North Hempstead’s building department can now revoke a plumber’s license if its inspectors find that a plumber has illegally shared their license with someone else.
A recently passed amendment to the town’s enforcement code explains when and how plumbers could lose their license. North Hempstead Town council members approved the amendment on June 5, drawing praise from the local plumbers’ union.
“The sharing of licenses, or covering licenses, has been going on forever and everywhere, and finally the tide has turned,” said Art Gipson, business agent for U.A. Plumbers Local Union No. 200, which represents 1,200 plumbers in Suffolk and Nassau counties.
North Hempstead’s building department grants licenses so plumbers can do work with the town. To obtain a license, an applicant must have spent at least five years as a journeyman plumber and be able to pass a written and hands-on exam.
Under the amendment, a three-person board of master plumbers will review license renewals and new license applications. The board will also oversee the process of revoking a license if someone violates one of the seven new rules.
A license can be suspended or revoked, for example, if no permit application is filed to do the plumbing work, if the person doing the work is a convicted felon, or if an already licensed plumber lends their license to a third party.
The building department commissioner can suspend a license for up to one year.
“Up until now, there was really no mechanism of enforcement to pull someone’s license,” said Glenn Norjen, North Hempstead deputy building commissioner. “If you go to the DMV, they have mechanisms to suspend your driver’s license. The building [department] had no say at all.”
The town grants about 10 new plumbing licenses and renews about 165 licenses per year, Norjen said.
Gipson spoke in favor of the amendment, calling its passage “a bold move” and specifically praising the amendment’s lending license rule.
Gipson said license covering is a widespread problem on Long Island that he has been trying to combat for a decade. He noted that the Town of Hempstead, which has 760 licensed plumbers, passed legislation in April that prohibits sharing licenses. Plumbers found violating the Hempstead law could receive civil penalties of at least $3,000 per violation. Gipson said he is working to get similar measures passed in Babylon, Oyster Bay, Riverhead and Brookhaven towns.
North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the amendment protects residents because it ensures they are getting work done by “plumbers that are licensed and their work is the quality that we expect and our building department expects.”
“This gives us the tools to address that if it’s not happening,” Bosworth said.