Swimming pools and spas

Drowning in swimming pools is a significant cause of preventable death in children under five years of age. Pool owners must ensure that children are always properly supervised and are required by law to maintain the safety of their pool area.

If you are a pool owner, planning to build a pool or looking to buy, rent or sell a property with a pool you need to ensure you are aware of laws that apply.

Do swimming pool laws apply to me?

The Swimming Pools Act 1992 applies to swimming pools and spa pools that are located (or being built) on site with a residential building, movable dwelling or tourist and visitor accommodation.

If you are the owner of a property with a swimming pool or spa pool, these laws apply to you.

In a strata or community scheme, all of the lot owners jointly own any swimming pool or spa pool that is on common property. The owners corporation (or body corporate) is responsible for ensuring such pools are compliant with the Swimming Pools Act 1992.

The law applies to any excavation, structure or vessel - including swimming pools and spa pools - that are:

  • capable of being filled with water to a depth greater than 30cm, and
  • used, designed, manufactured or adapted for swimming, wading, paddling or any other human aquatic activity.

Registration

Pool owners must register their pools online on the NSW Government's Swimming Pool Register. Alternatively, you can pay a fee to your local council to do this on your behalf.

A certificate of registration will be issued to the pool owner. Go to the NSW Government's Swimming Pool Register website to check that your pool has been registered.

Fencing

Owners of properties with swimming pools must at all times:

  • ensure that pools are surrounded with a child-resistant safety barrier that separates the swimming pool(s) from any residential building and any place adjoining the property
  • keep closed the doors and gates that provide access to the swimming pool
  • ensure that fences surrounding pools are designed, constructed, installed and maintained to comply with the relevant Australian standards.

Visit the pool safety checklists page on the NSW Government’s Swimming Pool Register for more information.

Note that portable and inflatable pools that are capable of being filled to a depth of 30cm (300mm) or more must also be surrounded by a swimming pool safety barrier and meet the requirements listed above. Safety information about inflatable or portable pools is on the inflatable swimming pools page.

CPR Signage

In case of an emergency the law requires that you have a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) sign displayed near your pool.

You can buy a CPR sign from your local pool shop, council or community organisations such as St John Ambulance, the Australian Red Cross or Royal Life Saving. The sign must be in good condition and able to be read easily from 3 metres.

From 1 September 2019, new CPR signs come into effect. From this time, all new pools must use the updated signage. Owners of existing pools are not required to update their signage unless the pool is substantially altered or re-built.

Signage for pools under construction or renovation

From 1 March 2019, new signage requirements will apply to pools under construction. A sign must be displayed in a prominent position near the pool that states “this swimming pool is not to be occupied or used”. The sign must be displayed at all times while the pool is under construction and only removed once an occupation certificate has been issued for the pool, or once a certificate of compliance has been issued.

Certification

Owners who are renting or selling a property with a swimming pool or spa pool have additional obligations to meet.

When selling a property with a swimming pool or spa pool, you must ensure the contract for sale includes:

  • a Registration Certificate issued from the Swimming Pool Register
  • and

  • a valid swimming pool certificate of compliance, or
  • a relevant occupation certificate issued within the last 3 years, or
  • a valid certificate of non-compliance.

If you do not attach the certificates as required, the purchaser may be allowed to rescind the contract within 14 days of exchange, unless settlement has already occurred.

If a certificate of non-compliance is attached to the contract for sale, the vendor is transferring the obligation to obtain a certificate of compliance to the purchaser.

The purchaser will have 90 days from the date of settlement to rectify defects listed in the certificate of non-compliance and obtain a certificate of compliance.

This requirement does not apply to a lot in a strata scheme or in a community scheme if that strata or community scheme has more than two lots, or if the sales contract is for an off-the-plan property.

Renting a property with a swimming pool or spa pool

When a residential tenancy agreement is entered into for a property with a swimming pool or spa pool, the landlord or real estate agent must provide the tenant with a copy of the valid certificate of compliance or occupation certificate. A certificate of non-compliance must not be used where a residential tenancy agreement is proposed to be entered into at the property.

This requirement does not apply to a lot in a strata scheme or in a community scheme if that strata or community scheme has more than two lots. If you have any concerns about the actions of a real estate agent, contact Fair Trading.

How can I organise an inspection and obtain a certificate of compliance?

Local councils and certifiers accredited by the Building Professionals Board, who are part of NSW Fair Trading, can carry out a swimming pool barrier inspection. They can then issue a certificate of compliance if the swimming pool or spa pool meets all the safety requirements.

Pool owners should contact their local council or a private certifier early to allow time to organise a compliance inspection prior to renting or selling a property.

