Manitobans renting out backyard pools unknowingly breaking provincial rules

Click to play video: 'The rules of renting private pools'
The rules of renting private pools
Many Manitobans are renting their backyard pools through apps like Swimply, a business venture that's seen high demand for some during the pandemic. However, many are unknowingly breaking rules set out by the province. Global's Rosanna Hempel explains – Jul 27, 2022

Private swimming pool rentals jumped in popularity during the pandemic. But some renting out their backyard swimming holes through apps like Swimply are unknowingly breaking provincial regulations — raising questions about how the company and the province are communicating rules with the public.

The province says private pools are considered public as soon as they’re rented out.

Under The Public Health Act, owners are required to get a permit from a health inspector and provide a lifeguard, among other things, just like City of Winnipeg and YMCA pools.

But the province hasn’t inspected any private pools up for rent, a spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

“A commercial pool requires washrooms, showers, lifeguarding, lighting, etc., and it is likely too costly for the residential pool owner to modify or upgrade their pool,” the statement said.

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A Manitoba man who uses the Swimply app to rent out his pool said he was surprised to learn there were strict provincial guidelines.

Global News has agreed not to name the man for fear of retribution.

“I was completely unaware of this, and I run my my pool very safely here,” he said Wednesday.

“I have a meeting with the people when they arrive, and I tell them about all the safety regulations. There’s no alcohol allowed. It’s just a family-run thing.”

Some newer hosts who signed up this year told Global News they’ve been fairly booked up this summer.

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Backyard pool safety

As of Wednesday morning, at least 16 pools were listed as available for rent on Swimply in the Winnipeg area.

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Global News hasn’t heard back from Swimply after numerous requests since Tuesday.

Last year, Swimply told Global News its user agreement stipulates hosts must follow local rules. Global News asked for more clarification on how the company is informing those listing their pools, but it didn’t comment before publication.

On Tuesday, the province said it recently notified Swimply users by mail about the need to comply with regulations, but the hosts Global News spoke with said they hadn’t received a letter yet.

On Wednesday, a provincial spokesperson didn’t answer questions about enforcement, but said the same rules wouldn’t apply to AirBnB rentals because they don’t fall under pool regulations.

“They are private homes, and as such, swimming pools and whirlpools at these homes are not regulated by the Swimming Pools And Other Water Recreational Facilities Regulation (MR 132/97),” they said.

The man Global News interviewed said he was disappointed because the app gave him an opportunity to connect with others.

“I never signed on to have an illegal operation,” he said. “I’m just doing this for fun, and I’ve met about a dozen really nice families.”

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National Drowning Prevention Week

Winnipeg insurance lawyer Stuart Blake told Global News if it were his pool, he wouldn’t rent it out.

“Whenever you’re renting your pool out to a third party, it brings into the equation a magnitude of personal liability issues,” Blake said Tuesday.

“If someone is injured in your pool while swimming — whether they drowned, whether they have a severe injury — a lawsuit may ensue.”

Even though Swimply covers up to $1 million for general liability claims along with property protection, Blake strongly recommends looking at the policy carefully.

“All of these insurance policies certainly have restrictions, both in limits of coverage and also exclusions within the policies, and so if an outfit offers you host liability insurance for, say, a limit of $1 million, that may sound like it’s sufficient, but in reality, it’s not.”

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Blake warns claims involving an injured person can greatly exceed that amount.

— with files from Corey Callaghan

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