Condominium and homeowners' associations that have a pool or spa should have a process in place to evaluate whether they are in compliance with recently enacted federal law relating to pools and spas, as well as municipal ordinances and the Association's rules and regulations which may set additional standards.
The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (the "Act") was enacted by Congress and signed by the President in late 2007. The goal of this legislation was to improve pool and spa safety by reducing the risk that powerful suction could trap a person underwater. The Act applies to all "public pools and spas" which term is defined by the Act to include pools and spas that are open exclusively to residents of residential real estate developments or other multi-family residential areas. Condominium and homeowners' associations are included within this general definition and, therefore, must comply with the Act's provisions.
The Act requires the installation of certain types of anti-entrapment drains and/or devices over pool and spa drains. The law also requires barriers to protect small children from gaining unsupervised access to a pool or spa. Seasonal pools and spas that are currently closed must be in compliance with the Act on the day that they reopen in 2009. Municipalities may also set their own standards, including chemical guidelines, inspections, record keeping, and equipment and fencing requirements.
A thorough inspection of the pool, the surrounding areas and all pool equipment should be done before opening each year and a record should be made and retained of that inspection. In order to deal with the myriad of legal and regulatory requirements relating to pools and spas, the Association may want to appoint a pool committee to be responsible for reviewing and updating the Association's rules, rule distribution, administering periodic inspections and overseeing the pool contractor. We recommend having a manual that dictates the responsibilities of the pool committee and/or board member liaison to the pool contractor. The Association should also consult with legal counsel periodically to ensure that their rules comply with the Fair Housing Act requirements relative to protected classes, such as handicapped persons or familial status.
Following these guidelines will hopefully lead to a safer and fun-filled summer.