Australia: Swimming pools - new compliance laws in NSW

Last Updated: 29 May 2017
Article by Miranda Bond

Across the country, thousands of homes have backyard swimming pools. With drowning being a leading cause of preventable death in young children, swimming pool safety is an important issue for the community.

New compliance laws came into effect in NSW in April 2016, requiring that any property with a swimming pool now needs a certificate of compliance before it can be sold or leased. Similar requirements are already in place in Queensland.

New laws for properties with swimming pools

The new laws are a result of an amendment to the Swimming Pools Act 1992 which took place in 2012. They provide that:

  • swimming pool owners must register their swimming pool or spa pool on the NSW Swimming Pool Register; and
  • from 29 April 2016, a copy of a certificate of compliance or relevant occupation certificate must be attached to the sale contract or new residential tenancy agreement to sell or rent any property with a swimming pool or spa pool.

For the purposes of the provisions, swimming pools or spa pools are defined as structures that are:

  • capable of being filled with water to a depth of greater than 300mm; and
  • solely, or principally used, designed, manufactured or adapted for the purposes of swimming, wading, paddling or other aquatic activity.

The new laws apply to a number of properties including private houses, units, hotels, motels and other tourist and visitor accommodation. For units, the owner's corporation must obtain the compliance certificate. Individual lot owners can then inspect the certificate through the Swimming Pool Register website.

Swimming pool certificate of compliance

A swimming pool certificate of compliance is a document which confirms that the pool and pool barrier meet safety requirements.

An occupation certificate that is less than 3 years old and that authorises the use of the swimming pool can be used instead of a certificate of compliance. A certificate of compliance is valid for a period of 3 years from the date of issue.

Local councils and accredited certifiers can carry out a swimming pool barrier inspection and issue a certificate of compliance.

Contracts for sale of land

A valid swimming pool certificate of compliance, or a valid certificate of non- compliance, must be attached to the contract of sale of properties with a swimming pool or spa pool.

This requirement does not apply:

  • to a lot in strata or community schemes with more than two lots, or
  • for any off-the-plan contract.

Failure to attach a certificate or relevant occupation certificate will allow a purchaser to rescind the contract at any time within 14 days of exchange of contracts, unless settlement has already occurred. However, vendors are able to shift the responsibility of obtaining a certificate of compliance by attaching a certificate of non-compliance.

Should the purchaser complete the sale with a certificate of non-compliance attached to the contract, the purchaser will have 90 days from settlement to fix the non-compliance issues.

Conclusion

As an owner of a pool you may request your local council or private certifier to carry out an inspection in order to obtain a certificate of compliance. This must be done by the authority within 10 business days if the purpose is to sell or lease the land.

It is too early know the implications of the new requirements however it may affect your property's value should the cost of fixing a non-complying pool be deemed excessive by a prospective purchaser. Or, it may even affect your ability to rent a house you own which has a pool as part of the rental agreement.

If you own a property that has a swimming pool consideration should be given to arranging a swimming pool inspection and obtaining a certificate of compliance even if a sale is not planned for some time.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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