Renting backyard swimming pools can be lucrative, but experts warn of the risks

CALGARY – Stephanie Sabela didn’t know what to expect when she first decided to list her backyard pool for rent on the popular online platform Swimply, Sabela, who lives on a five-acre property north of Toronto in King Township, saw an onli

CALGARY – Stephanie Sabela didn’t know what to expect when she first decided to rent out her backyard pool on the popular online platform, Swimply,

Sabela, who lives on a five-acre property north of Toronto in King Township, saw an ad online for Swimply in June. On a whim, she decided to advertise her saltwater pool – with access to lounge chairs, a barbecue, and pool toys – on the platform’s website.

“After a week and a half on the site, I had around 200 requests,” Sabela said. “I signed up for a lark. And then it was like a second job. I couldn’t keep up.”

Like Airbnb but for swimming pools, California-based Swimply offers a forum for “hosts” owners to rent their backyard oases on time. Sabela started charging $ 100 an hour at the site, and quickly increased it to $ 200 when she learned that townspeople tired by the pandemic would pay dearly for the chance to escape for an hour or so. two in a private corner of paradise.

“I have earned $ 10,000 since early June,” Sabela said. “So this is a serious play.”

Sabela’s experience is not unique, said Sonny Mayugba, vice president of growth for Swimply. While most of the forum’s hosts are located in the United States, Swimply has 500 registrations in Canada – and some of those pool owners generate significant revenues, Mayugba said.

“We’re seeing evidence that there are a lot of hosts that can be six digits long, no problem,” Mayugba said. “Right now we have hosts who are raising well over $ 100,000 for the season.”

But while renting a private pool can be lucrative, experts say anyone considering it – whether through Swimply or another platform – should think long and hard before they take the plunge.

Darcy Merkur, a personal injury attorney with Thomson Rogers in Toronto, said the million dollar liability protection offered to hosts by Swimply amounts to “peanuts” in the unlikely event that a pool rental would result in serious injury or death.

“If I was consulted by someone who was injured in a swimming pool, I would sue the owner,” Merkur said. “It doesn’t matter if they have a tight lease, we would absolutely involve the landlord… And those cases are often quantified in the $ 10 million range.”

On the Swimply platform, some hosts ask tenants to sign a waiver ostensibly releasing them from any liability. Merkur said waivers can help with a lawsuit, but they are not bulletproof.

“Lawyers like us bypass them all the time,” he said. “Renting your pool, as a side hobby, is not at all advisable from a liability standpoint.”

In addition to liability coverage, Swimply offers $ 10,000 in property damage protection in the event that a host’s pool or property is damaged. The company – which takes 15 percent of what hosts earn – will also direct hosts to local lifeguards or swim instructors for hire, if that’s something owners want for added peace of mind.

Mayugba said the protections offered by Swimply are comparable to those of other top hotel brands, although he acknowledged that a certain level of “personal responsibility” comes into play for users of the platform.

“To the host, we say ‘your pool, your rules’,” Mayugba said. “We recommend some things. The pool has to be safe, it has to be clean. The chemicals have to be okay … but there is a certain level of personal responsibility.”

It’s a philosophy Sabela agrees with. She has never asked guests to sign a waiver, and she rejects suggestions from friends that renting her pool to strangers may be unwise.

“I have looked at other people’s pool listings and see all kinds of disclaimers and warnings,” she said. “I don’t care about that, because I guess people know they’re responsible for their kids and stuff like that.”

Sabela said her experience so far with Swimply tenants has been universally good, with the exception of one guest who has brought in more people than expected. In fact, his main concern right now is not the risk of property damage or being sued, but not being able to keep up with demand.

“It’s been so incredibly popular that now I need more maintenance, I need more cleaning, I need more pool chemicals,” she said. “It disrupts our routine and our schedule because we always need to be home when there is a reservation. So it’s been great, but it also really intrudes on your life.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 19, 2021.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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