Nailing down a law-abiding company to install your swimming pool, or just open it for the season, may become a more difficult task in the Garden State. There's some concern it could become a more expensive task as well.

(David De Lossy, ThinkStock)
(David De Lossy, ThinkStock)

Legislation already approved by the full New Jersey Assembly, and advanced by a Senate committee on Monday, would require licensing for pool/spa contractors and installers. To work in the industry today — at least in New Jersey — requires no certification.

"Pool installation and service has become a discipline in itself that requires a high level of competency," Mark Trapani, co-owner of UpStream Pools in Fairfield, told the Senate Commerce Committee. "Too many installers don't know industry standards, best practices or code requirements, and I urge New Jersey to close this gap with competency licensing."

Under the measure from Sen. James Beach, D-Camden, pool company staffers could conduct basic pool maintenance — such as vacuuming — without a licensed coworker on the premises, but jobs beyond that would require the presence of someone with the necessary training.

Similar licensing laws are in place throughout Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Nevada, California and select New York counties, according to the Northeast Spa & Pool Association, which is pushing for the bill's passage in New Jersey.

"Over the past 20 or 30 years, pools and spas have become so sophisticated that the old days when there was just literally a hole in the ground with a drain are long gone," said Larry Caniglia, the association's executive director. "Today these pools have very sophisticated electronic components, they have electronic controllers, there’s all kinds of sophisticated chemicals and chemical feeders."

To be eligible for a license, an applicant must be at least 18 years old and "of good moral character," the bill states.

There are approximately 2,000 companies in New Jersey who deal with the service, installation or retail of swimming pools and spas, according to NESPA. Of them, about 125 already have the proper certifications.

During the committee hearing, Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Passaic, said if 1,875 of New Jersey's pool companies were incompetent, he'd be hearing complaints regularly. He said the measure appears to him as one that simply eliminates competition by weeding out companies that may not easily be able to obtain licensing, or afford it.

"Ultimately down the road, when you eliminate competition, the great bulk of my constituents who want to put in a pool are going to have to pay more," Cardinale said.

Caniglia said similar laws in other states have not resulted in price increases for customers.

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