Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez filed a bill Wednesday that would overhaul a financing program that helps homeowners pay for eco-friendly and storm hardening property upgrades.
SB 1208 aims to make the Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, program more accessible to Floridians while introducing a suite of consumer protections.
PACE is a financing vehicle that allows consumers to pay back the cost of certain property upgrades through assessments on their property tax bill. As the name implies, the program is mostly geared toward energy efficiency upgrades such as solar panel installation, though storm hardening and septic-to-sewer projects also qualify.
“This legislation will not only greatly increase the accessibility of resiliency-oriented upgrades and improvements for Florida’s property owners but will do so in a manner that helps ensure the health of our waterways for generations to come,” said Rodriguez, a Doral Republican. “Converting thousands of residential septic tanks to connections with local sewer systems has long been an important yet cost-prohibitive upgrade for many Floridians, and this new bill will help make their needs a reality.”
Sen. Danny Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, has signed on to co-sponsor the bill.
“This legislation will go a long way in expanding consumer protections in this voluntary financing program, which many constituents see as a practical option to protect and safeguard their homes. This includes conducting an affordability assessment to ensure homeowners qualify for the program and a comprehensive oversight process for enrolling contractors, which grants stronger consumer protections and contractor accountability for Floridians,” he said.
Rodriguez’s proposal is similar to a bill filed by Rep. Randy Fine last month. Both would ensure Floridians are given more information on what they’re signing up for before they agree to PACE financing.
The bills would require loan originators to conduct affordability assessments, provide standardized financial disclosures, prevent originators from making misleading or inaccurate statements to entice borrowers, and set industry-wide requirements to ensure the contractors that make the upgrades are licensed, bonded, and have insurance.
The proposal would also give borrowers three days to back out of the deal, similar to the rescission rights for other major purchases. Like Fine’s bill (HB 387), the Senate legislation was met with support from Ygrene Energy Fund, a top provider of PACE financing.
“Florida has experienced more major hurricane impacts than any other state, and their frequency, as well as their severity, has only increased in recent years, which underscores the absolute necessity of strong and accessible resiliency-oriented programs for homeowners and their families,” Ygrene CEO Jim Reinhart said.
“While this program has a proven record of success, the time is right for modernization. This legislation will help ensure the future safety of Floridians’ homes, waterways, and environment. We remain committed to working with Florida’s elected officials on this important bill.”