Safety and main­te­nance are es­sen­tial for claims to be met

Business Day - Home Front - - HOMEFRONT -

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.

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