By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor

Steven Gillies was eager to see his utility bills drop and finally last year pulled the trigger for solar panels for his Gilbert home.

He got two bids and decided to go with AEOS Energy for the customized solar system and installation.

“I selected AEOS because of timing, how fast they could get it done and the price,” Gillies said.

That decision turned into a $21,000 mistake for the mortgage banker.

Gillies and six other Valley homeowners got taken to the tune of $204,335 by AEOS, which took their money and ran, according to the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.

The agency on April 3 revoked the Tempe company’s electrical license, which takes effect May 14, giving AEOS 40 days to appeal the decision, according to Registrar of Contractors spokeswoman Breanna Bang.

“The agency intends to submit these cases to Arizona Attorney General’s Office for charging review after the investigations are complete,” she said.

Bang said for the time, AEOS’s license is suspended.

The agency issued a suspension March 5 after it investigated the homeowners’ complaints and held an administrative hearing on March 22, which AEOS failed to attend, according to court documents.

Attempts to reach AEOS for comment were unsuccessful. The phone number listed for its corporate office in Tempe and at a Yuma address no longer worked. The attorney listed as AEOS’s representative in the court documents did not return a call for comment.

Jonathan Payne Kirkland incorporated AEOS in December 2017 and was issued a license on Jan. 11, 2018, according to state documents. Another party associated with the license was listed as Michael Evan Gibson.

“I want to believe his intent when he started his business was not to defraud people,” Gillies said of Kirkland.

He said he had AEOS sales people visit his home about five times before he signed the contract and paid. He also had researched the company and the high-efficiency panels AEOS wanted to install.

Initially there were no red flags. The contract handed to him displayed the company’s contractor license information, Gillies said.

Looking back, Gillies said he could kick himself now for handing over the $21,000 up front. The company offered financing but paid the entire amount because he was told he would receive a 10 percent discount and a rebate at the time of installation.

“I happen to have a line of credit, I wrote a check and gave it to them,” he said.

Of the seven complainants, six paid the full amount.

They included former state legislator and justice of the peace Lester Pearce of Gilbert, who lost $112,013; A Queen Creek man lost about $21,000. Three Maricopa homeowners got taken for about $10,000 each and one in Glendale lost about $23,000.

The Registrar found either no work was done or electrical service panels were installed but no wires were connected to the panels.

There could be other victims out there.

A person on social media posted, “Jon Kirkland of AEOS Energy took $80,000 for payment of my solar system then disappeared and we can’t find them anywhere.”

Gillies said he should have gone with the other bidder who was with a large company.

“Their price was considerably higher,” he said. “I ended up taking the lower-price vendor.”

Gillies was told installation would take 90 days, but that time period came and went.

“I started inquiring with them and kept inquiring, ‘when are you getting this done?’” Gillies said.

Company officials called, apologized and offered him an extra warranty and an upgrade on the solar panels, according to Gillies.

They sent him a new contract, which he signed in the spring, and got approval from SRP on the project in October.

“They were supposed to install shortly after and the next thing you know, Christmas came around and nothing was installed,” Gillies said.

On Dec. 31, the company installed two electrical panel boxes to the side of his house and informed him the solar panels would be installed in mid-January.

“That didn’t happen,” Gillies said. “I kept on calling and eventually I talked to the owner. He apologized profusely for not installing it in a timely manner and offered me additional rebates he would give to me upon installation, an additional 30 percent rebate off the solar system. And so, I thought at least we are on the right path to get it done and then nothing happened.

“The next thing you know I get an email from him saying he’s winding down the company and ‘here is my attorney and contact them.’ I contacted them and they said there’s no money to install anything and did not refund me.”

The contract with AEOS wasn’t Gillies’ only expense.

“I’m the original owner, I’ve been in the house for 20 years and the roof was fine, no leaks,” he said. “But because of solar I went out and put on a new roof last year.”

He also paid to have his trees trimmed back from the house.

“To have this happen is another cut in the wound that makes me kind of mad,” Gillies said.

He complained to the Registrar of Contractors, which sent out an investigator.

Because the cases have been adjudicated, Gillies and the other homeowners can file a claim with the Registrar’s Residential Contractor’s Recovery Fund.

The Recovery Fund reimburses homeowners for poor workmanship or non-performance by a licensed residential contractor.

Claims paid out cover up to $30,000 per property and claimant, up to $200,000 per license.

Although Gillies has nothing but positive things to say about the agency that he said responded quickly and professionally, he’s not too sure about going solar.

“I don’t know if I will put in solar,” Gillies said. “I’m still thinking about it but I’m not certain. It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.”  

Before you hire a contractor

  • Review the contractor’s license record at

roc.az.gov/contractor-search.

  • Make certain the contractor’s license class allows for the work listed in the contract.
  • Request a list of references and check them.
  • Ask for written estimates from at least three contractors.
  • Never pay in cash.
  • Make checks payable to the name of the company/contractor listed in your signed contract.
  • Never make a check payable to individuals or companies not listed in your contract.
  • Do not allow payments to get ahead of the work.

 Source: Arizona Registrar of Contractors