A Landlord’s Guide to Swimming Pool Maintenance and Liability

Last updated on April 28, 2017 by

Pool MaintenancePools require a surprising amount of maintenance, so if a pool is part of your rental property, it’s important to know who’s in charge of maintenance.

It’s not just about whether the pool looks good, it’s about hygiene and safety. Landlords should consider these issues carefully before handing over the keys.

What Can Go Wrong?

A poorly maintained pool creates liabilities for the landlord and can make the property on which it’s located a less desirable place to live. It can affect children, neighbors, and renters alike.

1. Drowning Accidents

When it comes to small children, an open pit full of water can be an accident waiting to happen. According to a 2013 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 390 children drown in swimming pools or spas every year. In fact, drowning is the number one cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Most communities require childproof fencing with a locking gate. This fencing isn’t just for kids; it prevents unauthorized access by guests and trespassers. Even someone unauthorized to swim in the pool can potentially sue the property owner in the event of an accident, so it’s obviously in the landlord’s best interest to keep this fence in good repair and make sure it stays locked when the pool isn’t being used.

2. Health Hazards

As chlorine levels fall, algae and other organisms turn the water a sickly green color. Filtration system failure can also cause this. Once algae have become established, the pool may have to be drained and refilled before it’s safe for swimming. Dirty water affects pool usability, and it can become a liability for the landlord if children and pets can access the water and get sick as a result.

3. A Huge Eyesore

A swimming pool full of brackish water is a terrible eyesore, which interferes with enjoyment of the yard. Who wants to attend a summer barbecue party next to a disgusting pool?

What’s Involved with Pool Maintenance?

Keeping the pool water clean and refreshingly blue is serious business. Someone has to test the water and add chemicals as needed. Moreover, someone has to physically remove debris, such as leaves and branches, and monitor the filtration and heating systems. Pool maintenance also involves ensuring that the pool decking remains free of obstructions and doesn’t become a slipping hazard. Some tasks should be performed weekly. They include:

  • Physically removing debris, both from the surface of the water and the bottom of the pool
  • Maintaining chlorine levels or — if it’s a saltwater pool — salt levels
  • Checking the water level and adding more if needed
  • Checking the filter pressure and backwashing if necessary

Monthly tasks include:

  • Testing for water hardness (calcium content), pH, dissolved solids, and total alkalinity — and adding chemicals as needed
  • Cleaning the pool filter
  • Checking the operation of the pump and motor

You can view a complete list of pool maintenance tasks here.

Liability Issues

A landlord renting a property with a swimming pool can potentially be liable for any death or injury that results from people using the pool. Landlords have a duty to keep their properties safe for habitation, and if an accident happens, a court can hold a landlord negligent for failing to rectify a known dangerous condition, such as slippery decking material or a broken fence. Read more about liability — as well as other swimming pool issues — here.

This doesn’t mean the landlord is responsible for every accident that happens around a pool. Renters can also be negligent if they fail to keep the fence locked and the pool deck clear of obstructions, especially if the landlord has provided them with a safety brochure, which is a must-do. The landlord is probably responsible, however, if all the following conditions are met:

  • He fails to make a necessary repair within a reasonable amount of time, and the repair is not unreasonably expensive.
  • The accident is a direct result of the failure to make the repair.
  • The accident was foreseeable.

Put It in the Lease

Some communities require a certified specialist to perform pool maintenance, and hiring the company is the landlord’s job. Moreover, some neighborhood associations have rules specifying aesthetic standards for swimming pools, and meeting those standards is up to the landlord. It’s always up to the landlord to keep the pool safe, but in the absence of community rules, not necessarily to keep it beautiful. As long as professional service is not mandated, the landlord can delegate routine maintenance to the tenant, much like cutting the grass or shoveling snow. The place to make this clear — and to specify tasks — is in the lease.

The Pool Addendum

Chores and responsibilities should be specified in an addendum that covers the use of the pool and spa. The main points to include are:

  • Tenants use the pool at their own risk.
  • The landlord should be notified immediately if something needs to be fixed.
  • Users must comply with manufacturer instructions and recommendations when using the pool equipment.
  • The gate must be locked and the pool deck free of obstructions.
  • If you elect to allow tenants to perform routine maintenance, such as adding chlorine and removing debris, all such maintenance tasks should be specified.

