Ask the County Law Librarian – Swimming Pool Safety Laws
Q: I recently purchased a home in a nice, family-oriented neighborhood. My neighbors to the left of me have a large swimming pool, which their young children and the children’s friends frequently play in. I’ve noticed that the pool doesn’t have any sort of barrier around it. Isn’t there a law that states pools must have a surrounding fence to protect young children from an accidental drowning? If so, is it my duty to report them?
A: With summer upon us (finally!), it’s certainly true that pool owners should be especially vigilant in regard to pool safety measures for children. Laws and regulations concerning pool safety will vary depending on the state and county in which you reside, so be sure to conduct legal research in the appropriate jurisdiction.
In California, Section 115922 of the California Health & Safety Code requires that private pools built or remodeled after 1998 feature at least one of seven safety devices, specifically: an isolating enclosure or barrier; approved mesh fencing; an approved pool cover; an alarm on each house door that accesses the pool; a “pool-use” alarm that notifies the home owner when someone has entered the water; and any other device that offers equal to or greater protection than the previously listed features. Be sure to read the official code section for further details.
Counties and cities may impose further requirements, as long as those requirements do not conflict with state law. Section 15.64.070 of the Sacramento City Code, for example, requires that new or remodeled pools be enclosed by fences with self-latching gates. Homeowners that fail to take this precaution may be cited for an infraction, per section 9.16.090. To be thorough, consult both the city and county codes in your area: according to Chapter 16.18 of the Sacramento County Code, a violation of the County’s Swimming Pool Code (Chapter 16.36) could lead to a citation for nuisance.
Keep in mind that many current “swimming pool laws” were enacted fairly recently and may apply only to new or remodeled pools. Your neighbor’s pool may not be subject to these requirements, so it’s best to gather all the facts before acting. If you live within the city limits of Sacramento, believe your neighbor’s swimming pool to be in violation of the city code, and would like to report it, you can file an online Code Violation Complaint or call 311.
For more information on pool safety requirements, precautions, and helpful resources, you can read the Sacramento County Public Law Library’s Everyday Law article on Swimming Pools, or visit the California Department of Public Health’s “Safety Guide for Home Swimming Pools and Spas.”
Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.