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Swimming pools and spas in Victoria must comply with the following requirements:

All swimming pools and spas with a depth of more than 300mm (30cm) must have a safety fence or barrier that meets the Australian Standard. This also applies to inflatable or relocatable pools and spas.

A swimming pool or spa and associated safety barriers can be constructed by a registered builder or by an owner-builder who has obtained a certificate of consent from the Building Practitioners Board.

A registered builder must be engaged under a written domestic building contract to carry out building work in excess of $5000 (including labour and materials) and an owner-builder must obtain a certificate of consent for work in excess of $12,000.

A building permit, issued by a registered building surveyor, must be obtained to construct a pool or spa, as well as the associated safety barriers. You can apply for a building permit through your local council's municipal building surveyor, or to a private building surveyor.

During construction, a temporary safety barrier must be in place and maintained to ensure it is in proper working order. Talk to your registered builder to agree on who will be installing and maintaining the temporary barrier, and later the permanent barrier, and ensure this is written into the contract.

All outdoor swimming pools and spas built since 1 May 2010 must not have direct access to the pool area via a door from a building, such as a house or a garage.

Swimming pool gates must be self-latching and self-closing, and should never be propped open. It is illegal to do this.

Safety barriers must not be installed near trees, barbeques or other structures that children can use to climb up and over to access the swimming pool or spa. Any objects that children might use to climb into the swimming pool or spa area, such as pot plants and chairs must be moved away from the barrier.

Once the pool or spa is built, it should not be used until a permanent safety barrier is installed and a certificate of final inspection is obtained from the relevant building surveyor.

You must have a building permit before you install a new pool or spa and safety barrier, start construction on a new pool, spa or barrier, or make alterations to a pool, spa or barrier (if not maintenance related). A pool or spa building permit must include details of the safety barrier and be issued as one permit. One building permit is required for the pool or spa and its safety barriers even if the builder engaged to construct or install the pool or spa is not going to also install the associated barriers.

Temporary inflatable pools or portable spas are exempt from requiring a permit each time they are erected. However, temporary inflatable pools or portable spas will still require a permanent compliant barrier for which a building permit is required.

A building permit is also required for installing and altering all swimming pool and spa safety barriers, including windows and gates that provide access to the pool or spa area.

The building permit must be issued by a registered building surveyor, either municipal or private building surveyor. A municipal building surveyor can be engaged by making contact with your local council. An application for a building permit must include details of the type and location of all barriers including latches, catches, self-closing and self-latching devices and fly screens.

Once the building work is completed the 'person in charge of the building work', as outlined in the building permit, must notify the relevant building surveyor who will do a final inspection of the completed swimming pool or spa and safety barriers. They need to be satisfied that the work has been built according to the building permit and the Regulations. At the final inspection the relevant building surveyor can ask for evidence of testing, or ask for tests to be done, to ensure the drainage system operates correctly, the barrier construction meets the structural design and that the gate operates properly.

Once your pool or spa is built, it should not be used until a permanent safety barrier is installed and a certificate of final inspection is obtained from the relevant building surveyor. This is the only way you can be assured that the pool/spa and safety barrier is compliant. If you don't comply, you risk the lives of family and friends and you may also be committing a breach of the Act which carries fines.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. If I have an above ground swimming pool or spa, do I need a safety barrier?

The walls of an above ground swimming pool or spa provide a barrier if they are at least 1.2 metres in height and do not have a surface which allows a child to gain a foothold and climb into the swimming pool or spa.

Any objects that could be climbable by a young child, such as a permanent pool ladder, pool filter and pump equipment should be properly fenced.

2. I have recently purchased a house where there is no safety barrier around the swimming pool or spa. Whose responsibility is it to install a fence?

As the new owner you are responsible for ensuring that the safety barrier is provided. If you own, or are purchasing a home with a swimming pool or spa, and are not sure if the swimming pool or spa safety barrier complies, check with a private or local council building surveyor.

3. I am renting a house where there is no safety barrier around the swimming pool or spa. Whose responsibility is it to install a fence?

