Can I build that? [Article from October 2023 issue of Florida Pool Pro]

Can I build that?

By Brent Handy, Paragon Pools / brent@ParagonPoolsOnline.com


As Florida licensed pool contractors, we know what work our contractor’s license allows us to do within our scope of work.  But, there can be a disconnect between work that unlicensed contractors are capable of performing and what Florida Building Code allows to be performed legally. 

Often homeowners do lots of research online which can lead them to conflicting information, and downright false information, about building permits and what type of work can be performed.  Hiring practices that are legal in some states may not be legal in Florida, and often advice given to Florida homeowners does not take the location of the project into account.   Sometimes unscrupulous contractors will intentionally try to get homeowners to pull Owner Builder permits for work they are not licensed to perform.

This article is intended to cover the licensing requirements under Florida law when working on a swimming pool.  The specific focus is on residential swimming pool construction in Florida.  Additional, or different, licensing may be needed for commercial swimming pool construction, renovation work, or service and maintenance work.

In Florida, a Certified Pool Contractor is identified by a license number that begins with CPC followed by 7 numbers, i.e.: CPCxxxxxxx.  A swimming pool contractor who carries a CPC license can work anywhere in Florida and is not limited by geography.  There are also Registered Pool Contractors.  The difference is, the Registered Pool Contractor is geographically limited and can only work in a county in which they are registered.  A Registered Pool Contractor license will begin with “RP” and will typically be RP followed by numbers i.e.: RPxxxxxxx.

The CPC and RP license designations are given to the three primary swimming pool and spa contractor licenses:

Commercial Swimming Pool/Spa Contractor: Building, repair, and remodel/resurfacing of any public/commercial or private swimming pool or spa. Installation, repair, and replacement of public/commercial and private swimming pool and spa equipment and piping.

 Residential Swimming Pool/Spa Contractor: Building, repair, and remodel/resurfacing of residential swimming pools and spas. Repair, and remodel/resurfacing of public/commercial swimming pools and spas. Repair, and replacement of public/commercial and private swimming pool and spa equipment and piping.

Swimming Pool/Spa Servicing Contractor: Repair, and replacement of public/commercial and residential swimming pool and spa equipment and piping.  Repair and resurfacing of public/commercial and residential swimming pools and spas.

General Contractor - A General Contractor is defined by a contractors license that begins with CGC followed by seven numbers, ie: CGCxxxxxxx.   On the DBPR website, it states, “A General Contractor means a contractor whose services are unlimited as to the type of work which he or she may do.”  But this is inaccurate, or at least misleading!  Under Florida Statutes Sec. 489.113(3)(c) a CGC contractor has a limited exception to perform structural swimming pool work only, with all other aspects of construction completed by a swimming pool and spa contractor.  When a CGC contractor pulls a swimming pool permit, on the permit they must list a CPC or RP licensed pool contractor as a subcontractor on all aspects of swimming pool phases regulated by swimming pool building code. CGC contractors also cannot qualify a business to build swimming pools and spas or advertise themselves as swimming pool contractors (CILB DS2014-044).  This exception for CGC contractors to perform structural swimming pool work is properly used when a pool is being built in conjunction to another building, either a residential home or a commercial project.  

Homeowner Permit – As property owner in the State of Florida, homeowners are authorized to act as their own contractor when improving or modifying their property.  But there are limitations on who a homeowner can hire as a subcontractor for their projects.  When a homeowner in Florida pulls a homeowner swimming pool permit, or an Owner Builder permit, by law they are required to perform all work on the permitted pool personally.  Under a homeowner permit, the homeowner is legally and financially responsible for the pool in every way.  The homeowner can hire a licensed contractor to perform specific phases of the project, but only if the hired contractor is a licensed swimming pool and spa contractor (CPC or RP) and the work that they are contracted to perform is within their scope of work.

Homeowners CAN NOT hire unlicensed subcontractors or individuals licensed as Swimming Pool and Spa Specialty Subcontractors!  This is very specific in Florida law.  Florida Statute 489.103 specifically regulates exemptions to Florida licensing requirements.  Subsection 7 specifically provides the legal requirements and responsibilities of owners acting as their own contractor.  Homeowners applying for an Owner Builder Permit must sign and notarize a disclosure statement.  Among other things, this disclosure statement says: “I understand that I may not hire an unlicensed person to act as my contractor or to supervise persons working on my residence.”  This disclosure also says: “Any person working on my building must be employed by me, which means that I must comply with laws requiring the withholding of federal income tax and social security contributions and I must provide workers’ compensation for the employee.” 

To put this in plain language, as per the signed and notarized disclosure statement on the Homeowner Permit, any person that is paid any money by the homeowner for work on the pool MUST either have a contractor’s license or be an W2 employee of the homeowner.

An Owner Builder CAN NOT hire an unlicensed subcontractor, Swimming Pool and Spa Specialty Subcontractors, General Contractors, or any other contractor.  There is no exception under Florida law that would allow an Owner Builder to hire anyone but a properly licensed swimming pool and spa contractor to act as their subcontractor.

For questions about swimming pool and spa scope of work, please reach out to FSPA Sr. Director of Government Affairs Dallas Thiesen at Dallas@FloridaPoolPro.com.