The Plumbing Foundation Testifies at Hearing on Code Revision

On Monday, June 14, 2021, Executive Director April McIver testified at the NYC Council Committee on Housing & Buildings Hearing on Intro. No. 2261, also known as the Administrative Code revision portion of the Building Code Revision. The Plumbing Foundation commends the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) for involving the stakeholder community in the code revision process and is generally in support of the bill, but spoke on two major points as well as submitted written testimony on several other important issues.

Executive Director McIver explained that the DOB proposes to revise the Administrative Code to allow city-employed licensed plumbers to conduct and obtain permits for all plumbing work, including new buildings and major alterations. Currently, license holders of city agencies can repair and replace existing plumbing systems, which has been the law for decades. DOB stated that the reason for this change is that the qualifications are the same for city and private licensed plumbers, but what DOB did not mention is that city employees are not and cannot be held to the same standard as private business owners, i.e., insurance and employer-related requirements. City-employed license holders are not employers, therefore there is no accountability for work conducted by persons under that licensee. Another important reason for not adopting this is that the city should want to have major alterations and installations done via bid by contract in which the outside contractor is held to a timeframe and payment schedule based on that contract, whereas there is much less of an incentive for internal employees being paid a salary regardless of meeting deadlines. The Plumbing Foundation foresees that this will add to the already existing delays in getting important plumbing related work done on many public works jobs (e.g. NYCHA, Parks, etc.).

DOB also proposes to remove the Master Plumber and Master Fire Suppression Contractor License Board, established decades ago, which comprises DOB personnel and appointed members of the industry to oversee new license applications and disciplinary actions. DOB testified that other similar trades do not have a similar board; however, master electricians do currently have a license board. Other trades (other than licensed master plumbers, licensed fire suppression contractors, and licensed electricians) are not licensed/regulated to the extent which are licensed master plumbers, licensed fire suppression contractors, and licensed electricians. As is the case in many professions, such as the legal and medical professions, peer review of persons seeking to obtain a license and disciplinary matters of existing licensees is extremely important for transparency and oversight reasons. The Master Plumber and Master Fire Suppression Contractor License Board provides a much needed function and the duties should not be removed but strengthened.

Other points the Plumbing Foundation emphasized in its written testimony include:

  • That the legislation should contain provisions which make it easier for an individual to become both a Licensed Plumber and Licensed Fire Suppression Contractor, since most persons have the requisite knowledge and experience for both licenses.
  • That the Council should expand the DOB’s seizure and forfeiture abilities to allow DOB to seize vehicles and tools used in connection with unlicensed or unregistered activity at work sites other than new construction of 1-3 family homes. Alteration work of existing buildings, e.g., from single-family homes to 50-story commercial buildings, are more of a concern in the construction industry than just the activity on 1-3 family homes, which cannot legally occur if installed by non-licensees.
  • That the proposal to place a monetary cap of $50,000 on Category 1 Limited Plumbing Alterations, despite the work already being extremely limited under such definition, is completely arbitrary and sets barriers for homeowners, cooperatives, and others looking to have a licensed plumber complete limited plumbing work in a building in any 12-month period.
  • That the proposal to require a company licensed by the DOB to have its NYC office be “dedicated” to the licensee’s business be removed; Licensees have complied with the NYC office requirement for years but the additional mandate of having to make sure such space is dedicated to the business makes absolutely no sense given today’s commercial space costs and modern office arrangements.

The Plumbing Foundation is closely monitoring the progress of this legislation and will provide important updates to the industry.