Swimming Pools and Spas

Many homeowners consider an outdoor pool, spa, or hot tub to be the ultimate luxury. Despite the obvious benefits that come with these amenities, they also present a very real threat to the safety of your property and your liability as a homeowner.

While you have every right to buy a home with one of these fixtures or add one to the outside of your house, you should realize the risks that can come with it. You can lower your liability as a homeowner and protect your loved ones, guests, and others from harm by taking the appropriate measures to restrict access to your outdoor pool, spa, or hot tub.

Accidental Drownings

Accidental drownings account for the second leading cause of death of children age 14 and under. Children can drown in the smallest amounts of water. Along with swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas, they can fall and drown in containers like:

• buckets
• diaper pails
• bathtubs
• kiddie pools
• toilets

Moreover, an accidental drowning can happen in the smallest time frames, often within the time it takes to answer a phone call. The briefest amount of time that you take your attention away from a child can be all it takes for him or her to drown accidentally.

Because of how quickly an accidental drowning can take place, it is imperative that you take all necessary precautions to protect people who live in or visit your home. The measures to restrict access to your hot tub, spa, or pool measures also lower your liability as a homeowner so that you avoid legal and financial repercussions.

Fence

One of the most basic precautions you can take to make your pool, hot tub, or spa off limits to children involves putting up a fence around it. The fence should go above and beyond the normal chain link fencing that you erect around your backyard. It should be stronger, taller, and more difficult to breach, lowering the likelihood that children and unauthorized individuals will be able to get in to the pool, tub, or hot tub that it surrounds.

The standards for your pool fence, in fact, should be designed to discourage anyone who is not allowed into the area from attempting to breach the boundary. First, it should at minimum be five feet tall. This height makes it difficult for children to reach the top of the fence and climb over into the pool, hot tub, or spa.

Second, your fence should be erected so that it cannot be climbed. The materials should not be laid out horizontally, for example, because horizontal wood planks, bars, and other materials can be climbed easier than if they were laid out vertically.

Third, any spaces in the fencing should not be wider than four inches. Children can squeeze into spaces that are wider than four inches. To keep kids out, any spaces in the fence should be less than four inches in width.

Finally, the fencing should completely surround your pool, hot tub, or spa. It should not have any open areas where people can walk through and gain access to the swimming area.

Likewise, the fencing should be erected away from fixtures that can be used to climb over and breach the fence. You should make sure that the area is void of chairs, tables, playground equipment, boulders, and other items that kids can stand on to climb over the fence.

Alarm

Along with putting up a fence around your swimming pool, spa, or hot tub, you should also install an alarm system. An alarm in addition to a fence lowers your liability as a homeowner and also deters people from trying to gain access to the swimming area.

The alarm system that you install should feature a touchpad or switch that is placed at least 54 inches of the ground. This height ensures that children cannot access it to try and enter the code for getting into the swimming area.

Likewise, the alarm system should have a feature that automatically resets the alarm after the entry code has been used and the gate to the area has been opened. The alarm itself should only be deactivated for up to 15 seconds at a time, long enough for a single entry into the swimming area. These design features allow your alarm system lower your homeowner liability and make the pool, hot tub, or spa off limits to children and other unauthorized people.

Other Precautions

You can take several other measures to make your swimming area off limits to people and do your part to make your property safe from accidents and drownings. For starters, you can install gates with safety latches on the fence that guards your pool, spa, or hot tub.

The latches should be self-closing and self-latching and placed out of reach of children. These safety precautions make it more difficult for kids to open the gate and enter the area.

Second, the gates should open outwards instead of inward toward the water. Outward opening gates equipped with self-closing and self-latching mechanisms are more difficult for children to enter because they swing close and lock faster, often before a child can get through the gate.

Third, you should use a pool cover to keep the water out of sight and off limits to children and others. When kids cannot see the water, they may be less tempted to try to gain access to the pool, spa, or hot tub.

You can use a fabric or vinyl cover or one that is power operated. Power operated covers are more difficult to remove and also provide sturdier protection.

Fourth, you should install a phone in the swimming area and keep a list of emergency contact numbers nearby. You should also keep the address of the property near the phone so that anyone, even people who do not live there, can call for help.

Finally, you should always supervise anyone who is swimming in your pool or using your hot tub or spa. People of all ages and swimming skill levels can accidentally drown.

You never know when an accident might occur. You can keep everyone safe, respond immediately to emergencies, and lower your homeowner liability by supervising people as they swim in your pool or soak in your hot tub or spa.

If you are unsure of what your legal responsibilities as a homeowner and an owner of a pool, hot tub, or spa are in your state, you should consult with a lawyer who specializes in real estate and property laws. You can use the legal counsel given to you to improve the safety and integrity of your property and also minimize the risk of accidental drownings.

Taking a dip in the swimming pool or soaking in a hot tub or spa after a long day at work can be the ultimate homeowner luxury. As much as you may enjoy having these fixtures on your property, you also may worry about what kind of legal liability they present to you as well as what kind of harm they can pose to your loved ones and guests.

You can keep your swimming pool, spa, or hot tub off limits to children and others by taking some simple yet effective measures to safeguard the area. These precautions also lower the liability you face as a homeowner and make you less likely to suffer legal and financial repercussions because you own a pool, hot tub, or spa.