Don’t get burned: 5 tips to spot a solar energy scammer

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stop solar energy scammers

Homeowners who want to “go green” and take advantage of state and federal rebates or tax credits for solar energy projects can become targets for unlicensed, unscrupulous, or unaware contractors.

Unlicensed contractors in several parts of California have been convicted or are being investigated on suspicion of taking thousands of dollars from consumers for solar energy systems that were incorrectly installed – or not installed at all. If contractors fail to complete solar energy projects correctly, consumers may not qualify for government incentives.

To help protect California homeowners, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) provides education about the how to select a licensed and qualified contractor before signing a contract for a solar energy project, or any other green home remodel.

CSLB urges consumers to consider the following tips before selecting a contractor for their home’s solar power installation:

  1. Always check for the contractor’s CSLB license. The state and federal government will not grant rebates or credits for a solar system installed by an unlicensed contractor. Ask the contractor to show you his or her pocket license and a photo identification to make sure it is the same person. Compare this to the license information at www.cslb.ca.gov to make sure this individual is a legitimate member of the business indicated on the license.
  2. Check the registration of sales representatives who solicit a contract on behalf of a contractor. A sales representative must be a Registered Home Improvement Salesperson (HIS) with CSLB. Ask to see the HIS registration card and ID, then check it on the CSLB website to make sure that individual is actually an employee of the licensed contractor before you sign a contract.
  3. Check your contractor’s license classification on the CSLB website. Your utility company may require that a solar system be installed by a contractor with a specific classification.
  4. Don’t pay more than $1,000 as a down payment or 10%, whichever is less, for any contract. There is an exception for about two dozen contractors with special, consumer protection bonds that are noted on CSLB’s website.
  5. Don’t be pressured into signing a contract by intimidation tactics, such as losing out on government incentives for not acting quickly. This might be a hint that the contractor does not have your best interests in mind.

“Take a few minutes to research solar energy contractors by using the “Instant License Check” and other helpful tools on CSLB’s website,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “Legitimate, licensed contractors want customers to be comfortable and confident with the contracts they are signing. And licensees are more likely to do all that is required in order to receive available state and federal incentives for alternative energy.”

More information about hiring contractors for a green building or solar energy project is available on the CSLB website or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752).

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