Homeowner Faces $42,000 Bill for Breaking Solar Panel Contract

Texas is known for a multitude of things: cowboys, anything big and great food. But it's also known for its sunshine.

On average, every year there are 232 days of the sun blazing down on us, and just like we tap into those tasty tacos, people like Jay Kleinman are tapping into that Texas sunshine to light up their homes.

The upfront cost of solar panels can be pricey – about $25,000 for a 4,000-square-foot home. Kleinman found another solution with leasing.

He went with Solar City and pays a monthly payment until the panels are paid off after 20 years.

"They were clean, they were quick, the installers, man, were fantastic," Kleinman said.

His electricity bill dropped dramatically, but the problem came when Kleinman put his house up for sale.

"They told us that if we sold the house and the new owners would like to assume the system, they'd work with the new owners to keep the panels," Kleinman said. "If neither of that worked out that they would work with us and remove the panels from the home."

He says the buyers didn't want the panels and didn't want their name passed along to anyone.

"They'd seen the contract, they'd seen the bills, they'd been through the advantages through our discussions. They didn't want the panels," Kleinman said.

His contract flat-out says if he doesn't take the panels and he can't get the new buyer to take them, then he's in default.

"We got an email from the title company, saying, are you aware you have a $42,000 payoff for Solar City?" Kleinman said.

He says $42,000 is an estimate of how much money the company is losing on the panels, but he disagrees.

"They can be taken off the house. This is gonna be moved somewhere else. They're not out income, they're reusable panels," he said.

Solar City first called the case "unusual" and that it works out for "99 percent of our customers."

Solar City said it "exceeded our contractual commitments by removing the system and repairing the roof at the company's expense."

The company went on to say it would "continue to work with the customer to settle his monthly payment commitment fairly."

NBC 5 Responds pressed further. We explained the situation – the fact that Kleinman was so proud of his system and wanted to stay a customer but is renting at his new home, so he just can't keep them.

Solar City came back and promised a "major concession" on its part that would make Kleinman "extremely happy." But to make the deal happen, Kleinman and Solar City agreed not to talk about details of that agreement.

"They work great, you know. I'm producing 50 percent of my power," Kleinman said.

Kleinman called to thank NBC 5 Responds for a good job, only saying he was working something out with Solar City that was a huge relief. The specifics of a deal, or even its existence, he couldn't confirm.

You should know when leasing solar panel systems from companies:

  • The contracts are key.
  • Make sure everything is spelled out as to what happens if your home is sold before the deal is up.
  • You also give up huge tax breaks by not owning the system.
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