You may consider it worth the expense to draw up this addendum with a lawyer, but if you prefer to do it yourself, here is a sample agreement (scroll down).  You could also do a google search for an addendum, but please make sure you have a lawyer review it before using the clause.

Multifamily Dwellings

When a pool is part of a multifamily rental, it’s a semi-public facility, and as such, all maintenance tasks belong to the landlord. It’s possible to offer the job of maintaining the pool to one of the renters in exchange for a rent reduction, but it’s safer — and probably won’t cost much more — to hire a pool maintenance company. Professional maintenance ensures timely and competent pool care and could prevent a visit by the local health authority.

There’s a lot to keeping a swimming pool safe and beautiful, with plenty of opportunities for renters and landlords to work together. It’s often easier for everyone, however, if you call in the pros.

Have you had some experience with pool maintenance issues? We’d love to hear from you in the Comments section below.

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14 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Dave Spurlock

    As the property owner, can I legally drain the pool, deck it over with a safe wooden deck and call it good? I am done with paying for everything to do with the pool.

    The property is in CA

    • Chris Deziel

      Hi Dave — As long as the deck conforms to Code and the pool is completely inaccessible, I don’t see why you can’t. There’s no law that states that you must allow renters to use the pool.

      • Dave Spurlock

        Thanks Chris. Yes, code will be complied with as always because of the legal ramifications of non-compliance. The only thing i haven’t worked out in my head is keeping the pool empty once the deck is in place. I’m worried about water gathering and critter making it home.

        • Chris Deziel

          How about this, Dave? A heavy-duty vinyl tarp that fits tightly over the pool. You’d want to construct a post-and-beam structure underneath it to raise the center of the tarp and allow water to drain off to the sides. If properly constructed and tightly mounted, the tarp could easily last 15 or 20 years.

  • Narv

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  • Maria Lopaz

    I think, as a property manager, they should have to maintain the cleanliness around the places either it is outdoor, swimming pool or garden area. Thanks for sharing!

  • Joan sabin

    I rent a house with a pool my rent include pool service my pool guy don’t seem to keep pool clear its always green called realtor nothing seems to change its a 3 day holiday can’t swim in pool again its green he came on Tuesday but not on Friday like usual it was green then what is my right I pay water and electricity this goe on a lot in summer only time we can use it it gets 109 here this weekend 111 I need to know my rights I want to use my pool. It would be nice see I pay the bills thank you hope you can help

    • Chris

      Joan — I’m sorry I didn’t see this sooner. We don’t get email notifications, so I haven’t had any reason to check. Your situation sounds distasteful, and I would say the first person who deserves a complaint is the pool maintenance guy. He’s doing a sub-par job if he can’t control algae growth. I’m assuming the realtor is also your property manager, and he or she also deserves a phone call. I would check the lease to see if the pool is included as one of the amenities of your rental. If it is, you should be entitled to a rent reduction at the very least. Put your request to the realtor in writing, and tell him or her that you are prepared to call the local health department if conditions don’t improve. That should get a response.

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  • Denise Munoz

    I rent a property with a pool the lease states owner responsible for maintenance,pool was always green until a new filter was purchased. But my question is the pool was relined due to a leak the pool guy keep on filling up the pool then it was drained to be repaired and filled up again my water bill was over $500 is that my responsibility to pay ?

    • Chris Deziel

      Denise — I would pass that bill on to the landlord, since the lease states that pool maintenance is not your responsibility.

  • Dennis

    Most people don’t think of the liabilities associated with pools. Especially for houses in the northern parts of the US, it’s just not as worthwhile. As someone in the home remodeling business, I recommend going for an extension or game room rather than a new pool.

  • Gina Rodriguez

    I have a question. I’m renting a home with a pool. The pool was green when we moved in. Now a professional pool service says pool needs to be drained and scrubbed due to algae($400), plus it will need to be filled again. There is no lease, but who should financially be responsible for the water bill & services to restore the pool?

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