In late 2017, the California Legislature mandated that inspections of homes equipped with a pool MUST include an evaluation of specific safety features intended to reduce the risk of accidental drownings of children. This law took effect at the beginning of this year. The safety features include specific requirements for enclosures, removable fencing, pool covers, door exit alarms, self-closing and latching doors, and pool alarms.
However, during the course of my home inspections I am finding that few buyers, sellers, and even real estate professionals are aware this new law exists, much less have considered its ramifications.
On October 11, 2017 Governor Brown signed into law SB 442. The bill, known as the ‘Swimming Pool Safety Act’, mandates that (as part of the home inspection for the transfer of real property) an inspection of a single-family home with a swimming pool or spa must include a noninvasive physical examination of the pool or spa and dwelling for the purpose of identifying which, if any, of the 7 specified drowning prevention safety features the pool or spa is/are present.
The bill also requires that the home inspection report shall identify which, if any, of the seven drowning prevention safety features listed in subdivision (a) of Section 115922 of the Health and Safety Code 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.
This law effects only single-family homes – exceptions are public swimming pools, hot tubs or spas with locking safety covers that comply with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM F1346), apartment complexes, or any other residential setting (e.g., community pools controlled by an HOA) other than a single-family home.
The full text of SB 442 may be found here: Swimming Pool Safety Act
The seven safety features, the presence (or lack thereof) which the inspector MUST examine, are as follows:
(1) An enclosure that meets the requirements of Section 115923 and isolates the swimming pool or spa from the private single-family home.
(2) Removable mesh fencing that meets American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Specifications F2286 standards in conjunction with a gate that is self-closing and self-latching and can accommodate a key lockable device.
(3) An approved safety pool cover, as defined in subdivision (d) of Section 115921.
(4) Exit alarms on the private single-family home’s doors that provide direct access to the swimming pool or spa. The exit alarm may cause either an alarm noise or a verbal warning, such as a repeating notification that “the door to the pool is open.”
(5) A self-closing, self-latching device with a release mechanism placed no lower than 54 inches above the floor on the private single-family home’s doors providing direct access to the swimming pool or spa.
(6) An alarm that, when placed in a swimming pool or spa, will sound upon detection of accidental or unauthorized entrance into the water. The alarm shall meet and be independently certified to the ASTM Standard F2208 “Standard Safety Specification for Residential Pool Alarms,” which includes surface motion, pressure, sonar, laser, and infrared type alarms. A swimming protection alarm feature designed for individual use, including an alarm attached to a child that sounds when the child exceeds a certain distance or becomes submerged in water, is not a qualifying drowning prevention safety feature.
(7) Other means of protection, if the degree of protection afforded is equal to or greater than that afforded by any of the features set forth above and has been independently verified by an approved testing laboratory as meeting standards for those features established by the ASTM or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
How does this affect the sales of homes with pools or spas?
1) While there is no legislative requirement for making any safety repairs, listing agents and sellers should be prepared to expect buyers to demand considerations for homes that lack the safety features.
2) Many home inspectors are NOT familiar with the requirements listed in the multiple sections of the Health and Safety Code and/or the ASTM technical specifications described in the law, and do not have the background, experience and training to perform pool inspections. Thus they are not qualified to competently assess the seven safety features. Buyers of homes with pools or spas (and agents who provide names of inspectors to their clients) should carefully verify the qualifications of the inspector prior to booking.
3) The assessment of the safety features adds time to the inspection, and to the writing of the inspection report. Insurance costs for home inspectors will rise, too. Buyers and their agents should not be surprised by a rise in inspection fees. While, as of this writing, Golden Arrow Home Inspection has not raised inspection fees to cover these additional costs, many home inspectors have raised their fees.
Not a substitute for a full pool or spa inspection
Finally, keep in mind this is not a full pool or spa inspection. It does not include an inspection of the equipment, piping, decking, accessories, the pool itself, the electrical equipment, or (most importantly) the electrical bonding of the system.
I offer complete pool and spa inspections. Details can be found at: Golden Arrow Pool and Spa Inspections