WRITTEN BY BOB HUNT
Effective January 1, 2018, California law requires that when a permit is issued for the building or remodeling of a swimming pool or spa, that pool or spa must be equipped with at least two of seven specified safety devices. Moreover, home inspectors are now required to make note of the presence or absence of such devices.
Under state law, this will apply to any structure, in or above the ground, that is intended for swimming or recreational bathing and that has a water depth of at least 18 inches.
The legislative act that brought this new law about was Senate Bill 442 (Newman). It amends section 7195 of the Business and Professions Code and sections 115922 and 115925 of the Health and Safety Code.
The Senate Bill Analysis notes that drowning is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4. Additionally, for every drowning in this age group, five or more suffer from near-drowning injuries that can cause life-long disabilities.
In 1997, California’s Swimming Pool Safety Act went into effect. That law required that any single-family home pool built thereafter had to be equipped with at least one of the five following safety devices: (1) a permanent fence, of specified dimensions, that isolates the pool or spa from the home; (2) a pool cover meeting certain safety standards, (3) exit alarms on doors leading from the home to the pool, (4) self-closing, self-latching devices on doors leading from the home to the pool; or (5) any other safety device feature providing as much protection as the specified four and as verified by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
In 2006, the act was amended to include (6) removable mesh fencing that meets ASTM standards and a gate that is self-closing, self-latching and can accommodate a key lockable device, and (7) a pool alarm that sounds when someone or something of a certain size (determined by ASTM) enters the water.
The new law requires that any pool or spa built or remodeled after January 1, 2018 must have at least two of the specified safety features. The bill does not apply to any of the estimated million-plus pools that were built before 1997, unless they are to be remodeled. It also does not apply to public swimming pools, hot tubs with ASTM-approved locking covers, nor to apartment complexes or any residential setting other than a single-family home.
The bill also requires that, if a home inspection report is issued for a single-family home that has a pool or spa, “… the report shall identify which, if any, of the seven drowning prevention safety features [as listed] the pool or spa is equipped with and shall specifically state if the pool or spa has fewer than two of the listed drowning prevention safety features.”
The new law does not specify any penalty for a home inspector’s failure to include this information in his or her report. Nor does it make installation of any safety device a requirement of property transfer.
In 2016, an identical bill was vetoed by the Governor. In his veto message he wrote, “Nothing prevents a homeowner from adding as many additional safety features as they desire to their own pool. The choice on how to protect children is best left to parents.”