On a recent KSL – Get Gephardt news story it shows how unlicensed individuals are doing work for homeowners and either not completing the work or not doing it at all.  This is happening in St. George area with Bald Dude Plumbing.  He has been fined 3 times for over $6,000 and still is out and about advertising and doing work as a plumber and handyman.  Buyer beware!

 

It’s important to support locally owned and operated businesses, especially when it comes to services like Plumbing & HVAC Services.  Local businesses often have a vested interest in maintaining a good reputation within their community and providing quality work to their customers. By choosing a locally owned service company, you’re likely to receive more personalized and attentive service.  The Utah Plumbing & Heating Contractors Association (UPHCA) requires a code of ethics be signed to join the association.  Go to www.utahplumbing.org to find a locally owned and operated Plumbing & HVAC company in your area.

This website is a great resource for finding trustworthy and ethical local plumbers in Utah. It’s good to know that the companies listed there are part of an association that has them adhere to a code of ethics, which can give you peace of mind when seeking their services.

In the past couple of years out of state investment companies have bought out many of the large service companies in Utah, keeping their original name.  They prioritize their bottom line over customer satisfaction, and they use enticing deals to upsell customers on unnecessary services to cover their advertising costs. This is why doing research and selecting a locally owned and operated Plumbing or HVAC company can help ensure that you receive honest and fair pricing for the services you need.

Remember, when looking for a Plumber or HVAC companies always go to www.utahplumbing.org to ensure you get a fair and honest deals and find reliable and ethical plumbing professionals who genuinely care about their trade and their community.

What has the UPHCA Been Doing?

What Has Been Happening?

I understand there are times when you might ask “What do I get from my membership to the UPHCA?  The following are a few answers and if you don’t agree with anyone of the items listed below please contact me!

*  The ‘Handyman’ Exception or “Minor Plumbing Work that is Incidental” as it is properly named had a few changes made that went into effect June 2023.  One of the significant change took out a list of services or procedures that could be done by an unlicensed/handyman and took out the $350 limit monetary limit.  The wording of the previous rule had become an issue for DOPL to enforce, it created loopholes for individuals to abuse.  This simple statement replaced the previous rule: 

2(a) “Minor plumbing work that is incidental” means repair or replacement of residential type Plumbing appurtenances, fixtures, or appliances, provided that no modification is made to: existing culinary water, soil, waste, or vent piping; or a gas appliance or combustion system.

In discussion with the State Plumbing Licensing Board on July 5, 2023 (audio of the meeting) the new modification of the rule clearly defined the work that must be done by a licensed plumber.  In simple terms, anything behind the wall of a residential unit, or work that requires the main water system to be turned off or installing new appurtenances, fixtures or appliances (definitions of these terms see below) cannot be done unless a licensed plumber performs the work.  A “Handyman” can replace or repair a fixture, toilet, dishwasher, garbage disposal, etc. however if there is a change to the source of culinarily water or drainage to the “Plumbing System” that was originally installed, only a licensed plumber can perform the work.  There is no monetary value associated with this new rule.

A Few Examples to Illustrate:

  • Simple dishwasher replacement – Handyman
  • Dishwasher relocated or a new installation – Plumber Only
  • Toilet Repaired or Replaced – Handyman
  • Toilet relocated in bathroom, any changes – Plumber Only
  • New bathroom installed in a home – Plumber Only
  • Toilet Replaced, Water valve behind toilet will not turn off, Main water is turned off to replace or bypass the valve – Plumber Only.

These are just a few examples.  Essentially the rule is any new or change to the existing plumbing system to a residential unit must be completed by a licensed plumber.
NOTE: Any changes or replacement to water heaters can only be performed by a license plumber.

*  Another item the UPHCA worked on and through the rule making process changed was the “Maintenance Exception.” This was an issue that the UPHCA found concerning, DOPL was defining incorrectly.  It was any property owner with their W-2 employees or “their agents” could do any plumbing work on their own facilities, no individual license necessary under this previous rule.  The UPHCA proposed a change to the rule and was enacted over a year ago:

([5]6)  (a) “Maintenance” means [the] routine actions to repair, [replacement and refinishing of] replace, refinish, or preserve any component of an existing structure in its original condition.[; but,]
(b) “Maintenance” does not include:
(i) alteration or modification to [the] existing weight-bearing or structural components; or
(ii) any work that involves an electrical or plumbing system.

The Maintenance Exception clearly excludes plumbing or electrical systems.

*  Licensing continues to be a concern with an effort to reduce requirements or end licensing all together in the State of Utah.  The UPHCA has an excellent record of working with the legislature and with DOPL on these and other issues affecting the industry.  We have an excellent lobbyist team ensuring our voice is heard and our positions are understood.
 

The UPHCA is working hard for our industry and trade.  We can’t solve everything, nonetheless when an issue does come to our attention, we evaluate it and then start working on the solutions.  It’s a game of patience when working with government!

