The community pool is a great place for community members to practice different swim strokes and build up their endurance, which is a big reason why the pool is there! However, what happens if homeowners want the HOA to offer swim lessons at the community pool, or even host a swim team?
Even though holding swim lessons and swim team practices so close to home is definitely convenient for community members, the risks to the HOA may not make it worth the benefits for members.
In this article, we’re going to cover some of these potential complications and risks to help HOA boards make the best decision possible when it comes to hosting swim lessons and swim teams at the community pool.
Benefits to the Community
Offering conveniently located swim lessons and swim teams at the community pool can foster friendships between families in the community. A swim team’s friendly competition will get children off the living room couch during the summer and parents chatting at the poolside during practices. Swim lessons can offer members of all ages the opportunity to hone their skills, whether they would like to prepare for future participation in a swim team or just want to be more confident in the water.
Providing such activities also really shows how much the board cares about making the community a great place to live. Homeowners pay assessments and follow the community’s architectural design guidelines to be part of the association, and providing swim lessons and swim teams is one way the board can give back to the membership that makes the HOA possible.
Despite these benefits, however, hosting swimming activities in the community creates certain risks.
The first big risk is that the HOA could be held liable if swim instructors, swim students, team coaches, or swim team members are injured at the community pool. Since the HOA owns the pool, it is responsible for ensuring that the pool is properly maintained and safe for use. So, the HOA could be held liable for damage or injury caused by missed repairs or poor maintenance.
The HOA may also be held liable for the negligent actions of the swim coach or instructor that the HOA has employed or contracted with, which is why it is important to make sure that any vendor the HOA hires has adequate insurance coverage and agrees to indemnify and hold the association harmless for any losses that may result from the vendor’s negligence.
As an important note, general liability policies do not typically cover athletics and sports events, so the HOA would need to be sure to have this coverage added before hosting athletic classes and events at the HOA’s facilities.
The second risk is that if the HOA allows the general public to take part in swim lessons or a swim team that meets at the HOA’s pool, then the pool may, under the law, be considered a public recreation facility. Examples would include an HOA advertising that anyone can sign up for swim lessons at the association or an HOA selling pool memberships to the general public. This means that the community pool will need to ensure that its pool, restrooms, showers, etc., meet the accessibility requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
If only homeowners, residents, and their invited guests are allowed to take swim lessons at the community pool or be part of the swim team, then the community pool should retain its private pool categorization. However, the HOA will still need to make reasonable accommodations for any resident (and sometimes, a resident’s guest) who has a disability so that the common areas will be accessible, if the resident (or guest) makes such a request of the association.
Whether the swim team or swim lessons are open to the public or available only to community members, any events that are open to general members of the public to attend, such as swim meets, may still trigger ADA compliance rules for the duration of the event.
Additionally, if the HOA’s pool is determined to be a public pool, and it does not meet the ADA’s accessibility standards, the HOA could be subject to fines.
The Board’s Authority
A third issue the HOA needs to consider is whether the board has the power to allow swimming lessons and swim practices to be held at the community pool. While the governing documents should detail what rules the HOA board is and isn’t allowed to enact, the HOA’s attorney should be consulted to ensure that the board does not act outside its authority when creating new policies and rules.
The best way to avoid unnecessary liability or unbudgeted renovations would be to not hold swim lessons or host swim teams at the HOA pool. However, if your HOA is in a situation that makes this difficult, then the association can take these steps to mitigate risks:
- Ensure swim instructors and coaches are licensed/certified and carry adequate liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance for their profession. Also, be sure to include a robust indemnification clause in the vendor’s contract.
- Only allow association members and current residents to take part in swim lessons and swim teams that meet at the community pool.
- Have those participating in the swim team or swim lessons sign a liability waiver. While liability waivers do not always hold up in court, they help participants acknowledge risks and may dissuade them from filing lawsuits should something happen. Still, the HOA’s attorney should draft this document to ensure it is as sound and effective as possible.
- Contact the HOA’s insurance provider to determine how much it would cost to add coverage for athletic and sports events to the HOA’s general liability coverage.
- Review your association’s pool facilities to determine whether they are ADA compliant. If not, make an itemized list of the renovations that need to be done and their costs; these renovations, as well as the more expensive insurance policies, should be considered before opening up the HOA’s pool to the public for swimming lessons and swim teams.
While these tips should help point you in the right direction when making decisions about holding swim lessons and swim practices at the community pool, remember that your association’s attorney should be consulted before the board makes any decisions about who can use the HOA’s facilities and how. Legal counsel will be able to explain how local, state, and federal law impact the HOA and whether the board has the authority to allow such events to be held at the community pool.