Swimming pools must be fenced correctly

Selling a home with a pool? What you need to know.

Swimming pools must be fenced correctly. Swimming pools and outdoor spas can be great selling points for your home. If they’re well maintained, they can add value and attract the eye of potential buyers.

A few years ago a law came into effect that changed who was responsible for ensuring barriers complied to code at the time of settlement. If you have a pool that was installed pre-1992, and you’re thinking of selling your home, there are a few things you need to know before putting it on the market.

Old pools and the law

In 1991 all State and Territory Governments in Australia passed laws making it compulsory for effective barriers to be installed around outdoor swimming pools and spas to protect young children. These barriers can be made of a purpose built fence, wall, gate, window or door set and must be regularly maintained. To make sure the barriers are kept up to standard, local councils visit all pools in the country at least once every four years.

What are the safety standards?

If you use fences and gates as your pool barrier they need to be:

  • at least 1200mm high
  • free from climbable objects within a 1200mm span from the top of the fence
  • consistently spaced with gaps of 100mm or less.

If you use a door as your pool barrier it needs to be:

  • self-closing and self-latching
  • latched at least 1500mm from the ground and 1400mm above any climbable part of the door.

It’s recommended that doors opens away from the pool.

What needs a barrier?

If your outdoor pool or spa is meant for swimming, wading, bathing or similar activities and has a depth of over 300mm, it needs to have a barrier. Some above-ground pools are also included in the legislation. If you’re unsure if your pool or spa is covered in this legislation contact your local council for clarification.

The seller is now responsible

In the past it was the responsibility of the new home owner to make sure pool fencing  was up to scratch. The new owner had three months after the sale of the property to comply with the pool and spa enclosure requirements. This is no longer the case. As of December 17, 2006 if the house you are selling has a pool or spa that was installed before June 30, 1992 it is your responsibility to make sure it is up to code before settlement.

What are the penalties?

If your pool and spa barrier is faulty or hasn’t been maintained you could be in for some harsh penalties.

  • You may be fined a $100 on-the-spot penalty by your local council as a first warning
  • If you’ve already received a first warning and you choose to ignore it, you may be fined a further $200
  • If you’ve already received two defect notices and you don’t fix anything you could face legal proceedings, a $5000 penalty and an additional daily penalty of $250 until the barrier is up to code.

You’ll be in for further costs if you’re selling the property. If the pool and spa barrier is not up to code at the time of the acceptance of an offer you’ll be in breach of regulations that could cause problems with settlement. You might be charged penalties and the delay could cause the offer to fall through.

3 things to remember

  1. All outdoor pools and spas need to be fenced off with sturdy barriers that comply to local laws.
  2. It’s the responsibility of the home owner to make sure all pool and spa fences are up to scratch before putting the property on the market.
  3. As the property owner, you need to contact your local council to have any barriers checked. You should request written confirmation of compliance to reassure potential buyers that there are no issues.

Pools and spas are fantastic lifestyle features and they can really help to sell a home. If you’re considering putting your house on the market, knowing your legal responsibilities in terms of pool and spa safety and how this affects the conditions of sale, ensures a straightforward settlement without any nasty surprises.