Local Nonprofit Helps Senior Stay Cool, Lower Costs

Predatory Lender Charges Over $20,000 for $8,200 AC Unit

Like many retirees in Hillsborough County, Elizabeth Oneil and her disabled husband, Joseph, lived on a fixed income–in Oneil’s case, less than $1,800 per month. When their AC broke, their home became unbearable, especially for Joseph. Desperate to provide immediate relief but unable to afford a new AC, Oneil fell victim to predatory lending. “When it’s your loved one’s health and comfort on the line, you’ll sign anything,” said Oneil. 

At a big box home improvement store, an AC sales representative told Oneil that she could quickly get approved for AC financing. Feeling pressured, Oneil signed a “lease-to-own” agreement without focusing on the fine print. Her monthly payment was a whopping $375 a month for the $8,200 unit. Joseph passed away soon after, straining Oneil’s finances even further. Oneil realized that, over time, she would pay more than $20,000 for the $8,200 unit. “That type of flagrant predatory lending– taking advantage of a sick family member– is something we couldn’t let stand,” said Ann Vanek-Dasovich, SELF’s Chief Operations Officer and a Tampa resident. “SELF exists to fill this gap for working families and seniors.” SELF, a nonprofit Green Bank, provides disadvantaged borrowers with low-rate, unsecured home improvement loans.

Vanek-Dasovich heard Oneil’s story and helped her navigate the fine print of her agreement to return the unit. Then they called Scott Temples, owner of Temples AC, a small AC business in Tampa whose five-person team prioritizes transparency when taking care of each customer. “I lose sleep at night if people aren’t treated right. That’s just how we’re wired here,” said Temples. “When SELF called us up and told us what happened, we got creative and found a discounted unit, and we’re able to save her more money that she never has to finance in the first place.”  

Now, Oneil’s payment is $101 a month. Because the new unit is high-efficiency, she’s also saving money on her electric bill. “That’s over $275 back in my pocket every month,” says Oneil. “This is the difference between paying my bills and choosing between medication and groceries.” She encourages anyone to do their homework and check out financing from SELF before signing a predatory agreement. “For me, the difference was night and day.” 


SELF is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) with a mission to rebuild and empower underserved communities by providing access to affordable and innovative financing for sustainable property improvements. SELF has special programs for seniors, veterans, women, and the disabled. 
To arrange an interview with Oneil, Temples AC, or SELF, please contact Jake Sanders at jakes@solarenergyloanfund.org or 772-971-6367.

Elizabeth Oneal with her new HVAC Unit installed by Temples AC and financed by SELF
SELF COO Ann Vanek-Dasovich celebrates with Oneal