• Credit: Pool Service America

Some Florida service technicians have had a hard time getting licensed lately.

The problem stems from a recent update made to the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board’s application process. The application form now asks candidates to clearly indicate if prior experience performing basic tasks, such as balancing pool water, was conducted in residential or commercial settings.

Because the state’s pool/spa service license allows contractors to perform general maintenance and equipment repairs on residential and commercial pools, the licensing board wants applicants to demonstrate that they have adequate experience in both arenas.

That presents something of a stumbling block for those who specialize in residential work. Those who are honest on their applications and check only the boxes next to the word “residential” are flagged by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Candidates are then brought before a board to make an appeal. In some cases, the certification is denied.

According to one industry member, a prior version of the application was largely essay based, the implication being that applicants could be vaguer in describing their work experience.

The problem recently came to light after a prominent pool service firm with dozens of locations throughout the state discovered that some of its employees, who only receive residential training, were having difficulties obtaining licenses.

“Those changes went into effect last year and I think it took a while for things to trickle down,” said Jennifer Hatfield, government relations consultant with the Florida Swimming Pool Association.

Last month, FSPA presented the state’s licensing board with a solution: Give pool professionals the option to apply for a specialty residential-only service license. That way, those who primarily maintain backyard pools wouldn’t be burdened with having to learn the commercial trade, which is vastly different.

“When you’re contracting with the public in a public arena, you have a whole different set of rules,” said Rob Sanger, president of Galaxy Pools in Sarasota, Fla.

Indeed, commercial work does have a significant learning curve. Public pools are inspected closely and must comply with state and federal laws that dictate everything from signage placement to tile color. Such details don’t apply to the residential side the same way.

If passed, those who hold a residential-only service license would be able to contract directly with the public (unlike subcontractors) and could eventually apply for the full license, allowing them to enter the commercial market.

FSPA officials say the CILB is in favor of the change. It will now go through a series of reviews before becoming law.