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Week in Review : MAJOR EVENTS, IMAGES AND PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY NEWS : COURTS : Way Cleared for Banks to Act on Solar Heating Debts

March 22, 1987| Staff writers Bob Schwartz, Andy Rose and Maria L. La Ganga compiled the Week in Review stories.

"Why should the bank take the house?" asked Josefina Sanchez in Spanish. "They didn't pay for it."

But an Orange County Superior Court judge cleared the way last week for the Central Bank of Oakland to foreclose on Sanchez and 108 other homeowners in Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties who were allegedly defrauded by solar-heating contractors and have failed to make loan payments to the bank.

The Public Interest Homeowners Assn. Inc. filed a lawsuit on behalf of the homeowners, claiming they were taken in by fraudulent sales practices and in many cases were unaware that liens could be placed against their homes. But Judge Everett W. Dickey ruled that the bank could not be held responsible for the solar contractors' sales tactics.

Arnold H. Dubrow, a lawyer for the homeowners association, said the buyers were tricked by fraudulent misrepresentations about the heating-units' efficiency and reliability, misleading assurances of substantial tax breaks and false promises of bonuses and prizes.

Sanchez's predicament is common among non-English speaking homeowners involved in the case, an association spokesman said. In her case, the solar company, Ideal Energy Co. in Studio City, presented papers for sale of equipment and financing of the loan in English only.

The association's records show that Sanchez was charged more than $14,000 for the solar heating equipment that could have been purchased for about $1,500 from retail stores.

Attorneys for the Walnut Creek-based bank said it would review each case before proceeding with foreclosures against homeowners, and would give them a chance to bring their payments up to date.

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