Property owners may find themselves liable for injuries that occur on their property, as they generally have a duty to keep the property free of dangerous conditions that they are, or should have been, aware of. The laws of landowner injury liability are referred to as premises liability laws. Landlords face premises liability concerns and those with properties that have swimming pools need to be aware of the best ways to protect themselves from potentially costly litigation.
A landlord may benefit from having a swimming pool as a feature of a rental property. Tenants may be willing to pay higher rent for having access to recreational amenities. The presence of a pool may add overall value to the property. The drawbacks of renting out a property with a pool are primarily long-term maintenance and repair costs, in addition to the potential for liability associated with a swimming pool injury or death.
The World Health Organization reports that drowning is the third-most common cause of unintended death, with an average of over 300,000 incidences annually. Further, drowning is a leading cause of death for children 4-years-old and younger.
It is possible that a landlord could be deemed liable for injuries or deaths that occurs in a swimming pool located on their property. Premises liability classifies those entering your property as invitees, licensees, or trespassers. Trespassers, or those entering the property without permission, are less likely to successfully sue a landowner for an injury that occurs when they are trespassing. There are a few considerations that are recommended to protect yourself from pool-related liability.
Adding additional insurance coverage may offer additional protection. Your existing homeowner's insurance policy may not be designed to cover these types of problems. Consult with an insurance specialist to see if your policy limits are sufficient and see if any additional coverage is necessary.
The swimming pool should be addressed clearly in your rental (lease) agreement. Landlords may wish to include a “use at your own risk” indemnity provision explaining that the landlord cannot be responsible for accidents involving tenants and their guests. It may be best to review this section with an experienced attorney.
The rental agreement should also address the following issues:
- Who will be responsible for pool maintenance tasks;
- If larger maintenance or repair concerns arise, the tenant should contact the landlord as soon as possible;
- The pool should only be used according to manufacturer instructions; and
- Gates to the barrier surrounding the pool area should be kept secured.
Familiarize yourself with the local laws, typically established by the county, relating to residential swimming pools requirements. The barrier requirements, such as a wall or fence, will generally have minimum height requirements. There may be required safety equipment that must be present such as emergency flotation devices and/or necessary warning signs to be posted. In addition, it may be beneficial to provide tenants with some literature regarding pool safety.