The California Pool and Spa Association has succeeded in clarifying a law that would have otherwise caused California pool and spa pros headaches in the permitting process. 

The law in question is SB 407, which the California Legislature passed in 2009 and went into effect January 1, 2014. According to SB 407, any person who pulls a permit to make improvements to a residential/commercial structure or real property must certify that the building’s plumbing fixtures meet California’s water efficient plumbing standards. 

In other words, homeowners seeking a new pool or spa may also be required to spend extra time and money to possibly replace toilets, faucets and shower heads. 

John Norwood, chief lobbyist for CPSA, recently raised this issue in testimony before the Little Hoover Commission. In particular, he noted the unintended consequences of the law, including fewer jobs for contractors as well as more home improvement work pushed into the underground economy — which would not only put families at risk, but also result in a loss of fees and taxes collected by local public entities. 

Consequently, the Contractors State License Board issued a clarification regarding the implementation of SB 407. Although not a legal opinion, the California Building Officials (CALBO) is indicating that building permits issued for property maintenance and repair items are exempt from the SB 407 requirement to replace plumbing fixtures. In other words, the terms "alterations" and "improvements" will refer to any construction to an existing structure that enhances or improves the structure. Construction related to repairs or maintenance of the structure is not considered to be an alteration or improvement.

This new interpretation of SB 407 is critical, as it indicates that the water efficiency requirements do not apply to those who apply for a permit for improvements to the property, excluding the main structure or residence. Thus, pool and spa installations and even outdoor kitchen installations could be done without needing to meet the SB 407 requirement. 

Since this is not a legal opinion, the CSLB is encouraging licensed contractors to verify requirements with their local building department before taking any action on a project.  For more information on SB 407 requirements, read CALBO's legislative analysis and the Tri-Chapter Uniform Code Committee guidelines.