New Licensing Requirements for New Jersey Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors

Construction Law:  On December 20, 2007, Governor Corzine signed into law the State Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contracting License Law.  This establishes a State Board of Examiners of Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors.  The Board is created within the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.  The Law came into being after a long legislative process including a previous gubernatorial veto. 
The Law is effective immediately.  In addition to creating the Board, the Law creates licensing requirements for contractors performing heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration (“HVACR”) services.  Notably, the services covered are broadly defined and generally refer to “the process of treating and protecting the environment by the responsible handling, dispensing, collecting and cleaning of chlorofluorocarbons and other refrigerants in stationary sources, and controlling the temperature, humidity and cleanliness of air by using the ‘wet,’ ‘dry,’ ‘radiant,’ ‘conduction,’ ‘convection,’ ‘direct,’ or ‘indirect’ method or combination of methods, including those which utilize solar energy, to meet the environmental requirements of a designated area.” 
Moreover, the Law makes distinctions between apprentice tradespeople (one who is learning the practice), journeymen tradespeople (those who work under a master contractor) and master contractors.  Generally speaking, only a Master HVACR contractor can obtain a license, and with limited exceptions only a licensed Master HVACR contractor can  provide HVACR services.  The other tradespeople can generally only provide services under the supervision of, or in connection with, a licensed Master HVACR contractor or licensed firm.
The Law further establishes specific qualifications for a Master HVACR contractor to obtain a license.  The qualifications for a Master HVACR contractor’s license include:

1) The individual-applicant must be at least 21 years of age; 

2) The individual-applicant must be a citizen or legal resident of the United States; and 

3) The individual-applicant must have the requisite combination of education and experience, as defined by the statute.

Proof of the statutory qualifications must be submitted to the Board with a written application and payment for the license fee prior to the examination for the Master HVACR contractor’s license.  The licensing exam will be a uniformed test administered by the Board and offered at least four times a year.  However, any applicant who has failed the exam must wait at least six months to be eligible for a re-examination. 
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the law provides for some exceptions to the examination requirement.  Specifically, if an application and proof of payment of the applicable fee is submitted to the Board within six months from the effective date of the Law (December 20, 2007), the Board shall issue a Master HVACR license without examination to:  “a. any licensed master plumber who has been engaged in the heating, ventilating, air conditioning or refrigeration business for at least two years prior to the date of his application for a Master HVACR license, or b. any person who has been engaged as a heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration contractor for at least two years prior to his date of application for a Master HVACR license.”  Accordingly, if you qualify under either of these prongs, and wish to avoid the Law’s examination requirement, be sure to proceed swiftly to submit your application.   
Notably, the license required hereunder is to be renewed biennially.  Currently, the Law allows for renewal of the license without reexamination so long as the renewal is timely and properly made.  However, the Law specifically states that the Board has discretion to make such license renewal contingent upon the satisfactory completion of continuing education requirements, which the Board may establish. 
The Law is effective immediately.  However, contractors will not be required to have the required licenses until 360 days after the initial establishment of the Board.  As of the date of this posting, the Board has not yet been solidified and therefore registration has not yet commenced.

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