Manitoba backyard pool rentals increase, but could be breaking the rules: province

Apps that offer private swimming pool rentals became popular during the pandemic, but Manitobans who use these apps — like Swimply — may be breaking provincial regulations, and an insurance expert says it could cost them dearly.

Under provincial regulations, a public pool is defined as “a swimming pool being operated for use by the public or rented as a facility to a user group.” Once a private pool is rented out, it is then considered to be public and is subject to the same rules and regulations.

The province contacted Swimply users last year to remind them about the rules around private pool rentals, a provincial spokesperson said in a statement to Radio-Canada. The number of pools being privately rented in 2021 compared to this year is “quite an increase,” the spokesperson said.

Complaints from the public and neighbours about the rentals have also been received, the province said.

The province is currently monitoring the situation for compliance with the regulations, and they say property owners who do not comply may be ticketed up to $672.

Manitoba has not advised anyone other than Swimply users about the rules, and they say the same rules do not apply to AirBnB rentals since they do not fall under provincial pool regulations.

In a statement to CBC News, Swimply said the province has not been in contact with them yet and is targeting their users independently.

“It is Swimply’s position that the act of listing a personal, private pool via Swimply does not make it a public pool — in the same way that listing a residence with a pool via Airbnb or another short-term rental platform does not make that pool a public pool.”

Swimply said their app offers relief from public pools, and the provincial guidelines — written in 1997 — are outdated and ignore modern platforms like theirs.

Insurance and risks

“It’s important for people to understand the risk that they’re taking,” said Anne Marie Thomas, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada, in an interview with Radio-Canada.

Insurance companies often charge additional fees if someone has a pool that’s just being used by their family, Thomas said, which proves the additional liability that comes with swimming pools.

Homeowners who rent out their pools via apps like Swimply may unknowingly open the door to significant legal liabilities, and their insurance companies could void their contracts because of it, she said.

Meanwhile, a person who books a private pool and invites guests could find themselves in the middle of a lawsuit if something goes wrong, like an injury, and someone decides to sue, Thomas said.

While Swimply offers their hosts liability of up to a million dollars, Thomas said users of the app should not rely on that since it may not be enough depending on the situation.

Insurance companies can also refuse to defend those lawsuits because the pool rentals were not within their contract terms, according to Thomas.

“No longer is it a personal insurance policy with a family,” she said.

“Now the risk, meaning the home, is operating as a business, and it changes the risk and it changes the policy.”