Judge Terminates Hundreds of Solar Leases
July 25, 2015
Written by: Christopher J. Charles, Esq.
Founder and Managing Partner of Provident Law, PLLC
Rooftop solar panel installation companies promise numerous benefits, including reduced utility bills and tax credits. A judge in Pima County recently terminated hundreds of these solar panel leases and ordered $1,000,000 in restitution when the installation company failed to deliver on its promises.
Michael Fricker is the principal of Salt River Solar and Wind (“SRSW”), which leased and installed rooftop solar panels to businesses and families throughout Arizona.
Hundreds of customers complained that although they paid SRSW what was owed, the equipment did not work or the equipment wasn’t even installed.
Due to the number of complaints, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the Registrar of Contractors, and the FBI launched investigations into Mr. Fricker and SRSW.
According to the FBI, SRSW required its customers to pay up front, including the value of the tax rebate they would receive for the solar set up, with the promise that the customer would receive a refund when SRSW received the rebate from the state. But when SRSW received the tax rebates (totaling thousands of dollars in most cases), SRSW failed to pay it back to its customers.
Following the FBI and AG’s investigations, Mr. Fricker was indicted on multiple felony counts in January 2014. On October 29, 2014, he was convicted of fraudulent schemes and artifices, and illegally conducting an enterprise. He was ordered to pay $1,000,000 in restitution to his customers/victims.
On May 18, 2015, Mr. Fricker was sentenced to five years of prison. Around the same time, Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley released 1,157 customers of their solar panel leases with SRSW.
Under contract law, if one of the parties to the contract materially breaches the contract, the non-breaching party may be relieved of his or her performance. A material breach occurs when a party fails to do something required by the contract which is so important to the contract that the breach defeats the very purpose of the contract. Amos Flight Operations, Inc. v. Thunderbird Bank, 112 Ariz. 263, 267, 540 P.2d 1244, 1248 (1975); Mahurin v. Schmeck, 95 Ariz. 333, 339, 390 P.2d 576, 580 (1964); RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONTRACTS § 241 (1981).
In regard to SRSW and its solar leases, SRSW’s actions/omissions of failing to timely install the equipment, failing to install functional equipment, and failing to timely issue the rebates, constituted a material breach of the agreement which relieved the customers of their obligations under the leases.
If you or someone you know has questions regarding a real estate or contract dispute, please call or email Mr. Charles today.
“Provident” means “careful about planning for the future; exercising foresight; skill and wisdom in management.” And “Provident” describes how we approach our clients’ legal affairs. Provident Law, PLLC is a commercial law firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, that handles business, real estate, bankruptcy, estate planning and probate, guardianship, serious personal injury litigation, commercial litigation, church and non-profit representation, and family law matters.
Christopher J. Charles is the founder and Managing Partner of Provident Law, PLLC. He is a State Bar Certified Real Estate Specialist and a former “Broker Hotline Attorney” for the Arizona Association of REALTORS® (the “AAR”). He holds the AV® Preeminent Rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings system which connotes the highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards. He is also an Arbitrator and Mediator for the AAR regarding real estate disputes; and he serves on the State Bar of Arizona’s Civil Jury Instructions Committee where he helped draft the Agency Instructions and the Residential Landlord/Tenant Eviction Jury Instructions.
Christopher is a licensed real estate instructor and he teaches continuing education classes at the Arizona School of Real Estate and Business. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 480-388-3348; 14646 N. Kierland Blvd, Suite 260, Scottsdale, Arizona 85254.
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