To Catch a Contractor

Mass. Bill Aims to Protect Consumers Who Hire Pool Contractors

With the NBC10 Boston Investigators uncovering a pool contractor's path of destruction, proponents of House Bill 424 say it would help regulate the industry and keep consumers safe from "bad actors"

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Massachusetts lawmakers are pushing legislation intended to help protect consumers after the NBC10 Boston Investigators uncovered a pool contractor's path of destruction in our "To Catch a Contractor series.

Many homeowners paid big bucks for pools and ended up with shoddy work or never got them installed at all. House Bill 424 aims to give consumers peace of mind when they hire someone to install or service a pool.

Frank Davis of Marshfield has bad memories of the contractor he hired to refurbish his pool.

"There was an issue when they went to do the liner, they couldn't get the water to stop leaking," said Davis. "When he left, the water was black, and he wouldn't answer our calls, he wouldn't come back."

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Jason Davidson , the director of government relations for the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, says that is an example of what he calls a bad actor.

"The legislation that we have put forth will try and help eliminate what we call in the industry, 'bad actors,'" he said.

Davidson was in Boston recently pushing for the passage of House Bill 424, consumer protection legislation that would require pool installers to be licensed under the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards.

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"If you're going to go out and build a pool, if you're going to maintain a pool, perform service, repair, you should be properly licensed, just like you would as a plumber or electrician," said Davidson.

Chris Callanan has been in the pool business for 35 years and says today's pool systems are complicated.

"The equipment gets more and more sophisticated every year," said Callanan. "There's a lot of automation out there, variable speed pumps and electronic heaters, and they are all controlled from your phone and you need to know how to do these. It's too easy to have people uneducated out there claiming to know what they are doing, and the consumer gets hurt."

The pool licensure bill is currently in the House Ways and Means committee. House Chair of the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee Tackey Chan talked to us about it last fall.

The NBC10 Boston Investigators have uncovered a contractor’s path of destruction across Massachusetts. Homeowners paid big bucks for pools and other home improvement projects, but were left with giant holes in their backyards and broken promises.

"From our research over the last several sessions on this, the pool issues is quite severe because of the high negative outcome associated with not constructing a pool correctly," said Chan. "You've got leakage, you've got cracks, it's a hole in the ground … and the repair costs associated with that is enormous, and having the proper people to do all the work, all the various licensees that would be involved, it made sense to put into Building Board of Regulators to issue that component of it, and also ensure there is inspection, proper inspection."

Proponents are hoping the bill will be brought to a vote before the end of the session on July 31, saying it would be a big win for consumers.

"You need to have the peace of mind that whoever you go out and hire comes in and is properly licensed and is certified and has been properly trained in accordance to the state code of Massachusetts," said Davidson. "More importantly, if something goes wrong, there is a structure in place for the homeowner where they can seek proper recourse through the state and get that rectified."

The legislation would also impose fines in increasing amounts for unlicensed work. If the bill passes, BBRS would establish the experience, training and examination required for licensing.

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