Pool safety review raises concerns for renters

Victoria’s specialist tenancy advice service, Tenants Victoria, has raised significant issues as part of the Victorian Government’s review of pool and spa safety laws. The review proposes new local council registration requirements, more inspections and safety modifications.

The biggest issue identified was the widespread use of temporary pools during summer.

Existing law requires all pools and spas to have safety barriers such as fencing and gates that comply with building regulations. This means that even temporary pools are illegal without expensive safety fencing, creating safety risks and exposing renters to eviction.

New proposals would mean temporary pools in place for up to 3 days and holding up to 300mm of water would be exempt from registration with local councils.

“Making it easier for Victorian renters to use an inflatable pool to cool off in summer is a sensible move that will allow inspections to focus on areas of greater risk. Any changes to registration or safety requirements need to be accompanied by an active information campaign in a range of community languages to ensure all Victorians are informed.”

Gaps in current consumer laws also allow temporary pools to be sold in Victoria without information on how they can be safely and legally used. Every pool sold in Victoria should include information on local safety requirements.

Tenants Victoria also identified issues that could put an unfair burden on renters who have permanent pools on their properties.

This includes landlords disclosing safety information prior to renters signing a lease, the inclusion of pool and spa safety under urgent repair rules and the need for property owners to maintain spas, pools and compliant safety fences and gates. Many of these need to be included in new rental laws that will come into effect next year.

At present, renters are exposed to a number of risks due to the lack of clarity in existing laws and regulations or the lack of power of tenants. For example, even if a tenant reports a safety problem to their estate agent or landlord, it can be extremely difficult to get the landlord to repair a faulty pool safety gate or fence. This places renters and their children at risk.

Ms Beveridge welcomed the government review and ongoing efforts to improve safety.

“The reduction of deaths due to drowning in Victoria has been a significant public policy achievement. We now need to make sure our laws adequately protect the 1.5 million Victorians who rent their homes.”

More information: Submission on Building (Swimming Pool and Spa) Regulations 2019 (pdf, 426kb)