L.A. homeowners who were misled by energy-efficient loan program may qualify for $12M PACE settlement, attorneys say

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Thousands of Los Angeles County homeowners thought they were getting free energy-efficient upgrades – but instead ended up with loans they can’t afford.

Now a lawsuit settlement may bring them some relief.

Zenia Ocana is one of thousands of L.A. homeowners targeted by the company Renew and Renovate America to enroll in unaffordable property assessed clean energy (PACE) loans, under the Los Angeles County program.

However, a new $12 million settlement will help thousands of low-income and elderly homeowners with PACE loans recoup their money lost to loan payments and property liens.

Ocana claimed she was duped into getting a PACE loan to install solar panels on her home after a contractor claimed the installation would be free – but that wasn’t the case.

Instead, she was shocked to find her next property tax bill went from a few thousand dollars to roughly $8,000 following the installation.

“PACE loans were intended to help homeowners finance clean energy upgrades like solar panels and dual pane windows. However, not least due to the inadequate safeguards in the Los Angeles County PACE program, thousands of homeowners who could not afford to pay back these loans received them,” attorney Stephanie Carol said.

Ocana soon realized this was actually a loan she’d be stuck with and one she could not afford.

The loan program was scrapped years ago after realizing it could not provide enough safeguards to protect low-income homeowners like Ocana from predatory lenders.

The nonprofit public interest law firm Public Counsel reached the $12 million settlement after representing several Angelenos who initially filed lawsuits six years ago against Renew and Renovate America’s predatory practices.

According to Public Counsel, homeowners who received a lien on their property between March 1, 2015 and March 31, 2018 qualify for a portion of the settlement. The compensation amount will vary based on several factors, including homeowner’s age and financial circumstances.

Ocana hopes this settlement will replenish her savings drained from trying to pay off her PACE loans.

“This class action is my only hope,” Ocana said

Attorneys are advocating for low-income residents to be provided financial resources to make energy-efficient upgrades to their homes.

“What we need in California are grant programs to help low-income people make these upgrades without them having to outlay any amount of money,” Carol said.

Eyewitness News has reached out to Renew and Renovate America for comment but has not yet heard back.

Public Counsel encourages L.A. homeowners to find out if they’re eligible for the PACE loan settlement on their website or to sign up for notifications when filing an official settlement claim becomes available.

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