It is the home-owner's responsibility to install the safety barrier. Make contact with your real estate agent to request that a safety barrier be installed as a matter of urgency. Do not use the pool until the safety barrier has been installed and you have received proof from the real estate agent that a building permit has been issued and the certificate of final inspection has been provided to the home-owner.

4. I have recently purchased a temporary inflatable swimming pool. Does it require a building permit and a safety barrier?

The construction or installation of temporary or inflatable pools and spas does not require a building permit. However, if they hold more than 30cm of water they must have appropriate safety barriers and a building permit is required before the construction or installation of the safety barrier can occur. The temporary or inflatable pool or spa should not be used until the safety barrier has been installed and a certificate of final inspection has been issued by the relevant building surveyor.

Temporary or inflatable pools and spas containing less than 30cm of water do not require a building permit or a safety barrier.

5. I am installing a new pool or spa and have decided to engage separate swimming pool and safety barrier installers. Whose responsibility is it to install and maintain the temporary safety barrier during construction?

The issue of who installs and maintains the safety barrier during construction depends on who (if anyone) is on-site and who has responsibility for the building work. If you are living on-site, and have engaged a builder to construct the pool then they will have responsibility for installing the temporary safety barrier and maintaining the barrier while they are on-site. You will have responsibility for maintaining the barrier when the builder is off-site. Discuss this with your builder so that you are both clear on responsibilities and request a clause to be included in the building contract.

In the case of owner-builders, they are responsible for installing and maintaining the temporary barrier until the permanent barrier is installed at all times, as they are the 'person in charge of building work' as outlined in the building permit.

6. What if I am engaging a builder and they ask me to be an owner-builder?

Be wary if a builder asks you to sign an application for a building permit as an owner-builder, even though they will be doing the work.  Telling the building surveyor that you intend to be the owner-builder when you have in fact engaged a builder is false and misleading and may expose you to offences and significant risks including the work not being covered by domestic building insurance, or being carried out by a builder who may not be registered and competent to do the work.

7. Can I use a door from my dwelling into the pool?

No. For safety barriers installed from 1 May 2010, direct access from any building into an outdoor pool area is not permitted.

8. I have recently installed a cover over my swimming pool or spa. Does it comply with the legislation as a safety barrier?

No. The placing of a cover or lid over the swimming pool or spa does not meet safety barrier regulations. You are required by law to provide a permanent safety barrier.

9. How do I know if the barrier around my swimming pool or spa complies with the law?

A private or local council building surveyor, or registered building inspector, can provide you with further written details of what is required for compliance usually on a fee-for-service basis.

10. A person claiming to be a building surveyor or inspector has recently visited my home requesting to inspect my pool or spa. Am I required to provide him with access to my home?

Home-owners are legally required to comply with the Regulations and standards for swimming pools and spas, including following the building permit process and obtaining a certificate of final inspection from a registered building surveyor at the end of construction. Home owners also have an ongoing obligation under the Regulations to maintain their pool or spa safety barriers so that they operate effectively at all times. To confirm that the swimming pool or spa and associated safety barriers are compliant, and that the correct building permit process has been followed, a municipal building surveyor, or a VBA building inspector, may request access to your property. You should be given notice of the inspection and/or asked to give consent to allow access. It is recommended that you allow access so that an inspection can occur and any safety issues can be resolved. If you choose not to allow access, the council or VBA may be able to seek a warrant from the Court to allow them to enter without your consent. Request to see the officer's identification and if you have any concerns contact your local council or the VBA on 1300 815 127 to confirm their identity.

11. What are the penalties for non-compliance?

The Building Act 1993 (the Act) and the Regulations prescribe substantial fines that can be imposed on an owner or occupier who fails to comply with the swimming pool or spa regulations. Local councils are responsible for enforcing the Regulations and can issue on-the-spot fines for certain breaches.  The VBA can also prosecute for breaches of the swimming pool and spa regulations. An example of non-compliance may be failure to install self-closing or self-latching devices, or a failure to maintain your swimming pool or spa barrier so that it operates effectively at all times. 

For further information, visit Victorian Building Authority and the Swimming Pool & Spa Association of Victoria's (SPASAV) websites.

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