Following a recent solar installation on a concrete tiled roof I would suggest to anyone with a concrete tiled roof who is thinking about going solar to investigate thoroughly. I was extremely disappointed to see how my tile roof was damaged and treated during installation, with tradesmen walking normally across the roof and not placing their feet where there was stronger tile support. During the installation process, I had 4-5 people on the roof continuously all coming and going via 1 ladder. In the area of the ladder where the tiles were firmly sitting on tile battens, only 3 tiles were cracked following repeated foot traffic, but around the perimeter of the panels where the clenergy panel supports created a hump in the tiles there were 12 other cracked tiles. This area had minimal foot traffic. The tiles are not brittle. All tiles were left on the roof damaged and unreported and were only found two days later when I went to check the installation. I know there are numerous more damaged tiles under the solar panels as I observed the cracked tiles. Workers walking across tiles would move 3-4 tiles simultaneously transfering movement to adjoining tiles due to the clenergy support being around 13mm above the tiles below. I pointed out the gap of about 10-20mm from the top of the lower tile to the bottom of the one above to workers on site and to the salesman back in the office and was told not to worry as the cracks and gaps are covered by the solar panels and the gap at the front of the panel will reduce when the weight of the panels is transferred to the tile support . The gap also continues on to the side overlap of the tiles. I observed that some of the under tile lugs where the supports would be, were ground off but others were bashed off with a hammer and jemmy bar giving differing thickness under the tile. The panels are up and the inverter checked but the system is not producing until the electrical distributor commissions the system in some 2-4 weeks. I have received an invoice to pay in the next few days. The warranty says “we will repair any such default or defect notified to us within the Guarantee Period.” To repair the damage would involve removing all of the panels and replacing dozens of tiles and do I really want them on the roof again? The damage under the solar panels, may or may not create a water leak but who knows what may happen in a storm tomorrow or 20 years. There appeared to be get in and out of the project as quick as possible, being told by a number of people associated with the job “we are smashing out the jobs”. At this stage, I haven’t put in an official complaint with the company yet but they know I am not happy but they say any damage with leaks will be covered by the warranty. Does anyone know what I should do?
The simple answer to your problem is this if you are in NSW and probably throughout Australia.
First, write to the supplier by email so there is a verifiable paper trail advising of the damage (which has nothing to do with a defect but is a civil wrong - in law a tort - on which you are entitled to sue. The letter must advise that you want the damage rectified within say 14 days and that you hold the company liable for any damage to the interior of the home caused by the negligence of the company.
Second, if there is no response within say 5 working days (one week in total) write again confirming that you want the damage rectified urgently to avoid any further - in law consequential - loss and advise that if there is no satisfactory action from the company within a further week (bringing the total time to the original 14 days specified) you will then, immediately and without further notice, take any and all steps necessary to protect your interests. At that time you may, thirdly, make a complaint to the Solar Industry Ombudsman (in Australia) or at the latest do so at the expiration of the 14 days. You may, alternatively, start proceedings in NCAT (in Australia) which has no lawyers at the hearing so it is cheap and effective. Fourth, if you have a reasonable expectation of rain or weather which could exacerbate the problem you can write to the company advising of that and informing it that to ensure there is no consequential loss you will hire a tradesman to take such steps as are necessary to protect the roof and house and you will hold the company liable for all such costs. If you take this fourth step be sure to obtain at least two quotes (preferably 3) and reports from qualified tradesmen so that you can demonstrate to a court or the Ombudsman that you have acted reasonably and fairly so as to minimise any loss - at law mitigating damage - and that there is evidence of the damage claimed so as to ensure you are entitled to, and receive, all of your expenses. If you do not accept the cheapest quote you may have to prove that you are entitled to the extra amount, for example, if the cheapest trade could not attend promptly or your check of the builder revealed it had complaints against it ( in practice just don’t supply the cheapest quote if you are unhappy with it). Send the quotes to the company BEFORE starting any works and advise that if you have no proper response within say 48 hours (or sooner if weather requires urgent work) you will arrange to start repair works without further notice. Keep notes of everything you do and say including of any conversations with the company in the form - I said, s/he said writing down the actual words used (not a paraphrase). Hope this helps.
