Sunrun abandoned her solar panel project — now they want her to pay $4,672

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By Christopher Elliott

Something went wrong with Christine Miller’s solar panels. Sunrun then sent her a bill. Does she have to pay?

Question

I have a situation with Sunrun, a company that sells and installs solar panels. After discussing the need for a roof upgrade so that my roof was stable for solar panels, Sunrun began work in preparation for solar panel installation before they had a permit. 

They stopped the roof work halfway through because they had no permit. They did not permit the installation on my patio, which has two electrical fans. The removed the tiles and set new tar paper down. They didn’t put the tiles back.

When I started dealing with them, I made it very clear that the roof work was the only money I could afford. As a newly retired teacher, single, and trying to reduce my monthly bills, I am taking steps to reduce my monthly expenses. I wanted to go solar to help the environment. 

Since they abruptly stopped the project, I assumed it was canceled and asked who was going to put my roof tiles back. Then, one morning the roofers showed up and put the tiles back. I thought that the deal was now closed and done after a brief conversation with a Sunrun employee. A few weeks or a month later, I received a phone call from Sunrun asking me if I had canceled the project. The roof had been put back and all seemed closed. I said yes. What I should have said is that Sunrun halted the project. A few weeks after this I received a bill for $4,672 from Sunrun. Items that had not been done were also listed.

I began contacting the project manager, customer care, and the billing department. They have not resolved anything. I do not know how to proceed. I want Sunrun to see that this bill should be rescinded. If they had done their due diligence about the permits as they said they would before they over eagerly pushed ahead, I would have never moved forward because I had made it very clear, I can’t spend any more money. — Christine Miller, Hemet, Calif.

Answer

I’m so sorry to hear about your ill-fated solar panel installation. It sure sounds as if Sunrun missed a step or two before it started with the solar installation work. Since it abandoned your project, should you have to pay for it? 

Yes and no. Sunrun performed some work, but I’m troubled by the charges for work that it didn’t do, yet still charged for you. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

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Normally, a contractor will pull the necessary permits before starting work. But in this case, it looks as if they started some preliminary work before applying for a permit. Once they realized they couldn’t continue with the project, they stopped and sent you the bill.

It looks as if Sunrun didn’t cancel the project. Instead, it wanted to resolve the permitting issue before continuing. But you didn’t have the funds to fix the patio, so Sunrun agreed to cancel the project as long as you paid for the work already done.

I think a brief, polite email to Sunrun might have cleared up some of the confusion. Sunrun should have quickly removed the items it didn’t do from your final bill. For more information on how to resolve a complaint, check out my story on using the Elliott Method.

Sunrun was willing to reduce the total amount of the bill

My advocacy team and I contacted Sunrun on your behalf. It agreed to reduce the amount of your bill by $2,336. You aren’t happy with that resolution. You believe the permits were Sunrun’s responsibility to procure, and that you shouldn’t have to pay anything, and you’ve decided to consult a lawyer. I wish I could have done more for you.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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