If you’ve ever tried to find out exactly what sort of fencing, signage and other swimming pool laws you needed to know about, you probably concluded that residential pool laws were confusing. You’re right. They are.
First, a disclaimer. We’re not legal experts and this blog is not intended as professional legal advice. However, Pool Troopers has been in the pool business since 1952. We know that our clients want to be sure they’re following the law and their pools are as safe as possible. Pool Troopers serves Florida, Texas, and Arizona, so this post concentrates on those states.
A Confusing Pyramid of Federal, State and Municipal Pool Laws
You can think of residential pool laws as a pyramid with several layers. This creates confusion. When you’re trying to find out the exact details on what laws apply to your pool, federal, state, county, city or town pool laws may disagree on specifics.
- Federal laws form the base of the pyramid, stating the underlying minimum standards required for public and residential pools. Public pools generally have more restrictions (specific signs that are required, for example) than are needed for residential pools.
- State laws form the next layer and are generally more restrictive in one area or another than federal laws.
- Counties impose their own pool laws if they decide federal and state laws need tightening up.
- City and town pool laws are at the top of the pyramid, adding further restrictions to pool laws.
A particular tragedy, such as a young child drowning in a pool, can spur legislators at any level to tighten laws in an attempt to prevent that particular circumstance from ever happening again. Lawsuits filed for any number of reasons can ultimately result in new rules and regulations.
Which Pool Laws Do You Need to Follow?
Generally, your pool needs to comply with the most restrictive law. For example, if your state mandates higher fencing than federal law requires, you need to follow the state law. If your county or town requires even higher fencing, then that’s what you’ll need to install. To be sure you’re complying with local laws, check with code enforcement, building inspectors or other local authorities.
Federal laws are detailed in the Safety Barrier Guidelines for Residential Pools. There’s a wealth of helpful information and pictures that make it easier to understand exactly what the state laws are requiring.
Legal Liability for Pool Owners
Liability for residential pools isn’t always as straightforward as it is for public and commercial pools. Pool laws are intended to protect swimmers, but can also protect pool owners.
If someone is injured or worse in the pool who wasn’t supposed to be on the property, the pool would probably be called an “attractive nuisance.” The owner of the pool could claim the injured person was a trespasser, a legal defense that typically doesn’t work well when applied to a young child.
Other legal issues could include inadequate supervision, willful or wanton misconduct and negligence. Not all accidents can be prevented. However, if something should happen, you’d want to be in full compliance with all applicable pool laws. Pool ownership, along with all the wonderful benefits and enjoyment, includes the potential for legal liability.
Homeowners insurance usually covers pools. Check your coverage. Insurance companies or agents may recommend:
- Increasing your personal liability limit to $300,000 or $500,000
- Adding a separate “umbrella policy” for up to $1 million; these are usually well worth the peace of mind they bring, often costing only $50 to $100 per year
It’s also worthwhile finding out if your policy covers pool damage from improper installation or weather. The pool’s manufacturer, installer or other contractors may be insured for such damage and cover all or part of your loss, but that isn’t always the case.
Arizona Residential Pool Laws
Arizona’s pool law is A.R.S. § 36-1681. The focus of the law is on protecting children aged six and younger who live in a home with a swimming pool. This applies to both homeowners and to anyone renting a home.
A wall, fence or other barrier must surround the pool area and applies to both above ground and inground pools. This law applies unless a local law has a different requirement.
The wall, fence or barrier must:
- Completely enclose the pool area
- Be at least 5 feet high
- Not have any openings more than 4 inches wide, except for gates or doors
- Not have any footholds, handholds, or openings that would allow someone on the outside of the fence to climb into the pool area – in other words, prevent a kid from climbing the fence to go swimming
- Be a minimum of 20 inches from the water/edge of the pool
If there is a gate in the fence enclosing the pool, the gate must:
- Be both self-latching and self-closing
- Open outward or away from the pool
The gate must have a latch that is located:
- At least 54 inches above the ground
- On the gate’s pool side
- With a release mechanism a minimum of 5 inches below the top of the gate
There shouldn’t be any opening larger than 1/2 inch within 2 feet of the release mechanism. There is one exception to these height restrictions. If the latch is secured with a key, an electric opener or something similar, the latch can be located at any height on the gate.
In Arizona, these requirements don’t apply if everyone living in the home is over six years old. However, if grandchildren or other young kids will be visiting, you’d want to be sure they’d be safe. There are other instances in which these laws don’t apply including irrigation canals, stock ponds, semi-public or public pools, some older pools or pools located in subdivisions or other areas with stricter requirements (you need to follow the stricter laws).
Florida Residential Pool Laws
The 2018 Florida Statutes include Chapter 515: Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act.
Requirements for residential swimming pools include:
1. A barrier for an inground pool that:
- Is at least 4 feet high
- Has no gaps, openings or anything else that would let a small child squeeze through, climb over, or crawl under to the pool area
- Goes around the pool and is separate from any other fence around the property (unless that barrier meets all of these restrictions)
- Is located far enough from the water so that if a child or frail senior who got through the barrier wouldn’t immediately fall into the water – the barrier must not be right at the edge of the pool
2. Above ground pools can use the structure of the pool or something mounted to the top of the pool as a barrier if the above requirements are met. Ladders etc. must be able to be locked or otherwise secured to prevent access to the pool.
3. Gates must:
- Open away from the pool
- Be self-closing
- Have a self-latching locking mechanism
- Have a release mechanism located on the gate’s pool side that a small child cannot reach
4. The home’s wall can be used as part of the barrier providing there are no doors or windows that someone could open and climb through to reach the pool area.
5. There must not be anything (such as a permanent structure like a shed or large equipment) that could be used to climb over the barrier into the pool area.
Texas Residential Pool Laws
Texas laws for residential pools are found in Chapter 757, Pool Yard Enclosures.
A barrier around a residential pool must:
- Be at least 4 feet high
- Enclose the entire pool
- Not be made from chain-link fencing
- Not have any openings or gaps larger than 4 inches wide
- Be self-closing and self-latching
- Be able to be locked with a keypad, combination lock, padlock or key card
Latches should be located on the inside of the upper fourth of the gate, preventing a child from easily opening the gate.
Alarm and other safety systems should:
- Be installed on all doors and windows that someone could open and crawl through to reach the pool area
- Sound off whenever a person goes into the pool
A bypass feature for the alarm must be installed sufficiently high on the wall so that a child couldn’t reach it.
Above ground pool ladders must be able to be locked, removed or secured whenever the pool isn’t being used.
Pool Troopers Believes in Pool Safety
Pool Troopers sincerely wishes all pool owners a safe, refreshing swim in pure, clean water. We hope this brief review of swimming pool laws has been helpful. Laws can change at any time, so we’ve provided links to the official sources. The very best way to prevent drownings is to ensure limited access to the pool area and to have a designated Pool Watcher paying attention only to the swimmers when they are in the water.
Please see our blog about our Pool Watcher Program and sign up to receive a free Pool Watcher badge and lanyard. This symbol should be explained to all adults at the pool and the Pool Watcher should be vigilant without interruptions of any kind.
Our business is maintaining pools to the highest level of professionalism. Whenever a Pool Troopers professional visits for swimming pool repair or maintenance, he or she is always extremely careful to ensure the gate is securely closed when leaving.
At Pool Troopers, there is never a contract. We also offer free use of our Salt Chlorine Generator. If you’ve never experienced the benefits of swimming in a salt water pool, you’ve got a treat in store.
To learn more, find your location and call our Customer Service Team today.