Thank you so much for the valuable information. Yes we are in NSW but the company is in Victoria
I don’t like arguments but I am so upset with the damage and lack of care to our home.
I personally believe that the main problem is through the use of the incorrect Solar Panel Bracket which was designed for use with thicker timber tile battens than are on our house.
I have some construction knowledge and have searched the Clenergy Website and found the Solar Panel Bracket that closely matches my tile and tile batten dimensions.
Before I went ahead with solar quotes I had a roof tiler on site to verify that the roof and tiles were sound and suitable for solar panels.
I have an email ready to send tomorrow outlining my concerns with the incorrect solar bracket and the poor workmanship in breaking of tiles and not repairing them.
I have asked for a meeting with a representative from the company at a mutually agreeable time next week and have asked for them to bring the bracket that I believe is the correct one for our roof structure to measure and prove my point that the incorrect solar bracket was used.
I didn’t want to threaten legal action yet but to keep negotiations cordial. The company is not being nasty and they have said their warranty will cover workmanship for 10 years. I just believe they were ignorant in not checking the roof before turning up on site at midday with what I consider the wrong size brackets for the job and assuming that the most common bracket is the correct one for my home. I believe it is just their company invoicing system that once their work is completed they want their money within 7 days.
I have only paid the deposit so far and that is all I intend to pay until the roofing and supports are completed to my satisfaction.
I have been caught once before paying for poor materials and being told by the manager, trust me I will guarantee the product. Which he never did.
Luckily I have sealed with silicon any cracked tiles that were visible to me before it rained.
We have had 6mm of rain but I am hopeful that as the solar panels are located close to the ridge that minimal water would have flowed down the whole roof.
Do you think it best to keep communications cordial and if following the anticipated meeting next week discussions don’t go as planned, then seek outside intervention?
Again, thank you so much for your valuable advice.
I agree the best solution is amicable. But, as the Yanks once said; trust in the Lord but keep your (gun)powder dry. What usually gets things done is the mailed fist in the velvet glove: talk nicely but let them know that you mean business and know your rights and how to enforce them.
If they do come around and agree to anything make sure it is writing. If they don’t agree and want to play silly buggers don’t hesitate to tell them you are aware of the Ombudsman and NCAT and though you prefer to deal nicely ( and even recommend them for their great after-sales service) don’t let them argue the toss, ask for contribution or ask for a delay while they do whatever.
You have the whip hand so use it. They want their money so will want to be obliging especially if it doesn’t cost too much. But, as well, if there is extensive damage you might consider also asking for costs to cover an independent inspection of the repairs.
Finally, even if there is a protracted dispute and you need to get an independent quote for repairs you should pay all but the cost of the repairs to the company with a covering note to say what you have done and stating that you still rely on their warranty and any statutory warranties regarding the quality of the system and the installation.
I sincerely thank you for your advice and words of wisdom.
I am going to proceed along the friendly path for the moment but thanks to your information I am better armed should that not be the case.
In my email I have asked them to put themselves in my place and asked what would they accept as an outcome if it were them in my place.
I have no intention of backing down as I know that their workmanship is not acceptable.
Again I thank you.
You have given me information and confidence to see this through.
I hope what help you do for others is returned to you in abundance.
Thanks for the kind thoughts a pleasure to help.
Just a note: it is not usually helpful to ask “what would they do in your place” because they generally don’t care. All they want is to get paid and leave you with the problem. Maybe not this company but be aware they are in business to maximise profits and unhappy customers generally don’t count for much unless it is in their interests for whatever reason. It is likely they used cheap contractors judging from the standard of installation and that may indicate the quality of the company.
Don’t accept any verbal assurance - get it in writing.
