Properties with pools and spas in Australia are subject to regular inspections. Their owners, in fact, are mandated to register their pools and spas, and keep these areas up to the standard or face the consequences of non-compliance.
The NSW Government established the Swimming Pools Act 1992 to work alongside the Australian Standard and the Home Builders Act to ensure that backyard swimming pools and spas follow the safety guidelines. Years later, the Government also passed the Swimming Pools Regulation 2008 which mandated stricter safety compliance for areas with pools and spas, be it a residential property, a hotel or motel, or a caravan or mobile home. Further regulations in the Swimming Pools Amendment Act 2012 were also introduced following an increase in deaths and injuries of infants and toddlers in privately owned properties with water structures.
Specifically, structures filled with 300mm of water and used for swimming or water activities are considered pools or spa. These might be standard in-ground concrete swimming pools, inflatable pools, fiber glass pools, above ground pools, wading pools or spas.
The laws require these areas to have, first and foremost, child-resistant barriers to prevent accidental drowning and other accidents that could put kids in danger. The laws also have other provisions about pool area safety.
Compliance of pool and spa owners
Any property with a pool or spa must met safety guidelines, first for construction and then later for maintenance. Its owners must sign up at the online NSW Swimming Pool Register and enlist an accredited inspector to facilitate regular checks and draw up a safety inspection certificate.
Landlords and owners, interested buyers, property managers, and real estate agents of a home or building with a pool or spa need to obtain a safety inspection certificate from a qualified inspector. This certificate, which has a three-year validity, has to be attached to the deed or sales contract, or distributed to the tenants.
In some cases, however, the inspector will issue a certificate of non-compliance if the pool or spa isn’t up to the standards. Property owners are expected to fix the problems within 90 days or pay the penalty.
Self-checking before the inspection of a pool or spa
After registering the pool or spa, property owners can contact their local council to get recommendations and book an accredited inspector. Before entering into a contract with the inspector, however, owners can actually do a self-check of their pool site so that they can minimise the chances of failing the inspection.
So, what is there to inspect in pools and spas? Owners need to identify the following below:
- The year the pool or spa was built or installed
- The type of pool — indoor, outdoor, spa, portable?
- The year(s) the child-safety barriers were added, rebuilt, or altered
- The last time the barriers were altered
- The area’s size — under 230 square meters, over two hectares, or on a waterfront property?
- The potential problem areas
Common pool or spa problem areas that need fixing
Consequently, owners can assess if there are areas around the pool that could be potential hazards. They must fix these problems before asking an inspector to assess their property, and some of these may include the following:
- Structures near the pool that kids could climb, such as a tree or slide, must be at least 900mm away from the child-safety barriers.
- Windows around the house that open towards the pool must be installed with grills, so that the children can’t climb or get out them.
- Child-safety barriers must always have their hinges securely locked. Self-closing or self-latching gates must always have a functioning closing mechanism.
- Suctioning outlets of a spa must at least be 600mm apart.
- Skimmer box in the pool, which looks similar to a child’s toilet, must have a lid. This should be secure at all times and a child must not be able to easily remove it.
- The spa should have a convenient pump cut-off switch and everyone in the house must know how to turn this off, especially in emergency situations.
- All electrical outlets near the pool or spa must be covered, in accordance with the electric safety requirements.
- Suction outlets should be in good working order all the time to avoid entrapment of feet, hands, or hair.
- Purchased spas must have their own safety compliant certification that owners should be able to present this to the inspector.
Repairing problems that impact these areas cannot be do-it-yourself projects, especially if the owner isn’t familiar with the measurements, guidelines, and provisions of the safety standards. Property owners should, therefore, enlist a builder, installer, or licenced expert for correcting what’s not working right in the pool area. It’s better to pay a premium for their services than to incur penalties and fail at the next inspection.
Consequences of non-compliance for pool and spa after inspection
Following an inspection, the property owner might receive a non-compliant certification, which means that the inspector saw problems with the pool area. The will contain a detailed report, as well as recommendations on what must be done to fix these problems. Property owners must never rely on any verbal advice or recommendations from the inspector; everything must be in writing.
In some cases, private inspectors or certifiers might be qualified to carry out the job for the repairs themselves. However, owners are not under any obligation to hire them for this purpose, as they are free to choose another professional who can make their pool area compliant.
Enforcement of non-compliant pool properties relies on the council, which could receive complaints or concerns from the neighbours, or discoverer of the violations during inspections.
Fees and penalties for pool and spa compliance inspection
Meanwhile, if the owner of the pool or spa fails to make changes based on the inspector’s recommendation, a fee of up to $5,500 can be collected. The council might also collect on-the-spot fines amounting to less than $550 during the inspection.
Inspectors charge fees each time they are asked to inspect a pool property and the rates can range from $150 to $200. Re-inspections can cost around $100. It is not unusual for inspections to be done at three times before a pool or spa is certified as compliant.
Need help with your pool or spa compliance? Exceptional Building Inspections is an accredited certifier and inspector. We can provide advice on how to keep your water structure in the safest conditions. Contact us for more information.