Can I get a grant or rebate for doing a home energy audit?

August 13, 2011 00:13 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I received a call from a company that said I could get a $3,000 federal grant if I had them do an energy audit of my home.  They then requested my social security number and bank account information so they could check my credit rating. I got suspicious and hung up. Do you think this was a scam? Are there really grants or rebates available for doing an energy audit of your home?

Consumer Ed says:

You were wise to be suspicious of the caller. Unsolicited calls or emails asking for your personal or financial information are usually attempts at identity theft.  There has also been a scam reported in Florida where con artists posing as utility workers have been going around neighborhoods and calling consumers offering free energy audits. To ensure you’re contacting the actual utility company, you should call the number on your power bill.

There are several legitimate programs that offer Georgia residents rebates or financial assistance with energy audits or energy-efficient home improvements. However, they generally require you to initiate contact with them, not vice versa.  Here are some programs that you may be able to take advantage of:

Weatherization Assistance Program - Low-income homeowners may be eligible for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which provides weatherization services allowing income-eligible households to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.  For more information and to apply for Weatherization Assistance, visit www.gefa.org.

Free Online Energy Audit - Georgia Power offers a free online energy audit tool to help residential customers determine where the most energy is consumed in their homes and what they can do to lower their monthly bill.  Go to www.georgiapower.com to access this tool.

Free In-Home Energy Audit - Georgia Power also offers customers a free in-home energy audit. An Energy Expert will visit and visually inspect your home and help show you how much you can save on your energy bill. To schedule a free energy audit, call 1-800-524-2421 ext. 200, or visit www.georgiapower.com.

Zero-Interest Financing for Energy Improvements - The residential energy efficiency financing programs, which are funded through Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allow homeowners to apply for funding to complete a number of energy-efficiency improvement projects, and for the purchase of eligible ENERGY STAR appliances. Financing is available through Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Electric Cities of Georgia, Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia and Estes Heating & Air. Contact your electric and/or gas provider for more information on available energy-efficiency loan programs.

Georgia Power Rebates – Georgia Power customers may qualify for rebates of up to $2,200 on energy-efficient home improvements. To be eligible, you must get an energy assessment by a participating contractor (for a fee), and the improvements must be done by a qualified contractor participating in the Georgia Power Home Energy Improvement Program. Rebates are based on actual energy savings achieved. For more information, visit www.georgiapower.com.

Federal Income Tax Credits - As a homeowner, you may also qualify for federal income tax credits if you purchase certain energy-efficient products or renewable energy systems for your home during 2011. For more information on what products qualify, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website at www.energysavers.gov.

One final note:  If you hire a contractor to make home improvements, ask people you know for names of contractors they would recommend. You can also check their reputation with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).  Ask the contractor for his license number so you can verify that he is licensed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Make sure the contractor provides you with a detailed written contract before any work is begun, and don’t pay for work that is incomplete.

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Subcontractor placing lien on my home!

November 4, 2010 08:23 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I paid a roofer to repair some damage to my roof. Now, several months later, I’m being contacted by one of his workers who is threatening to place a lien against my home because the roofer never paid him. Can he do this?

Consumer Ed says:

Unfortunately, he probably can. Under Georgia law, people who contribute labor or materials to improve a new or existing home are allowed to file a claim of lien against the homeowner if they do not get paid, even if the homeowner actually paid the contractor. Lien claims like these are limited in their effect: they do not show up on your personal credit report and expire by law within 12 months unless the subcontractor actually files a lawsuit to collect the money.

If a lien has been filed against your property, there are many potential defenses available to you. You can demand a cancellation if the lien itself is defective. For instance, the person filing the lien may have signed a lien waiver, incorrectly identified the property, or even filed the lien in the wrong county. It may be helpful to have an attorney check the lien for defects. Alternatively, if you’re not planning on a move, you can simply wait twelve months until the lien expires and take your chances that the lien filer will not want to incur the expense of a lawsuit. 

If you will be moving, you may want to bond off the lien claim. This discharges your home from the lien and instead puts the claim against the bond. This clears the title quickly and easily, without waiving the dispute. The person still has twelve months from the time the claim became due to sue for recovery. 

You can also file a Notice of Contest, which gives the lien filer sixty days to file a lawsuit; if he fails to do so, the lien expires.

You may have additional defenses based on the work performed or the amount claimed in the lien. However, this requires showing that payments were properly disbursed to all persons providing labor, materials and services. Only your contractor may have this information.

Please see the Home Improvement section of our website for more information. If you are concerned about a claim of lien filed against you, you should also consult with an attorney.

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Contractor did poor job

November 4, 2010 08:02 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I hired a contractor to do some work on my home.  He took forever to do the work. Now, after having paid him in full, I have found a lot of things that he did wrong.  I don’t want to deal with him any more.  Can I hire someone else to fix the problems and make him pay to have it done? 

Consumer Ed says:

Before you take any action in connection with repairs, you need to do several things.  First, review both your contract and any warranty that you received from the contractor.  See if they contain any provisions relating to repair issues and how they should be handled.  If they do, you need to follow the procedures outlined for the completion of repairs. 

You also have to comply with Georgia’s Right to Repair Act before you can sue a contractor in connection with construction defects.  The Act requires that the contractor be given an opportunity to try and correct any problems.  It contains specific provisions relating to notice, inspections, timelines and other procedures.  If you do not follow all of the Act’s requirements, it could have a negative impact on your claim.  For more information about the Right to Repair Act, visit the Home Improvement section of the ConsumerEd.com website.

In your situation, we recommend that you consult with an attorney.  To find a lawyer in your area, contact your local bar association.  A list of the bar associations in Georgia can be found on the State Bar of Georgia’s website: www.gabar.org.

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