Ask the Architect

There are rules for a reason


Q. My neighbors are a royal pain. They don’t have anything better to do than watch everybody and complain. We knew it was them who reported us, because we put in a deck and a pool in June to be ready for a Fourth of July party, and didn’t get a permit because it takes too much time. We don’t have young children, the yard is fenced and safe and the deck is low to the ground, but we got a summons to appear in court and were told not to use our pool. Can we confirm they reported us, just get the permit, and pay a fine? They make such a big deal about a pool. You’d think they should be out catching murderers and drug dealers and leave us alone.

A. Your neighbors might be a royal pain if they descended from royalty, I guess, but consider what you did and try to understand the seriousness of what a pool, or any other type of construction, represents (if you have an open mind and can accept that you share a community with others). Building authorities are there to encourage and enforce public safety, so they’re not inclined to share information about how they found out about your pool. Doing so would discourage other citizens from questioning acts of danger. You may not like the 911 emergency service, either, which could someday save your life, but it’s there for the same reason.

Your pool, even in that enclosed yard, still requires safety measures to be taken and verified by a building inspector. After that, the rest is up to you. Every summer we hear about children, unaware as adults are, and the danger of a pool. You shouldn’t be so dismissive of the fact that you could be the next person who, unknowingly, places a child in danger. One death from drowning is one too many. Try to explain to the grieving parents of a child who had a promising life ahead that you meant to get that permit, that inspection, that one missing device that could have saved their child.

When looking for a house, more than 50 percent of potential buyers who have young children won’t even make an offer on a property with a pool. And not everything related to pool deaths is about drowning. Even without filters and heaters, pools pose a possible electrical danger — especially metal pools, due to the difference in electrical charge in molecules, just like walking across a carpet and getting a shock when you touch a doorknob. Pools require bonding and equipment grounding, which aren’t the same. Another lesser-known danger comes from inadvertent back-siphoning, when a hose left in a pool can draw tainted pool water back into the fresh water supply due to negative pressure caused by anything from flushing a water line nearby to pressure gaps in your house piping. An inspector, driving by, may have seen your pool, not your “royal” neighbor.

© 2017 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.