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A hot potato: The idea of an app that is essentially Airbnb but for swimming pools has been causing much anger among residents of one county, who say it has turned their block into a pool club. It's led to calls for tighter regulation for these types of rental apps, especially after the death of a 7-year-old last year.
Swimply was founded in 2018 for people looking to use a swimming pool. It gained a lot of traction after many public pools closed down due to the pandemic and has listings in more than 125 markets in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Like Airbnb, users can rent out their backyard pools to strangers using the app, charging anything from $25 to $100 per hour.
The Washington Post writes that not everyone is happy with Swimply, especially in Montgomery County, Maryland's most populous county. Residents have complained to county officials about the noise disturbances stemming from pools that have been rented out.
One resident said they were forced to close their windows and deal with swimsuit-clad people wandering the streets while waiting for their turn to use a pool.
Some of Swimply's rentals
"This is a constantly renewed stream of paying 'guests' seeking to extract the maximum enjoyment from their poolside time," they said. Parking, congested roads, and safety were other concerns residents had about Swimply and similar amenity-rental apps.
One homeowner was fined and had their pool rental shut down by the county due to the complaints.
Calls for tighter regulation come a year after a 7-year-old girl drowned in a New Jersey pool rented for a party via Swimply. The company says it instructs hosts on basic safety measures when they sign up, though it never elaborated on what these entail.
This isn't the first time Swimply has made unwelcome headlines. There were reports last year of people discovering that their pools had been placed on the app for rental without their permission or knowledge. It turned out to be scammers making fake accounts that were trying to con users.
Montgomery County has introduced a shared economy bill that proposes new guidelines for renting out pools, home gyms, and dog runs. It proposes homeowners register their rentals with the county, pay for an operating license, and pay taxes. There are also calls for annual inspections of rental properties. Locations in other states are calling for tighter regulation or outright bans on pool rentals, too, though nothing has been done yet.