Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A non-licensed contractor can build a residential swimming pool in South Carolina under a loophole in state law uncovered by News 19.
"One of the biggest frustrations is not having what we've paid for," said Dr. Kristina Hursey who hired a contractor to make her backyard pool side dreams come true.
After 10 months, Hursey's pool is still not complete. "I have great concerns about the safety of what he's done out here," she said.
Hursey says the naked eye can see many of the pool's problems. However, she's most concerned about plumbing and electrical systems installed below the water and connected to her home.
Hursey even sent photos of the pool's filtration system to the manufacturer. The company replied, telling Hursey the system had not been installed correctly and could put her family in danger.
"I have now discovered he does not have a contractor's license with Richland County or the state of South Carolina," said Hursey who had $40,000 in the pool.
Residential pool contractors don't need licenses according to a loophole in state law uncovered by News 19, meaning anyone could have built the back yard pool you swim in.
"There is no governing body, in the county or state, that is going to protect the consumer," said Hursey.
To pull a pool permit in Richland County, a contractor must supply a business license.
In Lexington County, there's even less oversight. The county does not permit pools at all.
"There's nothing out there that makes anybody go get licensed," said Alison Felschow, owner of Crystal Pools. "They don't have to. What's going to happen to them if they don't?"
Felschow has a license to build commerical pools and a general contractor's license to give her credibility. Her business also earned an A+ from the Better Business Bureau.
"The consumer needs to educate themselves on what they're buying, no matter what it's in, but particularly in swimming pools because you don't have a licensed builder," said Felschow.
"I assumed that going with someone and having a signed contract with a building permit that i would be protected in some fashion. I assumed it and I assumed incorrectly," said Hursey. "There is no code for a residential pool. These are where our children swim, our families."
South Carolina Senator John Scott believes Hursey's problem can only be solved in the courts.
"This is the worst mess I've ever seen," the Richland County Democrat said. "There's nothing there that gives her any real protection. We're going to fix that."
Scott plans on proposing legislation that would make requirements for commerical and residential pool builders the same. He estimates the legislation would not be enforced before 2013.
Hursey's contractor talked to News 19 on the phone. He supports a license requirement. He also said he's leaving Hursey's project as is because of the difficulty in dealing with his client over the last 10 months.
"Until the law is changed, there is no protection," said Hursey.