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HOAs and Swimming Pools–Do you need to be ADA Compliant?

Spring time is around the corner and the community pools will ready for the summer season. Homeowners Associations and Condominium Associations that own swimming pools, wading pools, or spas need to be aware of new requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In July, 2010, the Justice Department issued new ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which include mandates for removing barriers to access to pools and spas. These new Standards apply to any private entity that operates a “place of public accommodation,” which may include an association. If an association limits use of its pool to its members and their guests, its pool does not fall under the requirements of the ADA. However, if an association allows non-members of the association to use its pool in exchange for some form of compensation, its pool may fall under the definition of a public accommodation. If it does, the association will have to comply with the new ADA Standards no later than March 15, 2012.

For a pool with a perimeter of less than 300 linear feet, the new Standards require either the construction of a sloped entry into the pool with handrails, or the installation of a mechanized lift with which a disabled person can lower himself into the pool and lift himself out of it. For a pool with a perimeter of greater than 300 feet, the association must install two means of entry. One of them must be a sloped entry or mechanized lift. The other may be one of those two means or a transfer wall, transfer system, or special pool stairs, each of which has detailed specifications in the Standards. These requirements apply to wading pools and spas as well as swimming pools.

It is not always clear in advance whether a specific use of an association pool by non-members renders the pool a place of public accommodation and, therefore, subject to the requirements of the ADA. However, the cost of litigating a doubtful claim for violation of the ADA may be considerably more expensive for an association than the cost of compliance with the ADA’s requirements. If an association has questions regarding its status under the ADA, it should consult its legal counsel. If an association allows non-members to use its pool and chooses not to comply with the new ADA Standards for Accessible Design, it should consult its insurance carrier to determine its coverage for claims made pursuant to the ADA.

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

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John Tarley

John is the firm's managing partner and chairs the firm's small business, zoning, and litigation practice areas.

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