Safety and maintenance are essential for claims to be met
WITH summer around the corner, home owners often only begin to look at their swimming pools now and realise that they may have neglected maintenance during the colder winter months. The fact is that having a swimming pool requires all-year-round maintenance or the home owner may risk having a claim rejected if the damage is determined to be the result of neglect.
It is important for home owners to realise that when it comes to swimming pools, only damage considered sudden and unforeseen will be covered by their insurance policy, provided that they have included the proper value of the swimming pool in their home insurance policy.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to home insurance cover is anything deemed to be wear and tear, or maintenance related, is never covered in the insurance policy. It is up to the insured to ensure that the condition of the property, including all building structures — from swimming pools and jacuzzis to garages and other outbuildings — is well maintained.
Claims for the discolouration of the swimming pool lining will usually not be covered as this is a gradual process that happens over a period of time. However, if the claim is due to the pool pump being struck by lightning or a tree falls into the pool after a bad storm, breaking the pool walls, then the claim is more likely to be covered.
Due to the requirement for regular swimming pool maintenance it is a good idea to consider using good-quality pool lining materials that are less costly or time-consuming to maintain.
It is recommended that pool owners clean their pools thoroughly at least once a week with brushing, removal of leaves, back-washing and adding the appropriate chemicals such as chlorine or algaecide if needed. Acid levels should also be checked once a week as the water chemistry must be correct in order for chemicals to be most effective.
It is also advisable if you are considering building your own pool on your property to engage the services of knowledgeable pool dealers who only work with quality installers and reputable manufacturers.
Home owners should also ensure that the pool pump is included under mechanical and electrical cover within their home owner’s policy.
Many consumers also have the misconception that having a swimming pool on a property can result in higher insurance premiums. However, this is not the case. A swimming pool is considered as part of the building structure of the house and is not used as a rating factor when determining insurance premiums. However, if the home owner elects to take a higher excess, this should result in a reduction in the premium.
The more you are prepared to pay up front on a potential claim, the lower the premium in the long run.
However, it is important to note when taking out your insurance policy that if the property is considered a high risk area for subsidence or landslip, which can result in cracking in the walls of the home or swimming pool, most standard insurance policies will exclude damage caused to swimming pools. If your property is located in a high risk area it is a good idea to speak to your financial adviser and request to extend the policy to include the cover if it is not already part of the policy.
Swimming pools and pumps, like most items, will need to be replaced and upgraded over time, so it is a good idea to keep your pool and other building structures in good condition and discuss any queries or concerns about the insurance of your swimming pool with your financial adviser.
On a legal note, home owners need to be made aware that there are two types of cover under building insurance policies. The first covers the actual damage of the structure, while the second is legal liability cover, when home owners protect themselves legally against something happening to guests, trespassers and/or their tangible property on the insured property.
Currently, the owner of the pool is held accountable under South African law of delict in the event of a drowning incident.
South Africa’s civil liability laws mean a civil claim can be instituted against a pool owner for any damage suffered as a result of drowning, whether fatal or not.
Internationally, pool safety laws are very strict and South Africa is following this trend. A draft bylaw for the safe-guarding of swimming pools has been proposed to the City of Johannesburg, which is legislation based purely around the safety-proofing of swimming pools.
The new bylaw aims to regulate access to swimming pools and are intended to protect members of the public from drowning. Following the promulgation of the bylaw, anyone who wants to have a pool installed on their property must apply to the council for approval, and all pools must adhere to the strict rules according to the bylaw. Those who have pools in their property already will have two years to notify the council about the existence of their pools following the promulgation.
According to the bylaw, all pools will then have to be safeguarded in terms of the regulations. This means that all swimming pools must be maintained and fenced off and children should not be able to climb over the fence. All outdoor pools will be required to have a pool cover or must be fitted with a floating pool alarm when the pool is not in use.
If home owners with swimming pools do not comply with the statute in the proposed bylaw they can face criminal charges such as fines or even imprisonment. Additionally, the insurance policy will not cover the home owner if they have not complied with the new bylaw, which could potentially be a huge financial loss if the home owner is found guilty of negligence.