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Australian pool rules

Back yard swimming pool

Did you know that every year, approximately 60 children are admitted to hospital following a near-drowning experience?

Most of these cases (if not all) “could be prevented with well-maintained swimming pool fences, combined with vigilant adult supervision.” That’s according to the former Minister for Local Government, Donald Page, who put forward the Swimming Pools Amendment Act 2012.

The Act was strengthened to ensure pool owners complied with child-resistant barrier requirements. It requires all homeowners with pools to register their pools online and complete a valid compliance certificate prior to selling or leasing a property from April 29, 2016.

In fact, if a valid certificate is not in place before April 29, 2016, a property cannot be advertised for sale or lease, as the certificate must be annexed to the Contract for Sale and Purchase of Land. Otherwise, a purchaser can rescind the contract of sale within 14 days if exchanged from April 29, 2016, unless settlement has occurred (Real Estate Institute of NSW).

So, how do you go about registering your pool?

Swimming pools can be registered at the Swimming Pool Register. Your local council can do this on your behalf too, but at a cost. Authorised officers “may fine pool owners if their pool is not registered on the NSW Swimming Pool Register. The fine is $220. If an inspector refers the matter to court, a fine of up to $2,200 may be imposed.” (NSW Swimming Pool Register Frequently Asked Questions).

How do you obtain certification for your pool?

Pool inspections can be carried out by local councils and accredited private certifiers that hold category A1, category A2 or category A3 accreditation under the Building Professional Act 2005. Private certifiers should be registered with the Building Professionals Board. A certificate of compliance will only be provided if your swimming pool or spa pool meets all the safety requirements.

How long is a compliance certificate valid for?

A compliance certificate is valid for a period of three years, unless a subsequent inspection finds the pool to be non-compliant.

What type of pool is included?

"Swimming pools and spa pools" include in-ground, above-ground, indoor, portable and other types of pools and spa pools that are capable of being filled to a depth of 30cm or more of water and that are used for swimming, wading, paddling or “other human aquatic activity.” A spa pool that isn’t covered and secured by a lockable lid also needs to be fenced. Bathroom spas that are used as baths and emptied after use are not included.

Should I undertake a self assessment of my pool, for compliance?

Assessing if your pool’s fencing meets the requirements is a good idea. You’ll need to know some things about your pool prior to choosing the right online checklist for self-assessment. Some questions that you could ask yourself, include:

  • Do you know when your pool was built or installed?
  • If the pool fence or access point was re-built or altered substantially, when did this last take place?
  • What type of pool do you have – indoor? Spa pool? Outdoor? Portable?
  • Was your pool built before July 1, 2010? If so, the rules are different if you have a waterfront property, a small property that’s less than 230 square metres, or a large property (over two hectares).

A “self-assessment checklist” for swimming pools built or installed before September 9, 2008, (Australian Standard AS1926-1986) considers the following issues:

  • The pool fence must be at least 1200mm high all the way around, measured from the outside of the pool.
  • If a boundary fence forms part of the pool fence, it must be at least 1200mm high.
  • The gap between the bottom of the fence and the ground must be no more than 100mm.
  • The gate must be self closing and latch by itself in any position.
  • The gate latch must open outwards, away from the pool area.

This is obviously not a comprehensive checklist. Further information and checklists aimed at assisting you assess the safety of your pool or spa are available at the NSW Government’s Swimming Pool Register.

How can I check if a swimming pool already has a certificate of compliance?

The NSW Swimming Pool Register provides information on registered pools and whether a certificate of compliance has been issued. You can search the register by the property address.

Leasing a property – what should I do regarding compliance certification?

If you are leasing a property with a pool, the pool must be registered and have a valid certificate of compliance (or occupation certificate) issued within the last three years at the time the Residential Tenancy Agreement is entered into and a copy of that certificate must be given to the tenant. Before a new lease is entered into, you should ensure that the pool has a valid compliance certificate or occupation certificate.

I own a property in a complex that has a swimming pool. Will it need certification before I can sell or lease it?

In the case of strata schemes, where there is a swimming pool or spa pool on common property, it is the Owners Corporation’s obligation to ensure there is a valid certificate of compliance or occupation. A community association is responsible for ensuring a certificate is obtained in community title schemes (NSW Swimming Pool Register Frequently Asked Questions).

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