The Northeast Spa & Pool Association is one step closer to seeing its entire territory having licensing laws.
The organization has been working for several years to reach licensing saturation among its territories, which include Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and eastern Pennsylvania. NESPA has been trying to secure this requirement as a means of raising the standards of pool and spa service and construction in the area, ensuring the safety of the pools and spas, as well as to protect its members.
“It’s good for the industry,” said Lawrence Caniglia, executive director of NESPA. “Frankly, we’re looking for a more professional industry — and you can raise the rates you’re charging because you’re … a [properly] licensed pool builder or service professional.”
The largest success so far has been in Connecticut, with the passage of licensing laws for pool and spa contractors and service professionals.
The latest movement is taking place in New Jersey. A NESPA-supported bill has been introduced, proposing that the state require licenses to build or service pools and spas, and that these be renewed every three years.
The bill would empower a board within the Division of Consumer Affairs to determine the requirements for gaining and renewing the license, as well as adopt a code of ethics for licensees. The board also will set fees, issue, revoke, suspend or fail to renew licenses and take other disciplinary actions against violators.
The bill names APSP programs, including the Certified Service Professional, Certified Service Technician, Certified Building Professional, and Certified Hot Tub Technician designations as potential qualifications for attaining a license. It also would allow for a grandfathering period of 24 months after the effective date, if applicants meet certain qualifications.
Electrical and plumbing contractors who work on pools would not have to obtain the designated pool and spa license.
If the bill passes in its current form, the resulting law also would provide for the formation of a “Pool and Spa Service Contractors and Pool and Spa Builders and Installers Advisory Committee,” consisting of industry representatives, a licensed plumbing inspector, and an electrical specialist, among others.
The bill is in its second committee, which, at press time, was scheduled to vote on Oct. 13. “We’re extremely confident that if we can get the vote, with strong, bipartisan support, it will pass,” Caniglia said. “When we went to pitch it, we had both parties supporting it.”
The New Jersey legislature saw a similar bill in 2015, but it did not move forward.
In addition to Connecticut, pool-and-spa-specific licenses are required in two New York counties — Nassau and, most recently, Rockland. Before, the county already required builders and service professionals to obtain a home improvement contractors license, with some specifications for pool and spa professionals. But NESPA proposed wording that was more specific to the industry.
Now the county issues licenses with classifications for pool installers and pool service contractors. These licensees must show proof of having received the APSP Certified Maintenance Specialist certification, Certified Building Professional, or Certified Maintenance Specialist, or an equivalent.
New York does not enforce licensing statewide, but rather county by county. But in the long run, NESPA hopes to secure such requirements in seven to nine New York counties, which hold 80 percent of the state’s population. “The next steppingstone is to go to [the state capitol], and we can say we have 80 percent of the state,” and push for statewide licensing requirements, Caniglia said.
NESPA plans to begin working with the the state of Pennsylvania in early 2017 to enact similar requirements, he added.