Bakersfield · Business

Kern County strikes $4mil settlement with PACE program lender

The largest provider of specialty loans for home energy upgrades reached a multi-million-dollar settlement agreement with six California counties, including Kern County, over claims it misled customers about the terms of its financial products.

District Attorneys for the six counties announced the settlement with San Diego-headquartered Renovate America on Friday.

Renovate America is the largest provider of loans for the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program.

The program is a locally-authorized method of financing clean energy upgrades, notably solar panels or energy-efficient windows, for residential and commercial buildings.

PACE loan payments are collected as part of their property tax bill. Thus, municipalities – such as cities and counties – must authorize the program and administer the collection of loan payments.

As The Sun reported in June, the program can prove problematic for homeowners, too. The loan itself is categorized ahead of a home’s mortgage, serving as a “super lien.”

That poses problems when homeowners are trying to sell their homes, as they must first pay off the PACE loan before paying off their mortgage.

Prosecutors pursued a case against Renovate America based on its failure to provide disclosure information about the so-called “super lien” effect that its PACE loans had on the homes utilizing it.

As such, prosecutors said it “cause unanticipated budget problems and delayed or disrupted home sales for a number of those consumers.”

Because of these issues, Kern County and the City of Bakersfield discontinued the PACE program in the past two years. The City of Visalia discontinued its program this year.

The program is still in effect in much of Tulare and Fresno counties.

For Kern County residents that believe they are affected by Renovate America’s failure to disclose loan information, contact the Kern County District Attorney’s Office at paceassistance@kernda.org, or call 800-619-3039.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.