It is that time of year again where a light dip in your backyard swimming pool is a welcome relief from the warm summer days. The swimming pool is a feature of many Australian homes, so chances are if you are looking to purchase a property, you may be purchasing one with a swimming pool. But how do you know if the swimming pool in your property complies with the current legislation in the ACT?

The first question to ask is whether the structure on the property is classified as being a swimming pool and subject to the relevant rules and regulations. The Building (General) Regulation 2008 provides that any structure that can be filled with water to a depth of greater than 300mm and used principally for swimming, wading, paddling or any other human aquatic activity will be deemed a swimming pool. While the bath in your bathroom also fits this description, rest assured it is not classified as a swimming pool and will not require a barrier, but a bathing or wading pool or a spa will.

The second question to ask is: when was the swimming pool built? The ACT does not have a standardised set of rules and requirements relating to swimming pools because the laws in place do not apply retrospectively. For example, if you are purchasing a property where the swimming pool was built prior to 1970, it is unlikely that there would be a fence or barrier in place as there were no requirements to do so. If a property is purchased where the swimming pool was installed after this date a fence/barrier will be required, however such barriers will not be required to be constructed to a standard that meets the current rules and regulations. There are also currently no rules or requirements for the owner of a property to upgrade their swimming pool to comply with the current legislation unless they make a substantial change to the structure (i.e. if you wanted to replace or erect a swimming pool fence, the new fence must comply with the current legislation).

If a swimming pool was constructed from 2010 onwards the rules noted above will not apply. The swimming pool must be constructed in accordance with the rules and regulations made under the Building Code of Australia which are as follows:

1. It must have a safety barrier in place that meets the requirements of Australian Standard 1926.1;
2. It must have a reticulation system in place that meets the requirements of Australian Standard 1926.3;
3. It must have an egress installed in the form of ladders, steps in the floor of a pool or a ramp; and
4. It must be capable of being completely emptied.

When purchasing a property, regardless of when the swimming pool was built, it is important to check that a Certificate of Occupancy and Use has been issued. As a swimming pool is classified as a class 10b structure it will not require development approval, meaning that it is not subject to strict design requirements. It will however, require building approval. To confirm that a swimming pool has building approval, a Certificate of Occupancy and Use will be issued and available for inspection on the building file. If a Certificate of Occupancy and Use is not issued, then the swimming pool will not be deemed compliant with the rules and regulations in place at the time the swimming pool was constructed. Purchasers of non-compliant swimming pools will therefore need to factor in additional costs for their purchase as there are no obligations on the Seller of a property with a swimming pool in ACT to make the swimming pool compliant.

There are current reviews of the legislation which would see all swimming pools comply with a standardised set of rules and regulations, similar to the laws in place in NSW. Such changes would put the burden on a Seller to ensure that the swimming pool was compliant at the time of sale. However, unless and until such changes are made to the legislation, no obligation on the seller exists, and buyers of property with a swimming pool must make sure that they carry out their proper due diligence.