Solar promises leave Clermont homeowner feeling burned

VIDEO: Solar promises leave Clermont homeowner feeling burned

CLERMONT, Fla. — Shirley Jackson thought adding solar power to her Clermont home would help the environment and her wallet. She was told she can even sell some of that energy back to the power company.

“They connect your system, and the meter is changed, then you start saving energy that you could sell to the company,” Jackson said.

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A salesperson from Solardrop, based in Orlando, went to her home. She signed a financing contract for $26,000. The solar panels were installed earlier this year but 6 months later they’re still not connected.

“Very frustrating because I’m paying for it. I’m paying monthly since June,” Jackson said.

Solardrop was owned by Joseph Bruce. Jackson says Joseph was responding to her, then the texts suddenly stopped.

“The guy has disappeared, that’s why I called you,” Jackson said.

A downtown apartment building was also the company’s address. Joseph was renting a place there, but court records show he was then evicted for not paying rent.

Joseph Bruce has left a trail of upset customers from previous solar companies. He was behind USA Solar Inc, that had 18 complaints at the Better Business Bureau. Then joseph ran Solar Dot, which was rated F at the BBB. The complaints mentioned sales tactics, installations and systems that weren’t turned on.

Business owners who shut down and reinvent themselves with a new name, leaving unhappy and unsatisfied customers do damage to the entire industry," said BBB President Holly Salmons.

Consumer investigator Todd Ulrich tried reaching Bruce, but he hasn’t returned his calls.

Ulrich spoke with the electrician that installed the panels, he said Bruce stopped returning his emails about customer complaints.

“I’m not the first and won’t be the last, that’s why we’re going to have to find him and stop him,” Jackson said.

Adding to her frustrations, Jackson received a notice, telling her that the supplier of the panels hasn’t been paid and due to Florida’s construction lien law, she can be made to pay for them twice.

Jackson has filed complaints with the Florida attorney general and the BBB.

“I’d like my money to be refunded and I would like those people to be prosecuted,” Jackson said.

Solar panels can save you money unless you pick the wrong company. Check their licensing, complaints, and permit histories, so you’re not burned by promised solar savings you never see.