One North Shore homeowner who currently lives overseas, was recently devastated to discover that before she placed her property on the market, she had to spend many thousands of dollars making her backyard pool compliant with stringent new pool regulations.
Her predicament, like many others over the past few months who are selling or leasing homes has come “out of the blue”. She must obtain a certificateof compliance. a certificate of non-compliance or a relevant occupation certificate as per rigorous guidelines on the new NSW pool register.
The new regulations have been delayed several limos since the State Government released a legislation updated plan in 2012 to help curb backyard drownings.
This was a review of the Swimming Pool Act, which deals with requirements for child resistant safety barriers and many other measures. On average, six children drown In private swimming pools in NSW each year. Between 2007 and 2011, there were 40 pool related deaths in NSW. Of those that drowned 24 were male and 16 were female.
Evidence shows nearly all the tragic accidents happened in a swimming pool at the family home.
"I think everyone would support increased safety measures for home pools but the new legislation has been introduced in an atrocious way," North Shore real estate proprietor Robert Simeon tells North Shore Living.
"It's been an absolute can of worms - bureaucracy gone mad," he says. "All pools must be registered with local councils but only those being sold or immediately rented need a certificate.
There are approximately 10,000 registered pools in the Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby Council areas
• Over the past 10 years, 1,000 children in NSW have required hospital admission as a result on immersion in a backyard swimming pool
• Over this time, 60 children have drowned and 70 have suffered permanent neurological damage
• Home owners claim they are being given the wrong advice, costing thousands of dollars for renovations before they sell or lease properties
• Vendors are now required to fix a Certificate of Compliance or Non Compliance to sale agreements, outlining what needs to be fixed.
• Regulations include signs, barriers, walls. windows, gates, proximity to neighbours, fencing, latches, gaps and mesh
“But what is happening is that owners do not realise this, and they've been getting a pool assessment done and then have been slugged with massive costs and given 30 days to make their pools compliant.
“It has simply not been made clear to owners what they need to be doing and the procedures that should be followed. We have seen approximately 90 per cent of pools failing the new regulations.
“Many home owners I have spoken to have been given the wrong advice - they have spent money they did not need to and are incensed.”
Mr Simeon tells North Shore Living the correct procedure should be to arrange for a private certifier to properly assess what needs to be done. That way the costs can be maintained over time and not completed within 30 days, as is the case if the council send their own assessor.
“There is a big difference in the two scenarios,” he maintains.
According to the new swimming pool register, owners have many new safety standards to meet - not just adequate fencing. These include walls, fencing. barriers, landscaping. neighbour accessibility, glass, shrubbery, paving and more.
Chris Stephandellis from Australian Pool Compliance Services says the new bureaucratic changes have come as a rude shock to many.
“People are annoyed and dismayed when we advise what needs to be done to make their pools compliant with the new rules.” he says.
“There has been a lack of communication and owners have not been given prior warnings - and in some cases have been given just 30 days to spend thousands of dollars.
“Many don't have the money to do this straight away or they are retired or elderly homeowners. It's been very Stressful for them. I feel sorry for them, it's like dumping another huge lee and Impost on them.
“If people are selling their homes, they can be issued with a non-compliance certificate and then the incoming purchaser needs to complete the work within 90 days.”
He says if the home is being rented, the pool has to comply immediately. “Most simply do not do this on first inspection,” he states.
Introducing the legislation in April, Minister for Local Government, Paul Toole, says the changes are needed because of the devastating impact accidents and drownings have had on families.
"While there Is no substitute for vigilant adult supervision of children, this change will ensure that new and existing pool owners understand what they need to do to make their pools safe,” he says.
“This will also ensure that home buyers are fully informed before entering into a contract and can negotiate a purchase price that takes the cost of compliance into account.
Councils can issue fines to owners if they are found to be non-compliant.”
One North Shore pool maintenance operator has slammed the new regulations and their chaotic implementation as a "dog's breakfast".
“This could be the NSW Government's pink belts moment,” he acknowledges.
“There are many people who want to jump on the bandwagon of this legislation, including tradesmen and compliance officers. Homeowners need to seek out the good advice, otherwise it will cost them dearly.”
He says the QLD government gave homeowners up to five years to comply, adding, “The NSW government has Just dropped it on people and the council at short notice and with no extra resources. It's a recipe for disaster.”