When Riverhead's Paulette Bates learned she needed a permit for her in-ground pool, it was news to her, just as it was to many of the roughly 250 pool owners in town who were found to be without permits after officials reviewed satellite images.
"Our pool company said they would take care of it," Bates said.
Too often, some pool companies fail to tell clients about all the paperwork that is involved in adding a pool, and homeowners don't track the process to ensure it is done by the rules, Long Island building officials said.
"It's a very common problem," said Islip chief building inspector Ken Weeks. "Pool companies are very quick to jump the gun in terms of signing a deal. People sign these contracts and they never tell them what the code requirements are."
All pools - in ground and above ground - require permits, which are the homeowners' responsibility. In practice, particularly for in-ground pools, companies will handle getting permits, which are needed to start construction.
But before settling on a company, check with the Nassau or Suffolk consumer affairs offices to make sure you choose a licensed firm with a good record. And make sure that the company is in touch with local officials.
"They want to keep abreast of the progress of the paperwork and when it's actually filed," Jim Vitelli, president of Sea Crystal Pools in Islandia, said of homeowners.
Vitelli said some companies sign a contract for work in towns where they aren't licensed, and then will have a second firm that does have a license handle the paperwork. Homeowners, Vitelli said, should make sure that when a permit is filed, it's under the name of the company with which they signed a contract.
Also, beware that even build-your-own and inflatable pools must have permits if they hold at least 18 inches of water.
Lou Carnovale, Hempstead's chief plan examiner, said homeowners will buy such pools from large department stores that sometimes fail to tell them about such requirements.
Lastly, after the pool is installed and inspected, check to see whether you need a new certificate of occupancy that reflects that there is now a pool on your property. Some communities, like Riverhead, require the updated paperwork but elsewhere, as in Hempstead, that is not necessary.
With Mitchell Freedman