A 'Call Christina' investigation reveals the solar contractor who a couple claims walked off the job was never licensed to perform the work.
At the time of the interview (the start of Call Christina's investigation) the Delissers were still on the hook making payments toward a loan that financed a job that was never completed by a man never licensed to do the work.
The Call Christina Team has been in contact with the financing company for weeks. On Tuesday, the company told Local 10 News Investigative Reporter and Consumer Advocate Christina Vazquez they are prepared to issue Kim Delisser a refund.
For Kim Delisser of Cutler Bay, saving money with solar panels seemed like a good idea, an "environmentally friendly cut down on cost."
The man Kim Delisser and her husband, Stuart Delisser, hired for the job, John Paulisin of South Florida Energy Savers, had a business card that indicated he was licensed and insured.
"All of the brochures he had given us had license numbers on it," Kim Delisser said.
Kim Delisser said the problems started shortly after contracting with South Florida Energy Savers to install the solar panels.
"He was not good at returning phone calls," Kim Delisser said. "Emails were very short: 'Working on it', 'Yes.' Phone calls would take days to be returned, if any. At the end of the day, John did not follow through. He came here, he took the money and he did absolutely nothing for us. I don't think he ever had the intention of finishing the job."
Local 10 News Investigative Reporter Christina Vazquez began digging into unlicensed activity complaints others had filed against the company with county and state regulators and discovered the license number on Paulisin's business card wasn't his.
Andrew Cantatore holds two CFC licenses qualifying The Construction Guys Inc. and F.A.M. Plumbing LLC. According to department records, the business South Florida Energy Savers does not have a qualifier listed.
Over the phone, Cantatore said he didn't know Paulisin was using his license number on marketing material.
Paulisin does not have a certified solar contractor license, which is required to by the state to install solar panels.
What is more, Vazquez learned that in September 2013, responding to complaints, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) issued Paulisin a cease and desist notice because he was advertising and installing solar panels without the proper license.
Based on Kim's contract date and supporting documents, that would mean Paulisin took on the Delisser job after the state had already told him to stop.
When Vazquez presented the DBPR documents to Kim Delisser she was stunned.
"We had no, no knowledge of this," she said. "It's absurd that somebody can go around and do business like this and draw money and get away with it."
DBPR cited Paulisin a $1,000 fine they said he has yet to pay.
Last June, DBPR filed a complaint against South Florida Energy Savers.
DBPR told Local 10 News that they forward all unlicensed activity cases to the local state attorney's office for further review and potential criminal prosecution.
Vazquez has asked the Miami-Dade Office of the State Attorney if their investigators plan on reviewing the case. She is awaiting confirmation if an investigation is pending.
Miami-Dade County has cited him on one case of working without a license and are actively investigating two filed complaints.
In that closed case, Miriam Rossi, the administrative officer for the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, explained in an email, "The contractor enforcement investigator issued a citation to John Paulisin d/b/a South Florida Energy Savers, for acting as a licensed contractor yet being unlicensed. This was a pro-active case and not a homeowner complaint. The citation was paid and the case was closed."
No one was at Paulisin's Palmetto Bay office when Christina Vasquez arrived. Piles of mail were stacked just beyond the locked door.
Over the phone and by email, Paulisin stated that he has been out of state undergoing cancer treatment.
"Since Dec. 27, 2013, I have been in the hospital six times, totaling over 130 days in the hospital," he wrote in an email, "Numerous doctors of told me that I'm lucky to be alive."
He blamed a former co-worker for the mounting complaints. He did not address why he was advertising and executing solar projects that state records show he didn't have the proper licensing to perform.
Paulisin's name also appears on a company listing in state records called Green Solar Energy Solutions, Inc. -- a corporation filed with the state just this past April.
As for the Delissers, they were extremely pleased with Solar 2000. That is the company they hired to finish the job.
They are, however, still on the hook for the more than $17,000 loan which they said was paid directly to Paulisin for a product and service that was never delivered by a man never licensed to do the work.
"We would like an explanation and we need our money back," Kim Delisser said.
The "Call Christina" team has been in contact with the financing company recommended to the Delissers by South Florida Energy Savers. They told Local 10 News that they no longer work with the Palmetto Bay business and said they are looking into Delisser's circumstances.
"Definitely do your homework," Kim Delisser said. "Know who you're dealing with up front. Don't sign anything until you're completely sure about what you're getting into and what you're signing."
The "Call Christina" team reached out the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association (FLaSEIA) for steps to take before hiring a contractor.
"We have a great acronym that we use in the industry to make sure consumers are protected all the way down," explained FLaSEIA Executive Director Mike Antheil. "The acronym is CLIPPER. The C is for Contract -- make sure you get everything in writing. The L is for License -- make sure you have a licensed solar contractor. The I is for Insurance -- make sure you have your worker's comp and all your liability insurance in place. The first P is for Product -- make sure the product that you are buying matches the product on your contract. The second P is for Permit -- make sure all the local permits and everything are in place. The E is for Expertise, and the R is for Referrals -- whoever you are dealing with, make sure you ask for some other customers they have dealt with."
At the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association website, customers can find a solar energy expert and learn about the current licensing requirements
According to Chelsea Eagle, DBPR deputy director of communications, "It's important to note, a plumbing contractor can perform some solar work and is permitted to serve as the primary contractor for a larger project given the majority of the work is within the plumbing scope of services (i.e.- solar hot water heating project)."
Click here for DBPR certified solar contractors.
South Florida Energy Savers has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau.
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