“Anyone who thinks that they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room.” The Dalai Lama

The UPHCA is the Mosquito!

What does it mean to be locally owned and operated? What is the difference to the public and local economy?  Is it a benefit to the consumer?  When a large box store moves into an area what does it do to the local businesses?  Where does the profits to the big national stores or operations go?  These questions and others are evaluated by the local communities and experts all the time.  However, you the consumer what is your thoughts on this?

Many of the local businesses are your neighbors or who employ your neighbors or friends.  These local businesses support the local economy in so many ways. It seems that the trend in business is buying up smaller companies and managing all of them as one large multifaceted corporation.  In some situations multiple companies in the same market are owned by one company, however they retain the former name.  With this type of market approach, it can affect the consumers experience.  “Buyer Beware” is the phrase that we should remember and consider.  But how do we know which companies have taken this course of action?  Here is a list of local companies that have been purchased by large ‘venture capitalists’ corporations who look to expand their reach into a local market and in turn increase their bottom line.  Increasing the bottom line isn’t a bad thing at all, however when taking an unfair advantage of the markets and consumer it goes back to the phrase – “Buyer Beware”. We’ll let you decide!

Here are a few examples of what is happening in Utah.

Knox Lane: https://www.knoxlane.com/

  • Any Hour (Utah)
  • Black Diamond Experts (Utah)
  • Bumble Breeze Plumbing Heating & Air
  • Penguin Air (Phoenix)
  • AC by J (Scottsdale)
  • Advance Home Services (Southeast Idaho)

Friendly Group: https://friendlygroup.com/

  • Friendly Home Service
  • Just Right Heating & Cooling
  • Western Heating, Air, Plumbing
  • Main Street Heating & Cooling, Plumbing

APEX Service Partners: https://apexservicepartners.com/ – alpineinvestors.com

  • Whipple
  • All Pro Plumbing – St. George

Bestige: https://bestigeholdings.com/

  • Craigs Services
  • Comfort Solutions
  • Comfort Construction Services
  • My Buddy the Plumber
  • Same Day
  • Walker Plumbing
  • Superior Water & Air
  • ICS – Intermountain Comfort Supply
  • Lee’s Heating – Air Conditioning – Duct Cleaning – Water Treatment
  • Comfort Construction (HVAC)
  • Utah Engineering (HVAC, Plumbing) (Commercial)
  • Beehive Plumbing

TurnPoint: https://www.turnpointservices.com/

  • Scott Hale Plumbing & Heating

American Residential Services (Charles Bank): https://www.ars.com/

  • YES! (Formally ESCO and Rescue Rooter)

The Plumbing Industry, it seems, have a few unethical companies who are receiving ‘referral fees’ from some restoration companies.  Below are comments from a respected restoration company who is also a ‘Qualified’ member of the UPHCA sharing their insights.

Plumber referral fees are now possibly up to $1500 with certain restoration companies that give referral fees.  The average mitigation job is approximately $3000 and these restoration companies are putting their referral fee amounts into the estimate for clients.   These restoration companies are “fluffing” their estimates to cover the cost of the referral fees they are giving out.  This can be costly to homeowners and insurance companies.  The homeowners and insurance companies end up paying for the “fluff”, causing a snowball effect for anyone involved in the insurance industry, including the homeowners.  

There have been several instances where the homeowners could have avoided putting in a claim with the true cost of the services under their deductible, but the “fluff” in the estimate pushed that homeowner to have to put in a claim, due to them not being able to cover the full amount of the mitigation and/or repair costs.  There are also instances where a homeowner has a high deductible or there is no insurance coverage on the type of damage that occurred.  Even on these type of claims, the referral monies are still hidden in the estimate.  Homeowners have to pay out-of-pocket for the services in these cases, which could very well cause a hardship for the homeowner.  Homeowners could also have issues with renewal of their home insurance policy, because there may have been claims put in that didn’t necessarily have to be a claim.  There have been many claims that could have cost less than the homeowners’ deductible, but due to the referral fees, the cost of the mitigation or repairs became more than their deductible.  This causes the problem of the homeowner having possible issues on renewing their insurance due to the amount of claims being put in under that insured’s home.

Insurance companies also incur these costs, because mitigation can be an emergency service. Adjusters (especially remote) don’t have the time or oversight to be able to protect homeowners or their respective insurance carriers from the restoration companies “fluff” due to the nature of emergency claims.  

Overall, homeowners and insurance companies are the affected people that have to suffer the consequences of referral fees. Everyone else suffers too, in which these practices can make insurance companies increase premiums for all insureds. 

