Pool Safety - Real estate industry bulletin 215
30 January 2020
Pool safety - it's everyone's responsibility
When a property has a pool or portable pool it’s important to ensure full compliance with safety requirements to prevent drowning deaths and injury to young children.
There are specific laws in Western Australia that mandate the installation of safety barriers to enclose private swimming and spa pools. The laws apply to all private swimming and spa pools that contain water that is more than 300mm deep.
The Real Estate and Business Agents and Sales Representatives Code of Conduct 2016 (the Code) provides that a real estate agent must make all reasonable efforts to ascertain material facts prior to a transaction and promptly communicate those facts to any person who may be affected. Accordingly agents have a responsibility to check the barrier around any pool or portable pool on a property that they are selling or leasing is safe and reporting any suspected non-compliance issues to the owner. If an owner does not comply with the legal requirements, not only are the lives of young children put at risk, but the owner could face substantial fines.
Pool safety barrier and gate requirements
Pool gates are statistically considered to be an area of high risk. They are the most common avenue of access for young children that drown in pools. Gate hinge requirements for private swimming pools and safety barriers requirements for both portable pools and private swimming pools can be found in the Rules for Pools and Spas.
In Western Australia, swimming pool safety barrier requirements depend on when the private swimming pool was installed, or when plans for the installation of the pool were submitted to the permit authority for approval.
All pools, regardless of age, are able to include windows and boundary fences as part of their safety barrier, subject to compliance with the relevant Australian Standard. Only some pools are permitted to use child-resistant door sets; this includes pools built prior to November 2001, indoor pools or if it has been specifically approved by the Local Government.
Any pool designed for swimming, wading and paddling that contains water more than 300mm deep must be enclosed by an effective safety barrier.
If you become aware of a portable pool during an inspection, respond accordingly.
If the pool can hold water more than 300mm deep request it be emptied immediately, then seek direction from the lessor as to how they would like to handle the risk. This could be a breach of the tenancy agreement.
If the pool holds less than 300mm of water discuss the dangers with the tenant. Tenants should completely empty any portable pools immediately after use and store them away securely. If pools are left out they can fill up with rain or sprinkler water which could prove to be a fatal mistake.
Take a few minutes to check out the Don’t Duck Out make it SAFE campaign website for more information about the dangers of portable pools. The site provides a range of fact sheets in Arabic, Greek, Italian, Vietnamese and Traditional Chinese, which could be a useful resource for tenants and landlords.
Guidelines for real estate agents
If a property with a swimming pool is listed for sale, enquire with the owner about whether the barriers comply with current safety regulations particularly if there is to be a home open at the property.
- Can the owner provide a copy of a compliance certificate?
- The local government should carry out compliance inspections every four (4) years, when was the last inspection? Have there been changes to the boundary fence since the last inspection?
- Is the window capable of being opened more than 100mm without the use of a hand tool to open it?
- Is a door self-closing?
If you are managing a property for lease a check of the pool barrier including doors and windows which may be included in the pool barrier should be made at the commencement of each tenancy and be included in the Property Condition Report. A check of the pool barrier should be included in each property inspection.
If you are concerned that the requirements are not being met, this information should be brought to the attention of the owners, any prospective purchasers and prospective or current tenants, especially if you identify the need for any urgent repairs around swimming pool safety. You are not responsible for compliance checks but you are responsible for ensuring a pool or spa is safe. Remember lives could be at risk.
Recent Case Study
Consumer Protection was recently contacted by a young mother who was shocked when her four year old son knocked on the outside of one of the widows which formed a barrier for the in ground swimming pool at the property which she and her family were renting. Her little boy had wandered into the swimming pool enclosure after the pool gate had blown open following a storm. Investigation by Consumer Protection identified that the local government had been in negotiations with the owner about compliance issues and the owner was waiting on parts to arrive to repair the gate. The local government was surprised to learn that the property had been leased prior to the required repairs being undertaken, as the owner was aware that the pool fence was non-compliant.
Most concerning was that the real estate agent responsible for management of the property was unaware that they had any responsibility in relation to ensuring the safety of the pool and the fencing. The necessary repairs were delayed due to the non-availability of the spare parts to repair the gate. Due to the delay the tenant was unable to utilise the rear of the property. Luckily for all concerned this incident resulted in a mutual agreement to end the tenancy rather than a tragedy.
Consumer Protection has several useful resources on safety barriers including the Rules for pools and spas booklet, Thinking of installing a swimming pool or spa guide and a Rules for portable pools checklist.
Need more information? We're here to help!
In the meantime, if you have any questions contact us on 1300 304 054 or by email
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