A Landlord’s Guide to Swimming Pool Maintenance and Liability

Written on April 26, 2017 by , updated on April 28, 2017

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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72 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jennifer

    I have rented my house for 10 years. I have maintained the pool through out the years at my own expense even though there is no pool addendum or instruction in my lease who is responsible for pool maintenance. The pool is not even listed in my lease. Recently I have spent several $100 dollars trying to get the pool back to green. After calling several pool professionals for quotes I’m told I need to drain the pool which is a cost of $650. I told my landlord and he said since I making a decision not to continue maintaining the pool and doesn’t get any enjoyment out of the pool he is not responsible for the pool. Maybe we should terminate our lease and find a house without a pool. Is this legal?

  • Lindsey

    We rent a home with a pool. This is the second time in a 1 1/2 that the pool has gotten so bad that it’s had to b drained! The pool had to b drained and acid washed last summer and is looking that way again this summer. It’s a large pool so the landlord is responsible for the maintenance having a company come twice a week. We have purchased a net and other supplies to clean the days the pool tech isnt there but the property Mgr is trying to make it our fault. We paid a $400 water bill when it was drained and refilled and got $100 off the rent for 2 months of work to repair while still paying rent on time. I just want it to be fair and understand why it is always the Renters fault. I just need some direction on what to do. Thank you

  • Chrissy

    I am a renter from a property management team that I have rented at the same house for about five years now it does have a pool the pool is mentioned in the lease and we pay a portion in our rent for the pool service that they contract with to come every week. Recently about a month-and-a-half ago the pool Tech that Services my pool put in a work order stating that there was a small leak at the filter they had 2 different pooltechs come out 2 different times to try to seal the leak. By the time they ended up approving a replacement filter the pool had been down for at least a week and a half and when the pool guy brought the new filter the filter was at least half the size of the old one now my pool has like a yellow algae all over the wall

  • Cynthia Workman

    my house came up for sale and I have new owners in my existing lease which they absorbed when they bought the home nothing was mentioned that I could not have a pool there now trying to make me take my cool down after my being there tenant for 8 months and they’re telling me that it is a insurance issue I’m saying that they bought the house knowing the pool was standing up when they bought this house the pool was there the deck was there the safety measures are all around fences high enough lock on the deck and I have no small children in my own I’m a sixty-year-old woman and I’ve maintained a pool for the last 15 years with no incidences what is my legal recourse

  • lisa prairie

    I have a 4 bedroom upgraded 1954 ranch on have 1/2 acre in Salem Or. Tenants put an above ground pool and jazzui/hot tub on the property without my permission .I’m asking them to get renters insurance. They also have cats, a dog and a hammster without permission. Should I charge $500 a month extra for pets, or more?
    I feel taken advantage of…

    Thank your advise and experience on this ..

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