A swimming pool can be the entertainment centre of your home. Selecting a licensed builder, checking local council requirements and understanding your legal rights and obligations are just some of the factors you must take into account before taking the pool building plunge.
Talk to your local council about any approval requirements in your area and any natural conditions that may affect your future swimming pool.
Since April 2013 backyard swimming pools and spas must be registered on the NSW Government’s Swimming Pool Register. For more details visit the Office of Local Government website.
From 29 April 2016 all properties in NSW with a swimming pool or spa pool cannot be sold or leased without a valid certificate of compliance or relevant occupation certificate. Visit the Swimming pools page on the Fair Trading website for more information.
Consider getting a geotechnical survey. It will show possible rock or unstable foundation soil that can increase costs dramatically. Some builders have geotechnical consultants, or alternatively the Association of Consulting Engineers can recommend one. Ask what the survey will cost before going ahead.
Before digging, find out if there are any underground cables on your pool site (Dial Before You Dig, phone 1100). Get a copy of your site plan from your local council or water authority.
The site plan will show the position of sewers, storm water, drainage systems and other utility pipes. Your pool cannot interfere with drainage systems or pipes – moving them will increase costs. Also be aware that the removal and disposal of rocks, and other materials can be very expensive.
Select an appropriate pool for your site. Consider maintenance and the right equipment to be used. Allow for future needs such as a shed, barbecue or clothes line.
Refer to your local council or private accredited certifier to determine who can approve your plans.
Also check legal requirements for a child-resistant barrier and tree preservation policies.
If power lines pass over or are close to your pool, you will need to contact Transgrid or your local electricity authority responsible for electricity line placements. The electricity authority must be satisfied your pool is a sufficient distance from power lines and won't interfere with maintenance work.
In choosing a pool builder, consider the following.
If the work costs more than $5,000 the person or company doing the work must hold a licence issued by NSW Fair Trading and be for building or swimming pool building. The name on the contract must be exactly the same as the name on the licence.
You can do an online licence check on the Fair Trading website to find out if your builder’s licence is valid and suitable for the work you want done. Alternatively, call 13 32 20 and a customer service officer will check the licence details for you.
It’s advisable to get quotes from at least three builders. For an accurate comparison, the quotes should include the same pool equipment and all works, including moving any service lines and disposing of excavated materials and building debris. Also consider the substantial costs associated with landscaping.
Inspect one or more pools built by your preferred builder and talk to the owners about their experiences working with the builder. This is an important step in choosing the pool builder that's right for you.
Your builder must give you an insurance certificate under the Home Building Compensation Fund for any pool where the contract price is over $20,000 or, if the contract price is not known, the reasonable market cost of the labour and materials involved is over $20,000, before you pay any money (including a deposit) and before work commences. This requirement also applies where a builder does work for an owner-builder.
The builder’s name shown on the insurance certificate should be exactly the same as that on the building contract and the builder’s licence.
Without insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund, you are not covered for defective or incomplete work should your builder die, become insolvent or disappear.
Policies issued after 19 May 2009 also cover you where your builder’s licence is suspended for failure to comply with a money order of a tribunal or court in your favour. Refer to the Home Building Compensation Fund page on the Fair Trading website for more information.
It is also strongly recommended that you sight current contract works and public liability insurance policies covering your own and neighbours’ properties. For your own protection, check that all the people you engage to undertake any part of your building project have the necessary insurances in place and that the certificates are current.
Refer to the Insurance page on the Fair Trading website for more information.
By law, your chosen builder or tradesperson must give you a written contract for all residential building work, including swimming pools, if
The maximum deposit that you can be asked to pay is 10% of the contract price.
If the work is required to be covered by insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund, it is illegal for the contractor to ask for a deposit or other payment under the contract, unless a valid certificate of insurance is given to you.
Note: The loss of any deposit paid by a homeowner that exceeds the legal limit will not be covered by the Home Building Compensation Fund insurance policy for the project.
Progress payments are usually made at specific stages of a project and should equate to the value of work done. Under no circumstances should you agree to pay for work that has not been performed or pay any money in excess of that required under the contract.
Note: The loss of any progress payment made by a home owner to a builder that exceeds the amount stipulated in the contract will not be covered by insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund.
An effective way of avoiding problems when your pool is being built is to develop and maintain positive communication with your builder or tradesperson.
You should always be business-like when dealing with your builder. This includes putting all messages or instructions in writing including variations to the contract which should be agreed by you in writing before they are carried out. These documents should be signed, dated and provided to the builder. Make sure you keep a copy of all correspondence.
If a dispute arises, NSW Fair Trading has a free dispute resolution process that may be able to assist you. For more information, refer to the Resolving building disputes page on the Fair Trading website.
In order to safeguard your position under your Home Building Compensation Fund insurance policy, you should immediately notify your insurer, in writing, of a loss (eg. financial loss or damage) on becoming aware of defective or incomplete work.
In the event that attempts to have work completed or rectified prove unsuccessful, you may be able to formally lodge a claim under your Home Building Compensation Fund insurance policy.
For more information about notifying your insurer of a loss or making a claim under the Home Building Compensation Fund, refer to the Home Building Compensation Fund insurance claims page on the Fair Trading website.
Be wary of builders who encourage you to become an owner-builder. This may be a way of passing on the responsibility for the project to you.
If you become an owner-builder, you will be taking on full legal and financial responsibility for the project and this step should not be taken lightly. You will be unable to take out insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund. For more information, refer to the page or publication titled Becoming an owner builder on the Fair Trading website.
Be aware that if you co-ordinate two or more contractors to build the pool (eg. excavator, concretor, plumber, tiler etc) and the work is valued at more than $10,000, you will need an owner-builder permit.
Also, be wary of builders who use several different contracts of under $20,000 for the one job. This may be their way of trying to avoid their insurance obligations under the Home Building Compensation Fund.
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