Swimming Pool Regulations
In 2009, Queensland introduced pool safety laws which contained a number of swimming pool regulations to be adhered to by all pool owners for both new and existing pools. The deadline for compliance to these regulations and safety standard was 30 November 2015, or earlier for those who were leasing or selling their properties. The reason for the introduction of pool regulations was to make swimming pools safer, particularly for children with respect to pool barriers and safety fences. Cases of children drowning and others suffering serious immersion injuries had been rampant thus prompting the government to step in to maintain sanity.
Under the swimming pool regulations, pool owners are required to maintain barriers, fix damaged fencing, meet all the pool fencing regulations, as well as safety standards.
Swimming Pool Regulations
As stipulated by the pool safety regulations, pool barriers include fencing for the pool, the walls of a building that enclose the pool, as well as any other form of pool barrier as provided for or mentioned in the pool safety standard. The pool regulations in Queensland are applicable to all swimming pools whether shared or non-shared, state that they must be enclosed by a barrier that is approved by the state government of Queensland and one that meets the pool safety registration as indicated in the Building Act 1975, Chapter 8.
The property owner has a responsibility to ensure that the pool barriers erected are compliant at all times. In addition, tenants also have a responsibility to ensure all pool gates are closed and no objects are in place to assist children in accessing the pool on their own. As a way of enforcing the safety provisions, all pool owners were required to have their pools registered by 4 November, 2011. Failure to register your pool can attract penalties as outlined in the standard. To check if your pool is registered go to the QBCC website. You will not be fined for registering your pool after the deadline, however fines could apply if state government inspectors find your pool not registered.
The Significance of Pool Safety Certificates
When buying, selling or leasing a property that has a swimming pool, a pool safety certificate is required as part of the swimming pool regulations. The certificate must be issued by a pool safety inspector who is licensed. As per the swimming pool regulations, pool safety certificates are only valid for one year in the case of shared pools and two years for non-shared pools.
In the event a property that has a swimming pool is leased, the law requires that the body corporate or landlord obtains a pool safety certificate prior to the signing of the lease agreement. A copy of the certificate should also be issued to the occupier or tenant except in cases where the accommodation is on a short term basis such as in motels, hotels, and backpacker hostels. Where the pool certificate doesn’t exist, the pool owner should give a Form 36 (Notice of No Pool Safety Certificate) to the lessee.
When selling a property that has a shared pool, the seller must give the purchaser the safety certificate or a Form 36. The Form 36 is an indication the pool may not be compliant with the swimming pool regulations and hence the necessary steps must be taken to make it compliant. A Form 36 gives you as the buyer the opportunity to either accept or turn down the purchase of the property.
The Role of Property Agents
Property agents who collect fees and commissions in connection with an accommodation agreement such as a lease and where no pool certificate exists for a non-shared pool, may be penalised under the Property Occupation Act 2014. There are cases where the property agents may be requested to attend to safety matters on behalf of the property owners. As an agent, one must be aware of all of the three important pool safety forms which are:
- Form 23 – This is the safety certificate and it is an indication that the pool complies with the swimming pool regulations
- Form 36 – This form indicates that no pool safety certificate exists
- Form 26 – This is a notice of swimming pool safety non-conformity
Under the swimming pool regulations, property agents can utilise the online pool safety register portal to check the validity of pool safety certificates for the properties they are managing.
Pool Safety Inspection
Swimming pool safety inspections are normally done by persons who are licensed by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission. These inspectors help in determining whether a given swimming pool complies with the safety standard and if it does, issue them with a pool safety certificate. The inspectors are guided by a code of conduct and their details are available on the pool safety register.
According to the swimming pool regulations, pool safety inspectors have certain responsibilities that they must discharge during their safety inspection process. These are:
- Inspection of swimming pools to determine compliance and whether a pool safety certificate should be issued
- Giving of non-conformity notices as well as pool safety certificates
- Where licensed to do so, these inspectors can carry out minor works as provided for under the Building Regulation 2006.
In the case of conformity, the safety inspector gives the pool owner the pool safety certificate which has a unique identification number and the same is recorded in the register. For cases of non-conformity, the inspector gives the owner a Form 26 which stipulates the rectifications required to make the pool compliant as per the swimming pool regulations.
Pool Safety Fence Exemption
Exemptions are possible through an application to the council. Before such exemptions are given, the council closely examines your case in relation to the safety of children. There are two main types of exemptions as per the swimming pool regulations; disability exemptions and impracticality exemptions.
In applying for a disability exemption, the extent and form of disability must be disclosed, and supported by medical evidence. There should also be a description of the barrier provisions which prevent the disabled person from accessing and exiting the swimming pool facility. The replacement preventive measures which will prevent children from accessing the pool must also be clearly stated.
Impracticality exemptions are issued when it is impractical to have a normal barrier in place for that part of the fence only. For example, if the issue relates only to space for a gate to open outwards, the exemption would not extend to matters not relating to the gate.
The Queensland government swimming pool regulations allow local councils to issue fines for violations in pool fencing compliance.