This opinion column was presented by Margi Grein, Executive Officer of the Nevada State Contractors Board.
One of the many blessings of life in Nevada is the famous, abundant sunshine of the Silver State. With an average of around 300 days of sunshine per year, Nevada offers residents the perfect setting to integrate energy-efficient solar energy into their everyday lives. So it’s no surprise that there are currently 84 solar companies with over 7,000 employees across Nevada, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association.
However, along with the increased demand for solar energy, there are also more opportunities for misleading business practices in the state’s private solar industry.
Inform and protect Nevada consumers
In an effort to protect and educate Nevada residents, the Nevada State Contractors Board welcomes the efforts of Senator Chris Brooks, who spearheaded the public safety initiatives of Senate Law 303, which was approved by Governor Sisolak during the legislature 2021 led. The new law aims to improve consumer protection for all parties who advocate connecting a solar energy system in their home.
Under SB 303, residential solar companies in Nevada are required to:
► Obtain building permits;
► Compliance with the NSCB’s contractual statutes and regulations; and
► Meet the requirements imposed by the Public Utilities Commission or other regulatory agency during the completion of each project.
The new law also requires that any advertisement or solicitation for residential solar projects be truthful, or the contractor can be disciplined by the NSCB. In addition, deposits are capped at $ 1,000 or 10% of the contract value, whichever is lower. If a homeowner does not agree to the financing terms or if the homeowner withdraws the financing under the Lending Act, the contract for the residential solar project is voidable. In addition to being accountable to the NSCB, contractors who fail to comply with their new legal obligations may also be subject to disciplinary action by the Nevada Attorney General’s Consumer Affairs Bureau.
Ensuring the future quality of contract work
In the past five years, the NSCB has received 331 legal complaints against Nevada solar companies; In addition, 21 of the 226 contracting licenses withdrawn during this period were solar contractors. It is hoped that the new law created by SB 303 will greatly reduce or eliminate both the number of solar contracting complaints and the need to revoke solar contracting licenses.
Since 2016, complaints against rogue contractors have also led to 275 residential fund lawsuits that awarded Nevada homeowners more than $ 3 million in damages and refunds. More than 60 percent of those claims (174) were filed against solar companies, resulting in 767,000 awarded claims.
Simple steps for reliable contract processing
While SB 303 provides additional consumer protection and public safeguards, there are several simple steps consumers can take to best ensure they are using qualified licensed contractors.
Nevadans should always consider the following steps when looking for a licensed contractor:
► Always ask for the license number of the contractor; this information should appear on all offers and contracts and is different from a Nevada Business License.
► Check the contractor’s license number on the NSCB website (www.nscb.nv.gov), mobile application (NSCB Mobile) or by calling the Board of Directors office (775-688-1141).
► Obtain multiple bids; Having more than one listing allows you to compare industry costs and make a more informed decision about hiring.
► Never pay with cash – always with a check or credit card. Make sure checks are paid only to the licensed company that provided the services, never to an individual.
More information, fewer consumer complaints
After learning the damage that can be done to Nevada homeowners misled during their solar projects, the NSCB is excited to see Senator Brooks’ new law come into effect on October 1, 2021.
By standardizing contract practices within the solar industry and providing better consumer information, the NSCB believes that 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 their website for guidance on the new laws, contractor requirements and consumer rights, as well as tips on hiring properly licensed contractors. Should problems arise with the work being done, project owners have four years from the date the work was done by a licensed Nevada contractor to file a complaint with the NSCB for investigation and possible resolution of validated problems.
Margi Grein is the Executive Officer of the Nevada State Contractors Board.
Say:How to submit an opinion column or letter to the editor