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Sharing swimming pools

| fractional rent | October 24, 2011

Sharing swimming pools seems an obvious thing to do: they are expensive to build and maintain, and most people use them at most once a day. But few people consider sharing

Around Norwich in Norfolk, there are about six “timeshare” pools as they are known, where people can rent sole use of a pool for half an hour or an hour every week. This is a true form of fractional rental. There must be shared pools elsewhere, but there is no obvious evidence of them on the web. We have template contracts to help owners if they want to set up a timeshare pool.

How can private swimming pools be shared?

As with most assets, there are two main ways of sharing swimming pools: fractional rental and fractional ownership.

Fractional rental is more common as private swimming pools are usually part of the house and grounds of a private house and the owner will not want joint ownership of part of their property.

Another route to sharing is for a group of people to get together to pay for a new swimming pool at one of the partners’ property. Usually partners are in fact buying the right to use the pool for part of the time for a given time, maybe five, eight, ten or fifteen years. The swimming pool always belongs to the owner of the land and after the agreed time, the partners have no further right to use the pool. So although this can be confused with “fractional ownership” it is really fractional rental where a lump sum of rent is paid in advance. There are often monthly “maintenance” payments throughout the period of right to use the pool.

Fractional ownership means a group of people get together to own a pool jointly. In practice this is rare unless the same group of people also joint own the property associated with the pool

How is the time allocated?

How the time is split depends upon how the pool owner wants to operate the sharing arrangements.

  • to maximise income
  • or to generate some income from a small group of like-minded people

For example to maximise income, the timeslots can be split into half hour periods, with each half hour slot rented every week for (say) three, six or twelve months at a time.

If the periods are longer than about three hours, then the potential income is unlikely to be as great. However the owner may prefer to select a smaller group of like-minded people to use their pool. Other possible timings are morning/afternoon/evenings, half days or whole days every week. It could even be a day every other week.

There are also some times that will inevitably be more popular than others: usually this is early mornings (before work), late afternoons (children after school) and weekends (families), so these slots are usually more expensive.

What rules and regulations apply ?

Water quality is the most important issue for the owner. The owner can make the swimmer responsible for nearly everything else on the basis that it is a private and not a public swimming pool. But if the water is so dirty or so full of chemicals that it makes someone ill or kills them, then this is definitely going to be the owners fault. The owners need to ensure that they are insured adequately for this.

The owner also has to comply with any other requirements of their insurers, the swimming pool equipment manufacturers, and any local legislation for buildings that are open to the public.

This is likely to include issues such as, but not limited to: air-conditioning, water treatment, cleaning, safety regulations, escape routes, emergency lighting, and lifebuoys.

Any building work is likely to require planning permission and there may be a change of use requirement for planning permission. Speak to your local planning department.

I have a jacuzzi: can swimmers use this too?

Maintaining the water quality in a jacuzzi at safe levels is notoriously difficult. Jacuzzis for private use are effectively rarely used and a relatively low number of water changes per hour is acceptable. But if the number of users per day is more than the average pool used by a single family, the number of water changes per hour has to increase. Most jacuzzis sold for private use are not designed for many water changes per hour. The greater number of water changes is required to prevent the build-up of bacteria caused by several people sitting in a relatively small amount of water for long periods, with a water temperature that is perfect for rapidly breeding bacteria.

yours2share recommends that owners take specialist advice from their insurers and jacuzzi manufacturers if they wish to make their jacuzzi available to swimmers. If owners are in any doubt, yours2share strongly recommends that the jacuzzi is not made available to swimmers.

Is my insurance affected?

Yes, and you may need different insurers. yours2share recommends that you speak to your insurers as soon as you consider renting your pool. If you are considering building a private pool that you will also rent out, or if you are considering renovations to enable the pool to be rented out, speak to your insurers at the earliest opportunity and well before any building work begins.

How is entrance to the pool managed?

This depends very much upon the layout of the house and pool, but in general a separate entrance and separate parking area for swimmers is strongly recommended. This allows the owner to have minimal involvement in the arrival and departure of swimmers, which is much easier to manage. Many timeshare pools have a simple keypad door entry system.

If the entrance has to be through the house, the owner has to decide if they are going to be present at all times, or whether all your swimmers will be trusted with a key. They need to consider if swimmers can be prevented from accessing the other areas of the house, maybe by locking doors between the areas. This will affect the owner’s household and swimming pool insurance.

Can we manage with only one changing area?

This depends upon how the time is split. If there are shorter time periods, half an hour, one hour, or two hours, where the swimmers from one session are changing at the same time as other swimmers are in the pool, then two separate changing areas are essential. This can simply be two sets of changing cubicles/areas leading to the same showers and toilets. The two sets of changing cubicles can be marked (say) “On the hour” and “On the half hour”.

If the time periods are three hours or longer, then the swimmers may not need to “overlap” and only one set of changing cubicles may be necessary.

The number of cubicles depends upon the maximum number of swimmers. A common maximum is eight swimmers and then at least four cubicles are required for each set of swimmers, or maybe two cubicles plus a larger associated changing area for each group of swimmers.

At least one shower and one toilet are required.

How do swimmers get help in an emergency?

There must be a telephone in the pool area for use in an emergency.

Can swimmers change their times?

This is the owner’s decision. It is easy to say that swimmers cannot vary their times. However swimmers buying a time slot for a year may need to change their times permanently due to a change in circumstances and would expect to be able to do this, whilst understanding that there may not be suitable times available.

Owners may also allow people to rent time slots on a one-off basis and if so, they benefit from swimmers telling them if they are not using their slot and also from swimmers being able to move their times if another time is available.

Does my pool need to be suitable for use by the disabled?

No, because it is a private swimming pool. However, disabled groups are good potential clients for private swimming pools. So owners may choose to ensure the pool meets the necessary requirements for disabled use.

What other things might I need to consider?

Different shared pools have different rules and provide different services. These generally reflect the owner’s personal preferences.

Owners may wish to provide hairdryer(s) and/or spin dryers for bathing suits.

Owners may want to have rules which:

  • require bathing caps to be worn
  • require a shower before swimming
  • require people to arrive no more than (say) 15 minutes before their allotted time and leave no more than (say) 15 minutes afterwards
  • ban the use of talc

Am I liable if people get into difficulties?

Owners must ensure that swimmers fully understand that it is a private swimming pool, with no life guard, and that swimmers are responsible for themselves.

Therefore the owner needs to have a written agreement with the swimmer that states that the swimmer is responsible for their own safety. Other sensible statements that should be included in this agreement include stating that:

  • no-one swims alone
  • the maximum number of people allowed in the pool at any one time (including children and babies))
  • at least two people must be able-bodied and capable of running to raise help in an emergency
  • at least two people must be able to swim at least a length and over a certain age (say thirteen)
  • at least one of the people able to swim is an adult
  • no adult may be responsible for more than two children or babies, and the adult must be able to swim at least a length

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