Consumer Protections for California Residential Solar Energy Systems

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It was already the case that in order to offer to install California residential solar energy systems, a contractor must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) and must hold an appropriate specialty classification. Under AB 1070 enacted late last year (Chapter 662, Statutes of 2017), special consumer protections are being deployed for the benefit of homeowners. Those protections are steadily rolling out.

Step one is the requirement of new Business & Professions Code (B&P Code) Section 7169 that, as of January 1, 2019, a disclosure document must be provided to consumers prior to sale and included on page 1 of the sale contract. The initial version of this document, which was developed by the CSLB and endorsed on August 23, 2018 by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), is available here. The disclosure requirement doesn’t apply to systems included in new home construction.

At a minimum the statute requires the disclosure to disclose the cost including financing costs; list the CSLB contact information for providing complaints about contractors; and describe the home improvement customer’s three-day cooling-off rescission right under B&P Code Section 7159. The CSLB “may” also require the disclosure to lay out in detail the financing terms, how the benefits of residential solar may be calculated, what types of malfunctions may occur, and the differences between buying and leasing systems. The CSLB and CPUC did not elect to make those optional disclosures in the initial document. (If the purchaser is taking advantage of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, though, a disclosure of financing terms under Streets & Highways Code Section 5898.17 must be provided.)

Step two is the mandate of new B&P Code Section 7170 that the CSLB provide annual reports beginning July 1, 2019 of consumer complaints relating to solar contractors, and the types, locations and disposition of those complaints.

And step three is the command of new Public Utilities Code Section 2854.6 that the CPUC develop by that same July 1, 2019 date “standardized inputs and assumptions” so that consumers can compare the benefits and costs of solar energy systems.

All these protections reside on top of the generally applicable home improvement and contractor licensing laws and regulations.

Additional Resources: Is rooftop solar worth it? Californians consider the question as use, complaints rise

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