Hillsborough County kicks out PACE loan program; commissioner says ‘unethical’ practices can’t be fixed

Better Call Behnken

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The controversial PACE program is done in Hillsborough County, after years of homeowner complaints about loans they can’t afford tied to their property taxes.

The Hillsborough County Commission was supposed to discuss ways to protect consumers at last week’s commission meeting. But Chairman Les Miller says he’d had enough and moved to cut ties with PACE altogether. Other commissions, who have also fielded complaints, agreed.

Miller says the final straw was a letter he received about a poor woman in his district who he says was misled into a financial nightmare.

“The air conditioner went out, they stuck something on her door, came to her, said they could repair her air conditioner, put the air conditioner in without any permits and charged her $16,000 to air condition her home that was just above 800 square feet, then added something to her tax bill that was another $13,000,” Miller said. “Then she couldn’t pay the tax bill. That was just totally, totally wrong.”

The PACE program sounds great. Homeowners can get energy efficient upgrades like windows, roofs, air conditioning units or solar. There’s no money down, and payments are spread out over years of property tax bills.

For years, though, county governments have fielded complaints from homeowners who accuse contractors of inflating prices and using PACE to pad their pockets. PACE lenders contend the program is useful for homeowners who need repairs they cannot otherwise afford and that PACE gets a bad reputation because of a few bad contractors.

8 On Your Side and Better Call Behnken have told you about homeowners left with bad PACE deals for years. Some complain of simple projects that cost them four times the amount it would if they had hired another contractor and paid in cash.

Some homeowners end up with liens on their homes. Some complain that work was shoddy, done without permits or not completed.

Contractors can still sell PACE jobs in other Tampa Bay area counties, and it’s recommended that you clearly understand your contract before signing and that you get multiple estimates so that you know you are getting a fair price.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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