SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Several local customers say that a prominent solar company suddenly closed and took off with their money. ABC 10News spoke to homeowners who say that they keep calling and calling, but no one can help.
Sullivan Solar has become a household name for many San Diegans. Its website touts installing more than 9,000 systems across Southern California, including one for the Padres at Petco Park. However, if you head to their office in Miramar, you'll find a lot full of fleet trucks, but the doors are locked and no one's around.
Customer Allen Davis told ABC 10News, “All the lights are still off. Everything is still there. You know, the coffee cup is still in the sink.”
He said that he paid Sullivan Solar for a system.
“They have about $34,000 of my cash,” he added.
He says that Sullivan Solar never paid the subcontractor who did the installation so now he's liable to pay the subcontractor or he faces a lien on his house. ABC 10News spoke to the subcontractor who declined to provide any comment.
According to the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), "A lien can result when the prime contractor (referred to as a "direct contractor" in mechanics lien revision statutes, effective July 1, 2012) has not paid subcontractors, laborers, or suppliers. Legally, the homeowner is ultimately responsible for payment — even if they already have paid the direct contractor.
“I'm really disappointed,” said homeowner Kevin Hanks. “I paid the $45,000 for the roof. Sullivan didn't pay for the roof to the roofer and now I have to pay $45,000 again.”
“It looks like exactly what the foreman told me which was that the owner of the company abruptly shut the business down, fired everyone, locked the doors and walked away,” said Davis.
ABC 10News interviewed CEO Dan Sullivan in 2016 about a separate story.
ABC 10News’ attempts to contact him about these new allegations have been unsuccessful. ABC 10News repeatedly called and emailed the company, with no reply.
On Yelp, there are a slew of one-star reviews from angry customers with comments. Some of the comments read in part, “…now I've got to pull money out of my child's college savings…," "…Sullivan [is] nowhere to be found…," and "…[They] left us high and dry…"
Hanks stated, “You just leave a voicemail. There's no one answering the phones there."
Davis added, “The emails [are] not returned…I tried Twitter and Facebook direct-messaging and didn't get any responses from those things.”
ABC 10News spoke to one of the subcontractors who would not go on-camera but verified that he and other subcontractors have not been paid by Sullivan Solar. He said that he feels bad for all of the customers.
“Taking people's money and not providing services and making promises and just walking away from that is just terrible,” said Hanks.
Attorney Mark Mellor specializes in construction law. He tells homeowners to check all contracts for lien warnings before signing them. He also says to consider getting a subcontractor to sign an unconditional lien waiver upon payment since the subcontractor cannot file a lien for work that he or she has been paid for. If there’s a refusal, he says to consider making your check out to both the contractor and the subcontractor. “Those two can fight over what they're being paid because the contractor can't cash it without an endorsement from the subcontractor and the subcontractor can’t endorse it without the other guy signing off,” he told ABC 10News.
The CSLB told ABC 10News that it has received additional complaints about Sullivan Solar which are being reviewed by its San Diego investigative unit. The CSLB said the complaints are not public at this time.
The CSLB has resources on its website to understand lien laws: https://www.cslb.ca.gov/consumers/legal_issues_for_consumers/mechanics_lien/What_Is_A_Mechanics_Lien.aspx