May 22, 2024 - News

Mecklenburg County cracks down on pool rentals, but they're still legal at Airbnbs

Illustration of a woman in an inner tube in a pool with a giant key attached

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the weather heats up, Mecklenburg County is cracking down on a fast-growing trend of renting people's pools online.

Why it matters: Listing pools on short-term rental apps like Swimply has become a source of income for homeowners and a fun option for families and groups looking to cool off in the summer.

  • But Mecklenburg County says it's a safety issue, especially for children.

Driving the news: This week, the county's public health department warned residents that short-term rentals of home pools are forbidden.

  • "Residential pools cannot be rented or offered for general public use," Chrystal Swinger, Mecklenburg County Public Health Environmental Health Division director, stated in a news release. "Only a properly permitted public pool can be rented to or used by the general public, and we inspect those pools every year."

Between the lines: North Carolina does not consider a home swimming pool as private once it's rented for money, the release explains.

  • At that point, the state deems it a public pool and requires an operation permit and high standards to be met related to construction, injury prevention and other safety hazards.

Yes, but: Airbnbs, Vrbos and other short-term vacation rentals often advertise pools as amenities. Those pools aren't held to the same standard as county-regulated pools.

  • According to a 2020 NCDHHS memo, "spas" for the exclusive use of guests renting a dwelling are not required to be permitted. The Vacation Rental Act states such facilities must be "in good and safe working order."
  • A vacation rental is defined as "the rental of residential property for vacation, leisure, or recreation purposes for fewer than 90 days by a person who has a place of permanent residence to which he or she intends to return."

Context: The state shared the guidance on renting home pools with local health departments in 2021 as the trend of renting residential swimming pools took off.

  • Mecklenburg County's health department has not seen an increase in the rental of home pools, a spokesperson told Axios. But the department "wanted to take the opportunity to make a public announcement as the weather is warming up and we are getting into pool season."

What they're saying: Swimply contests its pool are not public.

  • "All of our Swimply users in Mecklenburg County are operating well within the law," Swimply said in a statement to Axios, "and we will continue to defend their right to operate here, as there is no basis for one form of home sharing to be illegal while another is not."

What's next: Mecklenburg County will respond to complaints and educate homeowners about the rules, a spokesperson said. It will refer persistent violations to the state, and there may be legal action taken.


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