Proposed law would remove consumer protections for pool buyers

Posted at 1:21 PM, Feb 05, 2017

A 2002 law enacted to protect consumers after fly-by-night pool contractors ripped off homeowners across metro Phoenix is on the fast-track for repeal under a change pushed as part of Gov. Doug Ducey's effort to streamline business regulations.

The measure backed by Ducey's contractor regulation agency also removes a requirement that the license of a remodeling and repair contractor who doesn't carry workers' compensation insurance must be suspended.

And it shields those contractors from having their home or email addresses publicly available, a move that could make it harder for consumers to locate a contractor who walked out on a job and works out of his or her home.

Senate Bill 1116 unanimously passed the Senate Thursday and now heads to the House. It got little attention in a Senate committee and no floor debate because it had no formal opposition and was on a consent agenda.

The 2002 pool contracting law and the 2008 license suspension law were pushed by then-Sen. Barbara Leff, who was responding to constituent complaints.

The Paradise Valley Republican retired from the Senate in 2010 because of term limits. She said in a recent interview that she doesn't understand why Ducey's agency is targeting the laws, other than a lack of understanding of why they were originally enacted.

"If people don't know what was happening I guess they would say `I don't know what the issue is,"' Leff said of the pool contracting law. "The good companies weren't doing it. The main companies were the ones that wanted this done because they were getting a bad name from the fly-by-night companies that came in and then just walked out. It was really a scam, a complete scam."

The pool contracting law came after rogue contractors demanded full payments for building a new pool and then never lifted a shovel of dirt, leaving consumers out tens of thousands of dollars. Legitimate pool contractors pushed for the new law, which requires pool contractors to take payments in stages as they complete work.

The workers compensation provision was part of a broader 2008 law targeting unscrupulous home remodeling contractors preying on homeowners in the Arcadia area of Phoenix, Leff said.

Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, is sponsoring the bill being pushed by the Registrar of Contractors, the state licensing agency.

"I think we've heard from a lot of people, especially trying to start a business, that there were too many onerous regulations and burdens put on them," Smith said. "This came back as one of them. The ROC asked for and welcomed this change and so I think they are responding to what they're hearing from their contractors."

Jim Knupp, the spokesman for the Registrar of Contractors, said the legislation targets laws the agency considers redundant or an over-regulation, and removes rules specific to one contracting class. The third part is designed to protect a contractor's private information and mirror what is provided for real estate agents.

Knupp said only pool contractors are subject to the payment schedule for a job, something normally worked out between a buyer and seller. He also said the agency will still have the option to suspend the license of a contractor that fails to insure its workers, and could release the home address of a contractor if there is a complaint.

He defended the proposed changes, saying they won't lessen consumer protections.

"I don't believe that any of the moves within Sen. Smith's bill put the public at risk or question their safety," Knupp said.

Leff said she's just doesn't understand why addresses would be shielded, nor the reason for pulling the pool contracting law, although it might now be outdated. The workers' compensation law change, however, completely baffles her.

"I don't know why anybody would object to that," she said. "You have to have workers' comp, it's the law."