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Dangers of dipping into swimming pool sharing

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Swimming pool owners are being urged to check their liability insurance before they take advantage of a new sharing economy app called Swimply which is being dubbed the “Airbnb of swimming pools”.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says householders who offer their swimming pools on short-term rental websites are likely to find they are not protected by their home and contents insurance in the event of a building, contents or public liability claim.

“Renting out a private pool for commercial use is not usually included in household policies and should be approached with caution,” an ICA spokesperson told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

Householders who provide their swimming pools to paying guests via listings on short-term rental websites are likely to find they are not protected and might be held personally liable if something unexpected takes place, ICA warns.

American entrepreneur Bunim Laskin, who is 22 and the oldest of 12 children, launched his pool-sharing business as PoolForU.com in May 2017 and has since rebranded to Swimply.

Mr Laskin, who as a child in New Jersey longed for a pool while his neighbour’s pool sat mostly empty, expanded the offering into NSW, Queensland and Victoria on Tuesday.

Swimply already features more than 40 pools in Australia ranging from $15 to $100 an hour, as well as swimming spots in New York, Florida, California, Texas and more. Hosts on the platform can choose the days and times their pool is available as well as the number of guests, whether children are allowed and whether you can bring your own food.

“Homeowners who are considering using this type of platform should ensure they are aware of the possible insurance implications and have a clear idea of how the listing organisation handles claims and complaints,” ICA says. “A call to their home building insurer prior to signing with a share platform is imperative.”

Commercial use of a private swimming pool may require consent of local government and other authorities and have other compliance issues such as safety and first-aid equipment or trained staff. In addition, ICA says guests who book the use of a private pool might also be held liable for injuries or property damage.

LMI Group Chairman Allan Manning agrees that pool owners should check with their insurer or broker before undertaking any commercial arrangement to ensure the correct liability coverage is in place. He says potential risks may be significant and “greatly outweigh” any revenue that may be earned.

“Pools are notoriously dangerous places, and if you add alcohol…you may have people slipping over, and, of course, the risk of drowning or near drowning,” he said. “There are risks of theft or damage by the visitors which, again, may not be covered by your insurance.

“I am all for the sharing economy, but these things need to be carefully thought out,” Dr Manning said.