This opinion column was submitted by Margi Grein, executive officer of the Nevada State Contractors Board.
One of the many blessings of living in Nevada is the Silver State’s renowned, abundant sunshine. With an average of approximately 300 sunny days per year, Nevada offers residents the perfect setting for integrating energy-efficient solar power into their daily life. Therefore, it’s not surprising there are currently 84 solar companies employing over 7,000 workers across Nevada, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association.
However, along with the increased demand for solar energy, there’s also increased opportunities for misleading business practices in the state’s residential solar industry.
Informing and protecting Nevada consumers
In an effort to protect and inform Nevada residents, the Nevada State Contractors Board is pleased with the efforts of Senator Chris Brooks, who spearheaded the public safety initiatives of Senate Bill 303, resulting in its approval by Governor Sisolak during the 2021 legislative session. The new law aims to enhance consumer protections for all parties engaging in connecting a solar energy system in their home.
Under SB 303, Nevada’s residential solar contractors are required to:
► Obtain building permits;
► Comply with the NSCB’s contracting statutes and regulations; and
► Meet requirements imposed by the Public Utilities Commission or other regulating entity throughout the completion of each project.
The new law also requires that any advertising or solicitation for residential solar projects be truthful, or the contractor may find themselves subject to discipline by the NSCB. In addition, down payments are limited to $1,000 or 10% of the contract value, whichever is less. If a homeowner doesn’t agree to financing terms or if the homeowner rescinds the financing per the Truth in Lending Act, the contract for the residential solar project is voidable. In addition to being held accountable by the NSCB, contractors who fail to uphold their new responsibilities under the law may also be subject to discipline by the Nevada Attorney General’s Consumer Affairs Bureau.
Ensuring future quality contracting work
Over the last five years, the NSCB has received 331 licensed complaints against Nevada solar contractors; in addition, 21 of the 226 contracting licenses revoked during that period were solar contractors. The hope is that the new law created by SB 303 will greatly reduce or eliminate both the number of solar contracting complaints and the need for revocation of solar contracting licenses.
Since 2016, complaints against illegitimate contractors have also resulted in 275 residential fund claims, awarding Nevada homeowners more than $3 million in damages and refunds. More than 60 percent of those claims (174) were filed against solar contractors, resulting in $767,000 claims awarded.
Simple steps to ensure reliable contracting
While SB 303 provides additional consumer protections and public safeguards, there are several simple measures that consumers can take to best ensure they’re hiring qualified licensed contractors.
Nevadans should always consider taking the following steps as they search for a licensed contractor to hire:
► Always ask for the contractor’s license number; this information should be displayed on all bids and contracts and is different than a Nevada Business License.
► Verify the contractor’s license number on the NSCB website (www.nscb.nv.gov), mobile application (NSCB Mobile), or by calling the Board’s office (775-688-1141).
► Obtain several bids; having more than one bid will allow you to compare industry costs and make a more informed decision on who to hire.
► Never pay with cash — always check or credit card. Ensure checks are only payable to the licensed company that provided the services, never an individual.
Increased information, fewer consumer complaints
Having experienced the harm that can be caused to Nevada homeowners who are misled during the course of their solar projects, the NSCB looks forward to seeing the new law driven by Senator Brooks take effect on Oct. 1, 2021.
By standardizing contracting practices within the solar industry and providing greater consumer information, the NSCB believes the requirements of SB 303 will shed even more light on Nevada’s burgeoning solar contracting industry and ways to protect the public.
The NSCB encourages consumers to review the resources available on its website, which provide guidance on the new law, contractor requirements, and consumer rights, as well as tips for hiring properly licensed contractors. Should issues arise with work performed, project owners have four years from the date work was performed by a licensed Nevada contractor to file a complaint with the NSCB for investigation and possible remedy of validated issues.
Margi Grein is the executive officer of the Nevada State Contractors Board.
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