To tighten loopholes and protect homeowners, Miami-Dade commissioners unanimously approved numerous new consumer safeguards for the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program on Tuesday. Unique in its structure, this program allows residents to undertake home improvement projects, such as installing hurricane-resistant windows or high-efficiency air conditioners, without requiring credit checks or down payments. Instead, the home itself serves as collateral, with the program placing a lien on the property. Payments, interest, and fees are then collected via annual property taxes.
Although similar in function to traditional bank loans, PACE programs have long been under-regulated in Florida, leading to a wave of consumer complaints primarily focused on unclear payment terms and shady contractors. Sponsored by Commissioner Kevin Cabrera and spurred by investigative reporting by the Miami Herald, the new legislation aims to address these issues. Miami-Dade has more PACE clients than any other Florida county, making this reform especially crucial.
The key provision of the new legislation mandates PACE providers to present homeowners with a detailed disclosure document. This document will outline the total amount owed over the life of the agreement, the interest rate, the estimated annual cost added to property taxes, and a clear warning about the risks of foreclosure in case of non-payment of property taxes. These changes align with some complaints from California, the birthplace of the PACE program, where multiple homeowners faced foreclosure due to unpaid property taxes.
However, the new disclosure will not apply to projects costing over $250,000, commercial properties, or multi-family residential projects. Cabrera’s legislation also urges the county to enforce consumer protections more vigorously, holding companies accountable for residents’ complaints.
“For folks signing up, they will now know what they’re getting into,” Cabrera told the commission. The newly enacted safeguards also include additional provisions to protect senior citizens. Seniors are frequently targeted via mail flyers or door-to-door sales pitches. Since a spike in property taxes can be especially burdensome for those on fixed incomes, the bill mandates a paper signature for residents over 65 as an additional layer of security.
The commission meeting saw representatives from three PACE providers authorized to operate in Miami-Dade County, including Renew Financial, the second-largest provider. FortiFi Financial and Home Run Financial representative Chris Peterson praised the changes as a “welcome” development.
Ygrene, the largest PACE provider in the county and state, was absent from the meeting. It is worth noting that Ygrene pulled out of Florida abruptly last year, causing upheaval for thousands of homeowners and contractors. The company resumed operations in February this year under a new financial setup. Another Cabrera-sponsored bill aims to dissolve the county’s agreement with the board overseeing Ygrene, known as the Green Corridor.
Compared to counties like Palm Beach and Broward, which also require detailed disclosures, these new regulations place Miami-Dade at the forefront of consumer protections at the county level. However, Florida still lags behind states like California in regulatory measures. There, a state board actively reviews consumer complaints and imposes fines or expulsions for offending companies.
The State Attorney’s Office continues its open investigation into Ygrene following more than 100 complaints about various PACE programs since 2019. However, Miami-Dade’s new protections represent a significant step forward in balancing homeowner benefits with essential consumer safeguards.