A swimming pool certificate of compliance is valid for three years from its date of issue. Go to the NSW Government's Swimming Pool Register website to check if a certificate of compliance has been issued.

Hazards and risks

Pool cleaning systems

There have been several incidents where children have become trapped in cleaning and skimming systems used in swimming pools.

The types of pool cleaning devices involved in these incidents have included:

  • potty-style skimmer boxes
  • in-floor cleaning systems using suction outlets that are located on the bottom of the pool.

All pool owners should:

  • prevent anyone using their pool, particularly children, from playing with or near any pool outlets
  • clearly label and know the location of the on/off switch for the pool filtration system
  • display an approved cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) sign in the pool area.

Electrical

Pools and electricity can be a lethal combination. Take extreme care if you have a swimming pool that has a portable electrical pump and filter system, particularly if it does not have protective housing.

When buying pools with electrical pumps and filters you should:

  • make sure the pump and filter have an electrical safety approval number or Regulatory Compliance Mark
  • check they are suitable for outdoor use
  • fit a safety switch to the house where the pool will be used
  • arrange for a licensed electrician to install a suitable weather-protected electrical power point close to where the pool equipment will be located, to avoid the use of extension cords.

If it is necessary to use flexible extension cords:

  • only use heavy duty cords and always roll them up and store them overnight or when not in use
  • do not join a number of extension cords together – purchase a single cord of the required length
  • make sure extension cords are not damaged by people walking or driving over them or by pets chewing on them
  • always remove the extension cords before mowing any lawn area near the pool.

Building a new pool

When building a new pool, you must:

  • obtain the required planning consent
  • use a builder who is licensed by Fair Trading
  • ensure that a principal certifying authority (council or private certifier) has been appointed to undertake critical stage inspections during construction
  • install child-resistant temporary fencing around the pool area while it is under construction
  • ensure that the permanent pool fence complies with the Building Code of Australia
  • arrange a final inspection by the principal certifying authority after the permanent compliant fence has been installed
  • not allow the pool to be used by anyone, until an occupation certificate has been issued by the principal certifying authority.
  • From 1 September 2019, erect and maintain signage stating that the pool is not to be used until an occupation certificate has been issued by the principal certifying authority.

Council responsibilities

In NSW, local councils are required to:

  • develop and implement a swimming pool barrier inspection program in consultation with their communities
  • inspect pools associated with moveable dwellings, tourist and visitor accommodation at three-year intervals
  • at the request of a pool owner, inspect a swimming pool or spa pool prior to the sale or lease of the property
  • issue either a certificate of compliance or non-compliance after an inspection
  • investigate complaints about breaches of the Swimming Pools Act 1992
  • where necessary, direct pool owners to take action to ensure that legislated pool barrier requirements are complied with
  • make publicly available a relevant extract of the Building Code of Australia, Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation Guideline and applicable Australian Standards
  • report annually on the number of pool inspections undertaken and the level of compliance with the requirements.

Any concerns about the regulatory actions of councils should be raised with the Office of Local Government

Private certifier responsibilities

The NSW Building Professionals Board, who are part of NSW Fair Trading, accredits professionals to inspect and certify private swimming pools under NSW swimming pool laws.

In NSW, accredited certifiers are required to:

  • at the request of a pool owner, inspect a swimming pool or spa pool prior to the sale or lease of the property
  • issue either a certificate of compliance or non-compliance after an inspection
  • provide written notice to owners and council when a pool does not comply.

New changes to the Building Professionals Regulation 2007 exclude A3 and E1 certifiers from being able to inspect and issue certificates for pool barriers that have undergone a performance solution pathway under the Building Code of Australia.

In addition to inspecting and certifying pools, certain authorised certifiers can also carry out minor works to make a pool compliant with the laws. If you have any concerns about the actions of a certifier, contact Fair Trading.

Product safety laws

There is a national product safety regulatory framework which generally applies to consumer goods, including those associated with swimming pools. This allows for safety standards to be developed and product bans or recalls to be issued.

These laws also impose general prohibitions on misrepresentations about products and the requirements for products to be fit for purpose. To raise concerns about products, contact Fair Trading.

Portable pools

All portable swimming pools are covered by a mandatory Standard: Consumer Goods (Portable Swimming Pools) Safety Standard 2013. Under this Standard, portable swimming pools and their packaging must carry warning messages to remind purchasers, pool owners, parents and others of their safety obligations in and around these pools.

Go to the inflatable swimming pools page or the Product Safety Australia website for safety information about inflatable or portable pools.

Need more information?

You can search the NSW Government's Swimming Pool Register to check if a pool has been registered and whether a certificate of compliance (valid for three years) has been issued.

Visit the Royal Life Saving NSW website or contact your local council for more information, fact sheets in other languages and water safety requirements.

Other resources

 
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