Alex lay on a green and white striped beach towel, enjoying the warmth of the late afternoon sun and flipping through the crinkled pages of a well-loved book. Nearby, the remnants of a cheese plate, a broad-brimmed hat and a cup of iced water (complete with eco-friendly reusable straw!) are scattered across the sandstone tiles that run down to the edge of the pool. The clang of pots and pans coming from the kitchen is a tell-tale sign that, inside, someone is busily starting to prepare dinner.
‘Heads up – watch out!’ yells Alex’s brother. Alex looks up and sees a brightly coloured beach ball fly through the air and drop into the water, floating on the surface near the edge. Alex wanders over and stretches an arm out to reach the beachball but can’t quite stretch far enough to grasp it. Alex overbalances.
Alex is two years old and hasn’t yet learned how to swim independently.
Swimming pool compliance is a crucial issue for all of us, including homeowners and prospective homeowners. In the past 25 years, almost 1000 children under the age of 5 have drowned. Tweens, teens and adults are certainly not immune to the dangers that can lurk in a suburban backyard if the proper precautions aren’t taken.
The issue is so significant that, in an attempt to maximise the number of safe swimming pools in our state, the NSW government now requires every property being sold with a pool or spa to have a Certificate of Compliance or Certificate of Non-Compliance in the contract of sale.
That’s right – you can’t even advertise your property for sale without one, and if you don’t include one, the purchaser can rescind the contract within 14 days of exchange and walk away.
What are the requirements to be compliant?
The requirements vary, depending on the type of pool or spa on the property, but examples of the requirements are:
- a latch on the gate that is at least 150cm from the ground,
- a gate that, once it swings shut, can’t be opened again without using the latch, and
- a fence at least 120cm high all the way around the pool.
You can find all the checklists here: https://www.swimmingpoolregister.nsw.gov.au/checklists
How do I get a Certificate for my pool or spa?
You’ll need to have your pool or spa inspected by a licensed pool inspector, either by booking an appointment through your local Council, or organising for a private inspector to come to your property.
You can usually arrange an inspection by a private inspector sooner if you’re in a rush to get your property on the market.
The inspector will go through the relevant checklist of safety issues, like the ones linked above.
Once they have completed the inspection, they will produce a report and register the Certificate to a centralised online database.
How much will an inspection cost?
Around $150-$300, depending on whether the inspector is Council based or private.
What if the pool or spa on the property I’m interested in isn’t compliant?
If a Certificate of Non-Compliance is attached to the contract of sale, the purchaser takes on the obligation to obtain a Certificate of Compliance. Purchasers will have 90 days from settlement to rectify the defects listed in the Certificate of Non-Compliance and obtain a Certificate of Compliance.
So beware if you’re looking at a property with a Certificate of Non-Compliance – it could add costs to your purchase if you need to replace fencing, for example.
So back to Alex.
Thankfully, when Alex’s family bought their home, the Contract of Sale had included a Certificate of Compliance.
When Alex overbalanced, she fell into the secure fence that runs around the perimeter of the swimming pool. She frowned and rubbed her shoulder where it made contact with the fence. Then she picked herself up and toddled inside to see what was for dinner.
 Peden AE, Mahony A (2018) Trends in Child Drowning Over The Last 25 Years. Royal Life Saving Society – Australia, Sydney Australia.