As COVID-19 restrictions limit access to Winnipeg pools, residents offer up their own

While COVID-19 restrictions continue to limit capacity at outdoor pools in Winnipeg, some with pools in their backyards are finding a new way to bring in a little extra money this summer.

Through apps like Swimply — a third-party site that connects people with private pools with those wanting to swim — more and more Winnipeg homeowners are offering up their backyard  swimming holes for rent.

Read more: COVID-19: Winnipeg outdoor pools set to reopen, hundreds of staff returning to work, city says

Last summer just one pool was up for grabs through the app, but as of this weekend at least seven pools were being offered locally and several more on a waiting list to be accepted, according to the Swimply’s co-founder and CAO, Asher Weinberger.

Other pools are being offered privately through social media, and Weinburger points to COVID-19 as the reason for the upswing in interest.

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“People are stuck at home, and on the host side people are struggling financially and they could really use the extra income,” he told Global News.

“And on the other side of the marketplace, our guests, our swimmers, of course, are locked up at home — there’s no camp, no school.”

The app allows homeowners to rent out their pool on an hourly basis. A dip in an average backyard pool runs roughly $45 an hour locally, while those with posher pools are asking as high as $100 an hour.

Read more: City of Winnipeg to reopen indoor pools, offer spring programming

And while the app has insurance in place for those following a number of safety guidelines set out by the service, the province warns there’s more homeowners should know before opening up their pool for profit.

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For instance, under the province’s public health act as soon as someone starts making money while renting out their pool it’s no longer considered residential — it becomes a public pool.

Under the act a public pool needs to get the green light from a public health inspector and also needs to go through regular check-ups.

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Some pool owners Global News spoke too say they weren’t aware of this particular order.

Weinberger says Swimply’s user agreement stipulates users need to follow all local rules.

Read more: COVID-19: Winnipeg businesses rushing to get ready for Saturday reopening

“You guys need to do your own homework and your own due diligence to make sure that you’re complying with any local statute, regulations, ordinances, etcetera,” he said.

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“Make sure that you’re checking, not just with your local government, check with your local neighbours, talk to your neighbours and make sure that they’re OK with this too.”

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A City of Winnipeg spokesperson said pool owners also need to be aware of by-laws that restrict the number of vehicles allowed on someone’s property to six.

But there’s also liability concerns, says Serge Balcaen, commercial producer at Brio Insurance in Winnipeg.

Balcaen says under normal circumstances a homeowner’s home insurance would cover any accidents that happen while having friends over to use the pool.

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That won’t be the case if the pool’s been rented out, he warns.

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“It’s a great idea — if you’re not going to use your pool for the weekend — make a couple hundred of bucks,” he said, adding he recommends anyone looking at renting out their pool research the app’s insurance provider thoroughly.

“Who’s covering you? Is it a company from Atlanta, Georgia that has no clue what Winnipeg’s like?”

— With files from Corey Callaghan

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