New laws in NSW covering backyard swimming pools are intended to
increase safety, but property law specialists warn they open the
gate to potential dangers for legal liability.
Under the new rules all pool owners have to register their
backyard swimming pools in an online register provided by the NSW
Government at www.swimmingpoolregister.nsw.gov.au.
Registration is free. All owners have to register their pool
online by 29 October 2013. Owners have to supply the address of the
pool, type of pool and its age. It includes indoor pools, spas,
portable pools, inflatable pools, and various sizes of outdoor
Owners are then required to fill out a checklist of safety
measures, some of which are very detailed and technical requiring
accurate measuring of things such as latches, doors, gates, windows
There's no doubt at all that everything should be done to
make pools as safe as possible. Around six children a year die each
year in pool accidents. Dozens more suffer permanent brain injuries
and disability from near drownings. It can take just seconds for
kids and toddlers to work their way through inadequate or faulty
fencing or gates.
To help owners register their pool, the government is allowing
owners to self-assess their safety installations such as fences,
gates, locks and child-proof access.
However Merrill Phillips, a property specialist at Stacks/The
Law Firm, says there are concerns owners could be held liable if
the compliance is not up to the standard of the local council.
"Giving pool owners the opportunity to 'self-asses'
whether their pool complies with applicable safety standards opens
a can of worms. What pool owner is going to openly admit their pool
does not comply?"
Owners who don't register their pool can be fined $220, but
there is no mention of a penalty if they wrongly self-assess the
"My advice is to get an initial inspection and compliance
certificate from your council and then self-assess so long as the
standard remains the same," she said.
Council inspections can cost up to $150, but it's better to
be safe than sorry.
"There is always a legal liability for owners of swimming
pools to ensure that the users are safe at all times when using
But she warns the risk for owners is that if there is an
accident the authorities will thoroughly inspect the pool and
surrounding areas for the slightest non-compliance.
"Self-assessing will not protect owners if there is a
non-compliance issue in safety provisions."
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