Pools and spas FAQs

Answers to your questions about swimming pool and spa safety, barriers and responsibilities.

The walls of an above-ground swimming pool or spa provide a barrier if they are at least 1.2 m high from the ground level, and do not have a surface that 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 pool ladder, pool filter and pump equipment, should be properly fenced.

No, you do not need a building permit to construct or install a relocatable or inflatable swimming pool or spa that can hold more than 300 mm of water, provided it is erected temporarily in an area enclosed by an approved barrier.

To install the safety barrier, you will need to obtain a building permit and have the barrier approved before installing the inflatable pool within the barrier.

The 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 building surveyor.

Inflatable or other temporarily erected relocatable pools and spas containing less than 300 mm of water do not require a building permit or a safety barrier. Young children should be actively supervised around these pools and we recommended that you empty these pools when not in use.

The regulations for swimming pool and spa barriers have changed over time. The VBA has developed three checklists (based on the relevant barrier standard associated with the date that the pool or spa was installed) and a self-assessment tool to help you check the safety of your barrier.

However, if you have any doubt about compliance, it is recommended that you engage a registered building surveyor or registered building inspector to help you determine whether your barrier is compliant.

Pool safety barriers installed from 1 May 2010 must not provide direct access from any building, such as a house or garage, into an outdoor pool area. For all swimming pools and spas constructed before 1 May 2010, or for which a building approval or building permit was issued before that date, a door that forms part of the safety barrier must be child-resistant, self-latching and self-closing. In the case of screen doors, it is recommended that these be of solid construction with a securely fitted mesh screen. The door must be kept closed and latched at all times, except when a person is using the door to enter or leave the pool area.

As the new owner, you are responsible for ensuring that the safety barrier is provided. You will need to get a building permit and either engage a registered builder to install a barrier that meets the current barrier regulations and standards, or become an owner-builder if you want to do the work yourself.

It is the property owner's responsibility to install the safety barrier. Contact the owner or their agent to request that a safety barrier be installed as a matter of urgency. However, as the occupier of the house you are responsible for ensuring that the barrier is operating effectively at all times.

The owner of the property must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the barrier is properly maintained.

No. Placing 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.

If you are replacing an existing safety barrier with a new barrier you will need to comply with the current regulations. This work will require a building permit.

You do not need a building permit if you are making repairs using similar materials as the current barrier. However, you will need to ensure that the repaired components of the barrier are compliant with the relevant standard.

This 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, they will have responsibility for installing the temporary safety barrier and maintaining the barrier while they are on-site. You may have responsibility for maintaining the barrier when the builder is off-site.

Discuss this with your builder, so that you are both clear on your responsibilities, and request a clause to be included in the building contract to clarify responsibilities.

Owner-builders are responsible for installing and maintaining the temporary barrier at all times until the permanent barrier is installed, as they are the ‘person in charge of building work’, and will be nominated as builder in the building permit.

Be wary if a builder asks you to sign an application for a building permit as an owner-builder if they will be doing the work. Telling the building surveyor that you intend to be the owner-builder when you have engaged a builder is false and misleading, and may expose you to potential penalties and significant risks.

This could include 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.

Homeowners 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.

Homeowners 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.

The owner must be given notice of the inspection and asked to give consent to allow access. We recommend that you allow access so that an inspection can take place and any safety issues can be resolved.

If you choose not to allow access, the council or VBA may use their enforcement powers 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.

The Building Act 1993 and the regulations prescribe fines that can be imposed on an owner or occupier who fails to comply with the swimming pool or spa regulations. Depending on the circumstances, fines can be several thousand dollars.

Local councils are responsible for enforcing the regulations. The VBA can also prosecute for breaches of the swimming pool and spa regulations. An example of non-compliance may be failing to install self-closing or self-latching devices, or failure to maintain your swimming pool or spa barrier so that it operates effectively at all times.