After a great deal of complaining from the UPHCA to DOPL about Bald Dude Plumbing located in the St. George area, he continues to do business as a plumber, unlicensed and uninsured. He has never been a qualified/licensed plumber or contractor, not even a handyman registration with the state.  Just 2 weeks ago one of the UPHCA members was called by an owner to repair and bring up to code a water heater replacement that ‘Mr. Bald Dude’ installed.  DOPL has fined him several times, however he continues to do work.  Here is a similar case that KSL just recently reported on. https://ksltv.com/520197/felony-charges-for-contractor-accused-of-ripping-off-several-utahns/.

Mr. Bald Dude has charges pending in Washington County since last July and still the County slowly moves the case along.  Oh, by the way he has been convicted of drug charges as well in the past.  Yes, this type of case doesn’t seem to be a priority for some, however his shoddy work can not only put homeowners potentially in danger but he also gives the plumbing industry and trade a bad name when he advertises himself as a plumber.

The 2023 Legislative Session is in full swing.  The legislators started off very fast on some difficult subjects and proposed bills.  However, it now has settled down to a dull roar, at least right now.

The UPHCA along with others in the industry are working on a couple of initiatives.  The first is to provide an easier pathway for 16-17 year olds to work in the construction industry and rather than as a non-paid intern through the schools sponsored programs, allow companies to hire that age group and allow them to become interested in the trades.  It seems this is something most want or see a positive potential opportunity, however many details are being worked on especially with the cost of workers compensation for this age group.

Another one that doesn’t see much light at this point is providing more resources to DOPL enforcement to ensure that those who are working unlicensed are prosecuted rather than just fined.  The fine has become a cost of doing business for companies working outside the licensing statues.  This can be a rather hot issue even within our own industry, but we need to do something.  Here is the link to our most recent tracking list we’re following. Click Here

 

 

Creation of the UPHCA Apprenticeship Academy – Published January 2023

The Utah Plumbing & Heating Contractors Association is excited to announce the creation of an online Plumbing Apprenticeship Academy starting in January 2023.  This DOPL and DOL approved apprenticeship program is designed to provide the individual student with achievement in an alternative way of learning to meet the educational requirements for being an apprentice plumber.  Some of the features to this academy are:

  • Open Enrollment – Enroll at any time.  The program is designed to a 12-month calendar curriculum. 
  • Pace of Learning – Those who have more experience or highly motivated can typically move through the curriculum at a quicker pace.
  • Convenience/Flexibility – The curriculum is all online and can be accessed at anytime and anywhere to better meet the needs of the individual’s work schedule and personal time.  There will be live webinars and in person lab experiences 6 times/year that will be required from all students.
  • Individualized Mentoring/Coaching – The program is designed for the student to be successful with individualized help, encouragement, and monitoring.  Only those individuals who are committed and have the motivation for this style of learning will be accepted into the program.  The employer will also be part of this process.  An instructor will be assigned to each student to assist, mentor, and monitor progress.
  • Statewide – This program is for individuals living anywhere in the state.  They will be required to attend 6 labs during the year at a location that might require some traveling, however.
  • On the surface the tuition seems more expensive, nevertheless when comparing the textbooks that are included and other incidental fees from other programs the potential student will find it comparable to other in classroom programs.  When you also include the advantages listed the apprentice will receive a great value in their investment in this type of program.
  • The curriculum used is recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, Office of Apprenticeship, and Utah Department of Professional Licensing (DOPL).
  • Please Note: Students can transfer from other apprenticeship programs with approval.  However, there is no mechanism for transfer to a technical college apprenticeship program once enrolled in the UPHCA Academy. 

What the UPHCA has been doing in 2022? – Published January 2023

  • Working with DOPL on various issues of concern!  This is becoming more important every year! A couple of the most recent   Maintenance Exception and the Incidental Plumbing Rule (Handyman).  We have tightened up the Maintenance Exception substantially and the proposed rule change for the ‘handyman’ also tightens and defines better the issue of handyman scope of work.
  • Watching and navigating though issues the Utah State Legislature!  This is a must for the industry! Legislative overreach is always an issue and concern. The association retained a Lobbyist Firm 5 years ago to represent our industry and trade at the legislature.
  • Conference in St. George in the spring provided excellent information.  You can view any of the training seminars by going on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNeFGO0aQf0jCieuMvLxIUfPqyLI9Snrd
  • CE Classes for license renewal both live in classroom and online classes. We have the best classes in the industry at a discount for members of the UPHCA.
  • Working on additional benefits for member companies including an ‘Qualified’ Program for the industry.
  • Outreach to high school students to consider our trade.
  • Other networking activities.
  • Out of State Recruitment Program – look at our website under the tab “Moving to Utah”.
  • The UPHCA Apprenticeship Academy received approval in November 2022 to start an online school to provide more flexibility for students and employers.
  • Look at our new website, much more functional and provides great information: uphca.net
  • We have developed our ‘blog’ and a new Pipeline Podcasts https://uphca.net/about-uphca/blog/.
  • The UPHCA is the only independent Voice of the Plumbing & Mechanical Industry in the State of Utah.
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