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Beware when hiring unlicensed swimming pool contractors

It’s no secret that homeowners are seeking to enhance their exterior space. Since the COVID restrictions began in 2020, the construction industry has seen an increase in inquiries for everything outdoors from entertainment areas to swimming pools. The influx in demand and the disruption in the supply chain has caused products and services to increase in price as well as projects to be delayed.

Consumers looking to find a way around the delays, shortages and increased prices have chosen to “owner-builder” or hire unlicensed contractors to complete their projects.

As a longtime contractor in Las Vegas and as a member of the Pool and Hot Tub Alliance, I warn consumers to be patient and vigilant when contracting for anything related to swimming pools.

Unlike other contractor divisions, swimming pools have specific guidelines as deemed by the Nevada State Contractors Board. Individuals and companies involved in “any and all stages” of the swimming pool process must have (or work for) a company with a valid Nevada State Contractors license, this includes the designing of a pool. A list of licensed contractors is available on the NSCB website, nvcontractorsboard.com.

People are often misled that owner-building a pool will provide a big savings and a quicker turnaround, but that is a misnomer. The reality is “owner-building” a pool, or any other construction project is regulated under the Nevada State Contractors Board. The NSCB link, nscb.nv.gov/owner-builder.html, provides detailed information on owner-builder projects as well as links to the required “owner-builder affidavit of exemption” form.

There are requirements that need to be followed to legally owner-build your own swimming pool, but most homeowners are not aware of them. Evading these procedures can subject one to fines, lawsuits and a host of legal issues.

The first requirement to owner-build a pool is to submit an owner-builder affidavit of exemption with the Nevada State Contractors Board. The affidavit of exemption must be filed, approved and signed before presenting it for a building permit.

As for the notion that an owner-builder can secure cheaper services and products, the truth of the matter is, licensed contractors purchase equipment and contract with subs at a wholesale rate, whereas homeowners will pay a retail price, minimizing their anticipated savings.

Furthermore, construction companies and subs contractors rely on each other for the success of their business. With that in mind, and with the limited subbase here in Las Vegas’s booming construction demand, subcontractors work closely with the companies that bring them year-round business and schedule work with them on a more accommodating basis. Subs are not only dealing with limited supplies, they are also short on staff and laborers, limiting their capacity to schedule jobs. Anyone of these subs could be booked out for months.

The construction industry is seeing price increases for service and products on a very regular basis. And the list of delayed items continues to grow. Licensed pool companies work directly with major pool equipment and product companies, if they can’t get an item its very likely the consumer will have a more difficult time attempting to get it on their own.

Sadly, what we are also experiencing is homeowners hiring individuals on the side, with cash to work on their projects. This activity violates a whole range of state laws and puts the homeowners, their neighbors and the workers at risk. These illegal workers do not have the skills or resources to perform the jobs properly. They also do not have the ability to purchase equipment or supplies legally. Hence, there has been a series of thefts on pool equipment, it’s likely homeowners will have stolen goods in their yards without their knowledge.

Aside from all the legal and liability issues of hiring unlicensed workers, homeowners will have a difficult time down the road when they have warranty problems. Manufacturers state their equipment must be installed by a licensed/certified contractor in the specific field (electrician or plumber) to be covered under warranties.

I have frequently been called by homeowners who started a pool under the owner-builder format but found their projects in dire straits. As a courtesy, I would review their project and provide them advice on how to move forward, some, however, needed to be demolished and started over.

When you add up the complexities of the project, the personal time involved, inherent risks and liabilities, along with the minimized savings, homeowners should re-examine whether hiring unlicensed workers or owner-building their project is the right decision.

Joseph M Vassallo, CBP, PHTA Fellow, is the founder and president of Paragon Pools in Las Vegas. He is a long-standing member of the Pool &Hot Tub Alliance (formally the APSP). He has served on the national board in various positions over the years, and is a contributor to the third and fourth edition of the association’s Builders Manual. He serves on the National Builders Council and National Education Committee. Nevada Licensed Pool Contractor #A-10 52206 Limit $1,300,000.

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