A 5-year-old electrical law in Texas is causing trouble for the pool and spa service industry.

Section 1305.151 of the Texas Electric Code, which was adapted from the National Electric Code, requires any professional who performs electrical work to hold a license issued by the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation.

But the law did not become an issue for the pool industry until quite recently.

“[Though the] act was passed in 2003, it is taking time to receive full enforcement of its provisions across the state,” said Jake Posey, an attorney who works for the Aquatic Professionals Education Council, an industry advocate for the state of Texas.

In fall 2007, several pool firms in San Antonio that advertised or performed electrical work on swimming pools were fined by the city for not having the proper license.

The citations took everyone by surprise.

“When the legislation was first enacted, [the pool and spa industry] was not sure that this applied to us,” Posey said. “[Now suddenly we] seem to be next on the list of industries that the TDLR intends to see comply with these new laws.”

In response, APEC met with government officials last year and explained how a crackdown would greatly hurt the industry.

Most service techs in the state are currently without any sort of electrician’s license. A majority of the work they do — such as replacing a pump or a time clock — is quite basic, he explained. They don’t even have to pull a permit for those jobs.

Most pool service companies are small operations and the owners don’t have the means to take time off and go through the electrical training and testing process without losing business and customers.

But there are exceptions to the law. Under a limited licensure, professionals can perform simple electrical work. In 2007, the residential appliance industry lobbied to pass Senate Bill 1222.

The law allowed contractors who install appliances that require hard wiring, such as microwave ovens, stoves and dishwashers, to do so with a limited license.

APEC is pushing for a limited licensure for the pool and spa industry as well.

“Our job is to come up with a solution. As of today, if they're not installing with a license, they are not being compliant with the state law,” Posey said.

So far, the industry has been successful in its talks with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. It hopes to go before the state legislature in 2009 with a bill that will let pool and spa service professionals do electrical work under a limited license.

“The TDLR is working with us. I feel confident we’re moving forward in the right direction. It is important that pool and spa companies are aware of this issue. It would behoove them to get involved in their local organizations,” said Debra Smith, APEC president.