The risks and liabilities of pool ownership in Arizona
It’s no secret that it’s hot in Arizona. We are always looking for ways to stay cool and swimming pools provide some relief during those hot days and nights. And, while pool ownership has a lot of perks, there are serious risks and potential liabilities a pool owner can face should an accident happen.
According to Lendingtree.com Phoenix ranks #1 in the country for share of homes with pools, leading the way with 32.7%. Miami is a close second, with 30.6%. As a homeowner, most of us don’t think twice about having a pool. But we should.
Pool owners have a responsibility to provide a safe environment for both children and adults. Accident prevention is key so you aren’t faced with a personal injury lawsuit should something occur.
Here are a few things to consider when it comes to pool ownership:
Premise Liability Applies: Since a pool is physically on your home’s property, it is considered part of the property and premise liability rules apply should someone get injured using your pool. This law applies to any unsafe or defective condition. This means that pool owners must keep up on maintenance and warn guests of any potentials dangers that may not be visible or obvious.
Beware of Slippery Patios or Decks: People can slip on wet areas around a swimming pool. The Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled that, as a matter of law, homeowners have no duty to warn invitees of the danger of water around a swimming pool. But a homeowner can be liable if the patio surrounding the homeowner’s backyard pool was painted with glossy enamel paint, making the patio more slippery, and the homeowners were aware that others slipped on the patio but did not warn the invited guest(s).
The Pool Area Must be Enclosed: According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Office of Environmental Health, any residence with a swimming pool, where one or more children are under the age of six live in the residence, must be enclosed with a minimum of a 5-foot-high wall, gate, fence or barrier, and it must be at least 20 inches from the edge of the pool. Additionally, it must be self-closing or self-latching.
Homeowners Insurance Can Help: A homeowners insurance policy can cover repair to your pool (if the damage is one of the risks stated in your policy). More importantly, your homeowner’s policy typically has liability coverage which can help if a guest is injured at your pool and any medical or legal costs are incurred. Sometimes pool owners may opt to add an umbrella policy which provides liability coverage beyond the limits of your homeowners policy. You should always make mention to your insurer that you have a pool, to make sure you have the adequate amount of coverage.
Diving Boards Add Risk: While diving boards are fun, they add an extra element of risk and an opportunity for injury. Many homeowner insurance companies will no longer write coverage if a diving board is present on the property. If you are remodeling and old pool or building a new pool, you may want to consider removing or not installing a diving board.
Get The Proper Permits: It’s surprising, but not all homes have pools, especially if it’s a new build and you can customize the home to your specifications. You may have the option to put in a pool on your own. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to hire a pool builder that can obtain the proper permits from the city on your behalf because it’s not an easy process. If you have additional or unique elements, such as a waterfall, fire features (connected to the pool), a raised pool or other non-typical pool structures or features, additional permits are required beyond the standard. You may also need HOA approval.
As you can see, with pool ownership comes liability. It is your legal responsibility as a pool owner to keep your pool and its surrounding area safe as required by law. If it can be proven that an accident or injury occurred as a result of your negligence, you may be held responsible. Let’s all play it safe and take heed of the above-mentioned information – and enjoy being outside and in our pools with confidence.
Author: Steven Gross is a Senior Member at The Cavanagh Law Firm, where his practice focuses on insurance coverage, personal injury and bad faith litigation.