Why Renting Your Pool Is Illegal in San Jose

By Lorraine Gabbert, Spotlight on San Jose

September 19, 2022

Splashing and laughing from a neighbor’s pool leaves residents wishing they had their own on a scorching day. There is a pool rental service for that, but not in San Jose.

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Swimply, like Airbnb for swimming pools, has developed an app to connect homeowners with those looking for a backyard oasis. The idea has spread like wildfire, with more than 25,000 listings in more than 125 markets in the United States, Canada and Australia, but not in San Jose where private pool rentals are illegal.

Swimply founder and CEO Bunim Laskin, 25, started the company in 2018 and launched the app in 2019. The idea came to Laskin five years earlier when he and his 11 siblings were stuck at the House. He offered to pay 25% of a neighbour’s pool maintenance fee if his family could use his pool. From there, he knocked on doors and other neighbors agreed to let him rent their pools, and a business was born.

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Currently, the company brings in eight figures per month in revenue, Laskin said. Investors including AirBnb and Lime are also keen on the idea, helping Laskin raise $51.2 million.

“More than ever, people are looking for ways to be alive and to spend time with family and friends,” Laskin told San Jose Spotlight. “Swimply is a pretty amazing extra income they can earn on the side, with some owners earning over $10,000 a month.”

Swimply, which takes a 15% commission, also covers landlords with up to $1 million in liability insurance and $10,000 in property damage insurance, and requires renters to sign waivers, it said. he declares.

But for one San Jose resident who joined the Swimply app, things didn’t go as planned.

In 2021, resident Crystal Campisi rented her pool through Swimply for a few hours at a time, giving families a place to swim when others swimming pools were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the 66-year-old retiree, it provided her with an income of $1,000 a month and helped others, she said.

“I realized there was a critical need,” Campisi said.

Although she often rented to families, tenants included a Christian group baptizing someone in her hot tub, a mermaid shooting a video, and a bachelorette party.

It ended when a neighbor reported her. Campisi received a cease-and-desist letter from city law enforcement threatening her with fines of up to $1,200 a day for renting her pool, she said. She’s stopped, but wonders how fair that is when she regularly sees listings of San Jose pools available for rent from Swimply.

“It should be legal for everyone or illegal for everyone,” she told San Jose Spotlight. “I would like to make it legal.”

No code for pool rentals

Martina Davis, San Jose Division Manager for Planning, Building and Code Enforcement, said the pool rentals do not align with city zoning that regulates commercial use of residential properties. A modification to the zoning code would be necessary. Regulations for Airbnb would not apply, Davis said, because they were written specifically for people staying in accommodation. It does not deal with the rental of outdoor swimming pools.

“We do code updates regularly,” Davis told San Jose Spotlight. “I don’t know if this one would be terribly difficult or complicated. It’s more about putting it on the priority list so that we can allocate resources to get the job done… It’s up to the board to prioritize what we’re working on.

Campisi reached out to the two mayoral candidates, San Jose Council Member Matt Mahan and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez for their assistance. She also had email exchanges with City Manager Jennifer Maguire.

Chavez said she would like to speak with neighborhoods about parking issues, determine pool usage guidelines and ensure pool rentals have the correct level of insurance coverage.

“In the age of climate change, when you’re looking for innovative ways to share resources, that’s a really interesting idea,” Chavez told San Jose Spotlight. “There are a lot of families who don’t have a pool…so renting one could make a lot of sense.”

Mahan was unavailable for comment.

Rachel Roberts, assistant director of San Jose’s Code Enforcement Division, said it takes “quite a lot of resources” to change a city ordinance.

“We will have to do outreach, research and due diligence to make what was presented to the board productive,” she told San Jose Spotlight. “It’s important that we make sure we invest time in working with stakeholders to fully understand the results. »

Roberts said the biggest challenge is finding the time and the workers to devote to it.

“It’s not a priority for us to move our division forward,” she said. “We are very underfunded for a city our size, so when we have extra vacancies it becomes very difficult.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at lorrainegabbertsjspotlight@gmail.com.

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