Hempstead Town Pulls the Plug on Unlicensed Plumbers Working Off Others’ Licenses

Issued by: Council Member Erin King Sweeney

Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and members of the Town Board today announced that they would be proposing new legislation that would dissuade master plumbers from sharing their licenses with those who have not gone through the Town’s vigorous testing process. Councilwoman King Sweeney was joined at the announcement by Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, Councilman Ed Ambrosino and Councilman Dennis Dunne as well as Town of Hempstead Building Department Commissioner John Rottkamp, Art Gipson, business agent of Local 200 Plumbers Union, along with members of Local 200, and Joseph Cornetta, Long Island Chapter President of the Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors Association and members of the PHCC.

“Just as you wouldn’t go to a doctor who doesn’t have his or her medical license, you shouldn’t use a plumber who doesn’t have a valid plumbing license,” said Councilwoman King Sweeney. “They may have a general idea of what they are doing but they can do shoddy work without fear of losing their license. Our proposal will prevent this by imposing severe repercussions on master plumbers who share their licenses.”

The new legislation would penalize the master plumber who signs off on plumbing work they have not completed. The Town has become aware of situations where a plumber who is not licensed with the Town of Hempstead, or who does not work for a plumber who is, would have a licensed master plumber put their name on a permit. The master plumber would then meet the Town’s plumbing inspector at the site as though they completed the work. Under this new legislation, a master plumber who helps perpetrate this type of fraud would now be subject to license suspension or revocation by the building commissioner. This suspension or revocation would be after a hearing of the Plumbers Examining Board, where the board determines the charges are legitimate. In addition to the license suspension or revocation, the building commissioner may also impose civil penalties of at least $3,000 per offense.

“By creating this legislation, we are now taking away the financial incentive of a master plumber to share their license and instead making it a real risk,” said Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby.

In order to receive a master plumbers license in the Town of Hempstead, the applicant must pass a test which they are only eligible to take after they have worked under a licensed plumber for at least seven years. The test is comprised of three parts, including a practical portion, in which members of the plumbers examining board watch them complete certain tasks.

Plumbers who are not licensed may not have the same abilities as those who are licensed and have been tested. In addition, they may use inferior materials, are not insured and may take shortcuts to get the job done.

“We want to be sure that if a plumber is doing work on your home, they know what they are doing,” said Councilman Dennis Dunne.

“Additionally, if an unlicensed plumber gets hurt on your property or does damage to your property while working, you as the homeowner may be liable because they do not have the proper insurance coverage,” noted Councilman Ambrosino.

There are currently 760 licensed plumbers in the Town of Hempstead who meet all the criteria set by Town Code.

"Professions requiring a license include teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses and also plumbers. Under no circumstance is it acceptable to lend a license regardless of profession. As the plumber protects the health of the Nation we should all thank Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney and the Town of Hempstead for taking these safety measures," said Art Gipson, Business Agent for Plumber's Local Union #200.

“The Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors of Long Island and plumber’s unions are united with Councilwoman King Sweeny to fix this problem of unscrupulous contractors and plumbers who have been “lending out” their licenses to unqualified, underqualified or improperly licensed individuals, putting homeowners, property owners, and commercial buildings at risk. This proposed bill is a very important step toward resolving this issue, here in the Town of Hempstead. We believe that, once passed, it will be the model and the standard that will be adopted by towns and villages across Nassau and Suffolk counties,” said Joseph Cornetta, President, Plumbing Heating and Cooling Contractors of Long Island.

Councilwoman King Sweeney announced that on March 6th the board would call the hearing to consider this new legislation on April 10th.

“This is truly a public safety issue,” concluded Councilwoman King Sweeney. “We have safety regulations in place for plumbers for a reason and we want to be sure our residents are protected by these guidelines. This legislation will do that.”