15 Jul2016“Two-year old found in neighbor’s pool identified.” “Toddler wanders away, nearly drowns in neighbors pool.” “Virginia Beach man tears down pool after toddler neighbor is found in it.” “Dearborn toddler dies after drowning in neighbor’s pool.” “Five year old drowns in neighbor’s pool.” These are all headlines from the past two months of this year. Owning a swimming pool in Tucson, AZ in the dead of summer is a real luxury, but it is also one that comes with grave legal responsibility. As the headlines suggest, in-ground pools are a hazard to everyone, and there is no telling when a child could accidentally fall in and drown. Because of the unfortunate number of children who have been victims of swimming pool drowning, Arizona has cracked down on pool owners and increased their legal obligation to their neighbors, their neighbors’ children, and their own families. Arizona’s Pool Requirements According to A.R.S. § 36-1681, Arizona homeowners with one or more children below the age of 6 must have a pool enclosure of a wall, fence, or other barrier surrounding their entire pool. The fence must be at least five feet high, and at least 20 inches from the edge of the pool. The openings in the fence cannot be greater than four inches other than at the doors and gates. All gates in the pool’s enclosure must open outward from the pool and be self-latching. The latch must be no lower than 54 inches from the ground, but it cannot be less than five inches from the top of the gate. However, if the locking mechanism is a padlock or other device requiring a key or code, the latch may be located at any height on the gate. While not specifically stated in the new code, the state of Arizona strongly recommends against leaving a pool gate propped open for people to come and go as they please, nor should they leave items around the gate which children can use to climb over it. What is the Pool Owner Liable For? It is the responsibility of the pool owner to act with reasonable care, and to do what any reasonable individual would do who owns a pool. Failure to act with reasonable care could result in a negligence suit should one of the neighbors, or even a guest, hurt him or herself as a result of improper security surrounding the pool or a failure to keep the pool area safe and free from hazards. A homeowner can keep their pool and the surrounding area safe and free from hazards by:
- Ensuring that all slippery surfaces surrounding the pool are covered in a non-slip material;
- Cleaning up puddles as soon as they are brought to their attention;
- Ensuring that the gate is closed and locked at all times when the pool is not in use;
- Ensuring that no scalable objects are near or against the fence when they are not around; and
- Covering the pool with a hard cover when not in use.