SCORES of Essex homeowners fear they will be unable to sell their properties after agreeing to rent the roofs out through a solar panel company which later went bust.
Several people across the county entered into deals with Cleantech NRG to lease their roofs to a separate London-based firm Scion Solar for 25 years in return for free solar panels and reduced electricity bills.
However, a number of “errors” by Cleantech, based in Chelmsford, mean in some cases clients have been left unable to contact “investors” left in control of the roofs.
The mystery investors are also being paid money through a government scheme which pays them for every kilowatt of energy produced by the panels installed by Cleantech on their roof. In July last year Cleantech went into voluntary liquidation, allegedly owing nearly £1.4million.
This includes about £1.1million to Scion Solar according to a report by liquidators Adcroft Hilton, which estimates up to 200 homeowners across Essex could be involved.
Affected clients have not lost any money and are still getting reduced bills, however, they fear it has created a legal minefield for those who want to sell and move.
Some customers were left with no contracts, leases were not registered with Land Registry, and they had no contact for their “investor”.
Cleantech also promised to include insurance for the panels and a maintenance contract, but some are unsure if these are in place.
One woman from Clacton hit problems picked up by her buyer’s solicitor when she tried to sell her house fitted with the panels following the liquidation.
Pensioners Ray and Valerie Wing from Dolphins, Westcliff, signed up in October 2011.
Valerie said: “We were told Scion Solar would lease our roof, who we checked out were a legitimate company, so we signed a contract with them. But we were never sent our copy. I chased it for months.”
In March 2012 Cleantech wrote to them saying the original contract was incorrect, they had been passed to an investor.
They were asked to sign a new contract with a John Thornton whose address was care of Cleantech.
Ray said: “We had no idea who or where Mr Thornton was so there was no way I was entering into this contract. It means we have no contract, no charge on the house but this Mr Thornton is getting money from my roof.
“Until it is sorted there could be problems selling the house, we heard of one case where the solicitor picked it up just as a woman was about to sell. We don’t know if it is insured and have no maintenance contract.”
Just a few doors away lives Terry Lunn, 67, who signed up around the same time. His contract with Scion was returned and it was registered at Land Registry. #
Yet his son, Gary Lunn, 40, from Rochefort Drive, Rochford, is in a similar position to the Wings.
Former Cleantech boss Kevin Neil, 51, admitted mistakes, but blamed the Government.
He said a Department of Energy decision to cut the per kilowatt an hour rate to 16p killed his business.
He said: “If wrong contracts were drawn up it was in error. I put my hands up it was a mess, but there was a surge in business before the cut. We couldn’t cope with it all, but I blame the Government for the short notice.”
He said since liquidating Cleantech he has spent nearly £120,000 on maintaining customers’ panels, through his new US property investment firm Colonial Capital, and is also insuring them
Before setting up Cleantech in 2010 Mr Neil co-founded another green investment scheme a year earlier with Matt Ames, 38, from Goldfinch Lane, Thundersley called Forestry for Life, based in Dunton Road, Basildon.
It went into liquidation owing investors and creditors £1.2million.
If you were a Cleantech customer who faced problems email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01268 469304.