They are a local company, that was why I chose them to do the work. I believe they will rely on good reviews from the local community. They had good reviews which is what I look for but I have noticed a lot of companies ask for a review just for arranging something or talking on the phone. Not how the company handles problems which is the important part of reviews.
Hi Graeme, maybe it’ll all work out ok without problem. Let me know if you need more advice, r
Hi Roland, thankyou for your help. I am in the process of finalising my email and requesting a meeting. I will definitely keep you informed. You have taken so much Psychological pressure off me as I know I have your helpful advice to guide me.
I sent the email off to the solar installer on Monday, where I asked for an on-site meeting at his earliest convenience, to show him the damage and to try to reach a suitable mutual resolution. He rang within 15min basically refusing to acknowledge any real blame for the damage. He stated that he has given his workers a talk and told me he had meetings for the next 2 days, it is now 3.5 days with no communication so I am thinking of sending an email, stating that I am withholding final payment until we reach a resolution. Final payment is due tomorrow. I believe if I don’t give him this email before the pay date with the reason why I have not paid on time, then he may claim failure to pay an outstanding account.
Does that sound legal and appropriate to you?
Thank you for all of your helpful advice.
Hi Graeme, Please be advised I am NOT giving legal advice. You must act according to your best judgement and if you want legal advice you will need to talk to a lawyer.
According to usual business practice I understand that withholding final payment pending rectification of defects providing written notice is provided to the seller is acceptable. I believe that in the circumstances the seller should realise why payment is withheld but for reasons of a paper trail at least giving notice within a reasonable time should be done.
At the same time advise your next intentions in writing - referral to the Ombudsman, NCAT etc. Keep the momentum with you. Give notice that unless the matter is resolved within say 4 days (the weekend plus two) you will immediately and without further notice take the next advised step AND DO IT. In the email provide a very brief summary of the last meeting, such as - when we spoke by phone on xxxxday at about xxxxo’clock you advised you were not prepared to rectify the damage caused by your workers during installation of solar panel by you. )n that basis I am; 1 withholding payment pending satisfactory resolution and 2 referring the matter to the Ombudsman etc or whatever you choose to do.
Once it is in the hands of the Ombudsman you can ask for directions and it will all be done for you. If you go the NCAT route you have still to do a fair bit of work to prepare your case.
Again, please note this is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and it is not intended that, nor should you, you rely on it as such.
Hope it goes well, Roland
Thank you Roland,
I understand that you cannot give legal advice and I do appreciate all information you have given. Especially keeping a paper trail.
I have been onto the Solar Ombudsman and they have said that they can’t do anything as it is not a billing problem.
I have also been onto the Clean Energy Council who also state that they cannot do anything but have a record of my complaint.
Next step if it gets to it is NCAT.
Kindest Regards Graeme
Oh well, if it has to be NCAT then put the seller on notice of your intention, get two or three quotes for repair (three gives you the option of using the two you prefer or the two most expensive and put the other aside. Write enclosing two quotes, advise you will use the cheaper and advise you will pay the balance of the final payment when the work is complete to your satisfaction. Notify the seller it can come to do repairs and/or get it’s own quotes. Give 10 days clear notice for starting proceedings and on the next day after the final day lodge your documents.- stating simply what you want. The Tribunal will give directions as to what it wants you to provide.
Before you go to all this trouble find out how much the repair will cost and make a decision if it is worth the hassle to sue. If repairs are cheap it might be worth letting it go by just paying. If more expensive pay the balance advising you intend to start in NCAT if the seller wishes to dispute the matter further which should give you priority of choice of this jurisdiction. It might be worth going to the LocalCourt to get advice on this.
Anyway I’ve done all i can and nothing more to add but good luck and take the simple course and don’t get hung up on principle. If the seller has a website threaten to put an adverse review But don’t be defamatory. r
Thankyou so much for your much valued information, it has been fantastic to be able to get someone else’s opinion on options that may be available to me.
I hope life is good to you and that others will help you the way you have helped me.