Ask a Lawyer – “My house has a swimming pool. Does this pose any legal risk to me, and what should I do to mitigate these risks?”

Swimming pools are impacted by the legal system primarily in two ways. First are the regulations that the province and your municipal government may impose. These would include, for example, zoning by-laws that restrict what kind of swimming pools can be constructed. Such regulations are enforced by government officials, and a typical penalty for breaching them is a fine. Secondly, you can be sued by another individual if they get injured in your pool. In this post, we will focus on this second aspect – how to minimize the risk of being sued because of a pool-related accident.

The area of law most applicable in this context is negligence. You are not obliged to absolutely guarantee the safety of people who come onto your property – that would be impossible. However, you are required to take steps to ensure that those who do come to your property are reasonably safe.

The first obvious risk swimming pools present is drowning. You are not obliged to supervise your guests when they are using the pool. However, you must take steps to prevent people from accidentally stumbling into your pool by fencing the pool area, or your property’s boundaries in general. You also should keep the water in the pool clear enough so that a person submerged into water can be easily seen from the outside.

The second major risk is diving. Nearly all swimming pools installed in private homes are not large enough or deep enough to allow for safe diving. Diving into such a pool creates a grave risk of catastrophic personal injury. Obviously, you should not dive into such a pool yourself, not encourage others to do so. In fact, you should place a conspicuous “no diving” or “shallow water” sign by the pool. That is the cheapest and easiest way to protect yourself from a lawsuit in case someone does dive into your pool and gets injured. At the same time, the mere fact that you built a structure (e.g. an elevated deck) which made diving possible does not make you liable, so long as pool users had been warned (e.g. by the “no diving” sign) that diving would be dangerous.

Finally, you should follow the administrative and municipal regulations that may be in place in your area – not just to avoid fines, but also because you are less likely to be found negligent in a civil case if you have followed the appropriate government regulations. This is so even though the administrative regulations and negligence law are separate legal areas and complying with one does not necessarily mean you are compliant with the other.

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