Clean energy lender bankrupted by Melbourne couple’s air conditioner upgrade

Brevard County couple faces imminent risk of losing their home as a state-approved clean energy home improvement lender, Ygrene Energy Fund, fails to fulfill payment obligations to an air conditioning contractor. Rick and Cathy Yerkes, who secured a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan from Ygrene Energy Fund in 2022, contracted a local company in Brevard County to install a new air conditioning unit. However, soon after completing the installation, the Yerkes received a stop work order from the lender claiming insufficient funds and refusal to make payment.

Ygrene Energy Fund, which had temporarily suspended all PACE operations and funding with an announcement on October 22, 2022, subsequently resumed its operations in Florida in February 2023. Despite this, the Yerkes’ air conditioning contractor remains unpaid, leading the contractor to file a lien on the Yerkes’ property. As a result, the Yerkes now face the looming threat of foreclosure and potential loss of their home.

Upon contacting Ygrene Energy Fund to inquire about the non-payment to the contractor, the company provided a lengthy response. In their response, Ygrene Energy Fund stated that they had sent notices of the temporary suspension to the Yerkes, along with multiple alternative financing options. However, the company claimed they did not receive any communication from Mr. and Mrs. Yerkes seeking assistance in finding alternative financing. Consequently, Ygrene Energy Fund asserted its inability to provide PACE financing to the Yerkes at this time.

The installation of the new air conditioning unit marked the end of a three-year period without air conditioning for the Yerkes family. PACE loans, authorized by the Florida legislature in 2010, facilitate clean energy home improvements for homeowners. These loans are attached to county tax rolls as assessments or liens, with borrowers making one annual payment alongside their property taxes.

In a previous investigation conducted by News 6, Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph highlighted that PACE loans often target lower-income homeowners, individuals with poor credit, and those without mortgages or escrow accounts. Additionally, during the Yerkes’ installation process, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against Ygrene Energy Fund in California, accusing the company of engaging in deceptive practices. The lawsuit argued that Ygrene’s actions had harmed consumers, impeding their ability to sell or refinance their homes and subjecting them to unexpected financial burdens and personal hardships.

Court records reveal that shortly after the lawsuit was filed, a federal judge ruled in favor of the FTC, imposing a $22 million fine on Ygrene Energy Fund and mandating the establishment of a new framework to safeguard and educate consumers.

As the Yerkes family grapples with the possibility of losing their home, the unresolved payment issue between Ygrene Energy Fund and their air conditioning contractor underscores the challenges faced by homeowners within the PACE financing system.

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