Sunnova Energy Corp. is one of the worst firms I have dealt with in my entire life—and I’m 74 years old.
Unless I sign a contract that is absurd on its face and impossible to comply with, Sunnova will not permit the temporary removal of solar panels from my New Jersey residence so that the old roof can be replaced. I have worked to resolve this matter for three months to no avail.
Since the contract in question appears to be boilerplate given to Sunnova customers in similar circumstances around the country, the potential for widespread abuse is apparent.
The issue in short:
The contract, signed by a company lawyer and dated Nov. 23, requires that the panels be reinstalled within 60 days of the signing. However, Trinity, the company that handles installations for Sunnova, told me that they are overextended and probably couldn’t even REMOVE them within 60 days
The contract also would have made me responsible for other delays completely beyond my control. For example, we are in the dead of winter. What if bad weather made it too dangerous for the roofers to work for weeks? As it turned out, this was not hypothetical. My roof was covered with snow and ice from Jan. 30 to Feb. 23.
The contract also would have made me responsible for any additional delays caused by Trinity’s work schedule. If they couldn’t remove the panels within 60 days, who’s to say how quickly they could reinstall them once the roof work was completed?
And yet, the contract stated that if I failed to comply with its terms, I could be required to pay the company the solar system’s full value, which the letter put at $16,380.
No one in his right mind would sign such a document. In fact, if I had signed it in November, I would be in violation of it now through no fault of my own.
The ordeal began when I called Trinity, which installed the system on my property in 2016, to request its temporary removal. In that Nov. 12, 2020, call, Dan Schmid, a Trinity engineer, told me that they were “backed up” and couldn’t remove the system until mid or late January. He also told me that since Sunnova owns the system, I would need their written approval first. He referred me to Toiya Jacobs at Sunnova.
Jacobs then sent me the aforementioned contract via Docu.Sign. It was dated Nov. 23 and signed for Sunnova by Suzanne M. Patrick, associate general counsel.
On Nov. 24, I emailed Jacobs, outlining my concerns about the contract. I did not receive a reply.
On Jan. 8, I called Sunnova’s main number, apparently in Houston, TX, and asked to speak to Jacobs. I was told that was not permitted. I asked to speak with Patrick and was told that was not permitted either. Instead, I was connected to customer service.
I explained my concerns to a customer service representative and also emailed him a copy of my email to Jacobs. I was assured that he would contact the appropriate people in the company and that I should expect a prompt response. That didn’t happen.
I contacted customer service again, repeated my concerns and added that I was running out of patience. I said that I was considering complaining to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the New Jersey Consumer Affairs Division, and the Better Business Bureau. I informed him that my insurance carrier, Farmers, had assured me that if my roof begins to leak during the delay caused by Sunnova’s intransigence, Farmers would seek restitution from them for any damages. I also explained that I had a right to make my concerns public and that as a retired journalist and blogger, I could reach a wide audience with them.
About two weeks later, a customer service representative called me back and gave me his “assurance” that the clock on the 60-day requirement would not begin until the panels were removed by Trinity. I pointed out that the contract doesn’t say that, that his verbal assurance was obviously insufficient, and that I could not sign until the language was changed.
But, I asked him, what about my other concerns?
“What other concerns?” he asked, so I had to repeat them.
He told me that he would forward them to the appropriate company officials, that the complaint would be “expedited,” and that I would receive a response in 24 to 48 hours. That did not happen either.
At that point, I called Dan Schmid at Trinity again to see if he could intervene. He called back on Jan. 19 to say that he and his “group” had talked to someone at Sunnova and that someone there would “reach out” to me in a few days.
On Jan. 21, Ignacio Herrera, a customer service representative at Sunnova, called me and said that that “they” agreed to change the contract to clarify that the 60-day clock would start only after the panels were removed. However, they were unwilling to change anything else in the agreement.
I told him that meant I would still be responsible for delays caused by the weather or by any Trinity work schedule issues that might delay re-installation. He said he could “assure” me that I would not be held responsible in such circumstances. I told him that verbal assurances, for which there is no record, are not sufficient.
If the assurance is real, I told him, Sunnova should not object to putting it in writing. If they do not want to change the contract language further, I said, a letter spelling out the assurance and signed by a company official would suffice.
If no letter was forthcoming, I said, I would be compelled to file formal complaints with regulatory agencies and make my concerns about Sunnova public.
Herrerra said he would pass my concerns along again and get back to me. In the month since that call, I have heard nothing further. I also have yet to be shown a contract with the one promised revision.
Throughout my conversations with the customer service representatives, I asked to speak with Jacobs or with Patrick, the lawyer who had signed the original contract. Those requests were always denied.