SAN DIEGO, Aug. 4, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Program administered by Renovate America is expanding its consumer protection program, which already far exceeds any other financing option, by launching HERO Protect™.
HERO Protect™ will provide information about contractor performance, dispute resolution services, and investigative services -- and will escalate issues to law enforcement if required -- at no charge to all homeowners with energy and water projects in communities where HERO is available. The service will be extended to all homeowners with energy or water efficiency or renewable energy home improvement projects, regardless of how projects are paid for or whose customers they are. HERO Protect™ is also launching direct Senior Care trainings with contractors on how to protect older consumers.
The HERO Program partners with local municipalities to offer Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for energy and water savings home improvements, and has proven to be one of the most successful public/private partnerships in the nation. Critical to the success of the Program has been its consumer protection services.
"At its core, the HERO Program is a public service," said Rick Bishop, Executive Director of the Western Riverside Council of Governments. "HERO was conceived to help people make improvements to their homes affordably and safely. We're taking private capital and putting it to work for a public good. We thought long and hard about expanding the service because we found we were getting calls to assist with investigations that involved contractors who were not working with HERO financing. Consumers don't always know where to turn when they have an issue, and we can help."
"The expanded service will initially be offered to communities in Riverside County, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, and Orange County," said CEO J.P. McNeill of Renovate America. "Our hope is that this will positively impact the overall home improvement market. We've seen a halo effect when consumers and businesses become more aware and more careful to work within established guidelines."
HERO Protect™ will include the following community services free of charge to any homeowner with an energy or water home improvement project:
- Dispute Resolution Services
- Investigative Services
- Senior Care Education Training for Contractors
- Contractor License Verification
- Contractor Performance Record Check
- Multi-Lingual Support
HERO-financed projects will continue to receive:
- Product Verification of Energy and Water Efficiency
- Courtesy Calls for Homeowners Age 65 and Older, to verify their understanding of the terms of the financing
- Three Day Right of Cancellation
- Fair Pricing Protections
- Permit Requirements Check
- Payment Only After Homeowner Certifies Successful Project Completion
Consumers needing HERO Protect™ services can call a dedicated line at 888-720-HERO from 9am – 5pm PT Monday through Friday, or email HEROProtect@heroprogram.com. They will get a call back on the same day from our investigative and dispute resolution team.
EXPANDED INVESTIGATIVE AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION SERVICES
HERO encounters a similar level of poor or unscrupulous business practices as other companies that deal with home improvement contracting, but HERO works hard with the community to enforce higher standards.
HERO already employs four former police investigators and a former utility investigator, and will expand the team over time throughout the state to have a local presence in communities where HERO operates. In addition, HERO partners with the California Contractor State License Board, and local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to monitor contractor license status, provide education programs, and assist investigations. HERO has suspended contractors with inactive licenses from the program. Additionally, more than 60 individuals or contracting companies have been suspended for violations of the Program's Code of Conduct. Code of Conduct violations are evaluated on three criteria: impact on consumer protection, degree of cooperation with remedial actions; and willingness to correct business practices.
PROTECTION FOR SENIORS
HERO has been working with law enforcement and experts on aging and fraud prevention, and has created a new Senior Care training program for independent contractors.
The HERO Program is working with Dr. Lisa Gibbs, Director of the Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse and Neglect and Chief of Geriatric Medicine at UC Irvine, to develop appropriate training for home improvement contractors. "Elder abuse, including financial abuse, occurs in staggering numbers," said Dr. Gibbs. "Unfortunately, older adults are often targeted because they have homes and savings, and many have medical conditions such as memory problems, or vision and hearing problems, which add to their vulnerability. Education for those who do business with older adults protects not only the older adults, but the contractors and professionals as well."
"You don't even know the stress the HERO Program removed," said Alora Martinez, whose grandfather in Beaumont, California, in his 90s, was sold a $16,000 HVAC system he never needed by a contractor working with non-HERO financing. Martinez said she found her way to Steve Witte with the HERO Program through a very helpful employee at the California Contractors State License Board. "Even though HERO didn't stand to profit at all, Steve helped get the contractor to drop my grandfather's contract. It's so rare to find someone who's just out to help your community. "
FBI RECOGNITION OF HERO INVESTIGATIVE ASSISTANCE
In May of this year, a special agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited the HERO Program headquarters to recognize the Program. He presented certificates of recognition for "outstanding assistance," in which the Program helped gather critical information for the enforcement agency on a 13-person mortgage fraud ring bust. The FBI's recognition singled out the significant amount of investigative assistance the HERO Program provided, calling the help "immeasurable." The recognition is a rare acknowledgment and representatives from Renovate America believe it to be the first award of its kind presented to a home improvement-financing program.
HERO consumer protections have also benefited contractors who sometimes have trouble when a consumer is unwilling to pay for services that have been provided in accordance with the contract. Since contractors are paid by HERO at the successful completion of a project, the Program can issue payment when the contractor has fulfilled their obligation to the consumer.
"HERO's consumer protections help to ensure consumers are protected, but the Program also assists contractors with education and dispute resolution services as well," said David Krakower, Renovate America's Vice President of Sales. "The best contractors see our consumer protections as a tangible benefit for their business reputations. That's helping us build the most trusted contractor network."
RENOVATE AMERICA & THE HERO PROGRAM
Renovate America partners with more than 320 cities and counties to make energy efficient and water conservation improvements more affordable through the HERO Program, the fastest-growing energy efficiency financing program in the nation. Through the HERO Program, cities and counties are stimulating their local economies with new investments in home improvements that create thousands of new jobs, reduce CO2 emissions, conserve water, lower utility bills, and improve the marketability of properties. Renovate America has funded more than 30,000 improvements which will help California save over 1 billion gallons of water and $1.5 Billion in lower utility bills since HERO launched in December 2011. To learn more about the company visit www.renovateamerica.com, and the HERO Program at www.heroprogram.com.
SOURCE HERO Program