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If You Use PACE to Refinance Home Improvements, You’re Potentially Being Scammed

“When PACE loans go wrong, they go very wrong,” John Oliver warned in a recent investigative segment on the refinancing program.

If you’re a homeowner, and you’re looking to fund some home improvements, the most recent episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight should be of some interest to you.

On a recent episode, he tackled PACE, the program available for homeowners to finance environmentally friendly, energy-efficient home improvements. It sounds great on paper, but after watching John’s segment on the program – well, we might be getting scammed. Here’s what you need to know.

Before jumping into the scary parts of the program, John delivered a harsh but very real joke. “If you’re under the age of 35, let me quickly clear up your confusion here: A ‘homeowner’ is a person who owns their home,” he said, poking at the reality that home prices are skyrocketing and the idea of owning a home feels nearly impossible. “They don’t rent it—the house belongs to them.”

Given this, John added, “So if you’re under 35, you can actually skip this story. Don’t even worry about it!”

And then he dug right into why those who do own a home need to be aware of PACE and the hook that can put someone in financial danger.

PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy programs, is available in several states that allow low-income families to finance energy-efficient renovations. The idea of it was to “soften the financial burden of upgrading one’s home,” Deadline reports.

PACE is a program that covers all the upfront costs of environmentally friendly home renovations. The cost of the upgrades is then repaid on the property tax bill for up to 30 years. The idea is the money you save from the energy cost-saving renovations in the home will eventually offset the yearly repayment costs.

And that sounds amazing at face value, a well-intentioned government program to help the environment and people’s pockets, but that’s not the reality. “When PACE loans go wrong, they go very wrong,” John warns. “This isn’t like agreeing to the terms and conditions of an iTunes update. This is like sitting across the table from a banker, potentially signing your house away,” he said.

If you’ve not heard of PACE and/or you’re looking at home renovations, be sure to watch the full segment above because “nobody in this country should be losing their home because of an air conditioner,” John said. “They should be losing their home because of unexpected medical bills – like an American!”