Better safe than sorry for unit block pools

Swimming pools, and the need to protect small children from their magnetic attraction, are a highly emotive topic.

As new national figures reveal an increase of almost 50 per cent in drowning deaths of toddlers in backyard pools, it seems incredible that even more parents have had to endure that particular heart-breaking, life-changing horror.

I mention this because one of the questions at the recent Flat Chat Live seminar was from an Owners Corporation whose building was an early adopter of pool safety measures; so early, in fact,  that their hitherto ‘safe’ pool is now no longer compliant with government regulations.

A council officer had inspected the fencing and gates and had demanded improvements that would run to tens of thousands of dollars that the owners corporation simply didn’t have in the bank.  What could and should they do?

Council officers are always going to look at the worst-case scenario because that’s their job.  Be that as it may, owners corporations have a legal duty to keep their residents and visitors safe from harm.

In other circumstances when building standards have changed after a building has been completed, generally speaking  it’s only when work is being done on the non-compliant part of the building that it has to be brought up to code.

But pool safety is more like fire regulations – the standards have to be met regardless of when the building was completed. There is a little leeway depending on the circumstances (and your state government) but the general thrust is to bring all domestic swimming pools up to scratch.

In Victoria the building regulations require owners of multi-storey apartments to have childproof safety barriers around swimming pools or spas.

In NSW, the Department of Local Government website says research on child drownings in backyard swimming pools shows that the most common contributing factors are inadequately fenced pools and human error (gates left open or fences not being properly maintained).

The NSW pool fencing laws standards vary depending on when the pool was built and where the pool is situated in relation to the home. Some of this information is particularly relevant to townhouses that are part of a strata scheme.

For pools built before August 1990, windows and doors may form part of the barrier as long as they are childproof. Pools built after August 1990 but before July 2010 must be surrounded by a fence that separates the pool from the dwelling. Pools built after July 1, 2010, must be surrounded by a fence that separates the pool from the house.


Under Queensland’s swimming pool safety laws all swimming pools have to be registered by November 30, 2015, in the meantime a pool safety certificate is required when selling, buying or leasing a property with its own pool.

Rental properties with their own pools must have a pool safety certificate before the lease is signed but there is a two year phase-in period to obtain a pool safety certificate for units and townhouses with a shared pool or spa.  The regulations are a little more complicated but you’ll find out more detail online.

Generally speaking, regardless of where in Australia you live, strata schemes need stricter observance of safety rules than houses because there are more people living there, more visitors and a greater turnover of residents who need to be educated on basics like not leaving pool gates open.

We also need to remember that owner’s corps’ liability for what happens on common property is unlimited.  If your Owners Corp is told your pool fencing isn’t safe but you and your neighbours decide not to fix it, then a child dies in the pool, your insurer might decide that’s culpable negligence and tear up your policy.

You and your neighbours could be left to face the financial consequences alone.  A million dollar settlement and the Owners Corp only has $50k in the bank? Tough! You might have to sell your home to pay your share of the compensation.

Better to find the money now to do what the council says. At the very least, you could be saving a child’s life and you can’t put a dollar value on that.


Article Sourced:

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