed once the "engineering review" of the home had been completed!
In other words, the guy trying (and succeeding) in getting her to sign on the dotted line had no idea whether his repeated assertions of "30% savings off your present bill" were accurate or not, and he plainly did not care.
This unfortunate woman, who lives in a nice home in a nice neighborhood, had been preyed upon by the solar industry's equivalent of the flim-flam man, and make no mistake about it - these disreputable representatives are a pox upon the entire industry.
Oh, and as to that right to cancel the contract? The lease agreement appeared to be speaking out of both sides of its mouth on this. One provision cited the California statutory requirement of three business days to cancel, whereas a second provision promised six calendar days. Yet the attached, Notice of Rescission, only referred to the three-day option, and it required that the document be delivered to an office in Texas to be effective! Good luck with that.
Don't be a victim!
No one should end up in this woman's position. Here are a few steps to protect yourself:
- Always get references for any solar contractor you might consider. If they cannot provide you with references, run, don't walk, away. Referrals from people you trust are even better.
- If you are feeling pressured by the salesperson, show them the door. Reputable solar contractors aren't trying to push you into anything. If the salesperson makes you uncomfortable - walk away. (Trust your gut.)
- Never, ever, sign a contract before the technical evaluation of your site has been done! A sales guy with a projection of "your system" who has never seen your home is guessing, and quite possibly guessing badly, as was the case here. Before you sign up for anything, be sure that you are dealing with a proposal based on the specifics of your home, not some generic sales brochure.
Caveat emptor, folks!