Reopening Amenities: Creating New High-Rise and HOA Swimming Pool Rules

As the weather heats up and stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders surrounding COVID-19 are lifted, many residents are looking forward to spending time at their community pools. While a healthy dose of vitamin D and fresh air is likely to lift residents’ moods, it’s important to remember that there are still strict social distancing and disinfecting guidelines in place.

Before the Board of Directors decide to reopen the community pool, it’s a good time to revisit and possibly rewrite some of your condominium or HOA swimming pool rules to take existing distancing and disinfecting guidelines into account.

“We understand that residents are eager to get outside and return to normal activities, including using their pools,” says Stephanie Parker, vice president of operations at FirstService Residential. “But it has to be done safely and carefully. That’s why we made sure all of our management teams were given guidelines to reopening amenities in the communities we manage.”

Always follow local, state and federal directives and guidance from healthcare organizations.

Before you implement new condominium or HOA swimming pool rules developed by your board, make sure to thoroughly investigate the government directives surrounding the reopening of any amenity. Ensure that residents will have the space to practice proper social distancing and that thorough cleaning measures are being implemented.

Consult with your association’s attorney before opening the pool.

While your board is no doubt well versed in COVID-19 guidelines at this point, it’s worth the effort to run any new condominium or HOA swimming pool rules by your association attorney. This will help minimize liability for you, the board and your management company for any new rules implemented during this time. Your attorney will be able to help you make certain the rules are clear and concise for residents in emails and posted signage.

Make sure the pool was properly maintained while it was closed.

According to the CDC website, “there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas or water play areas. Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.”

If your staff or a third-party pool vendor has been consistently maintaining the pool during stay-at-home orders, it will be ready for safe use. However, if the pool has not been properly cleaned and chemicals not added/balanced while it was closed, delay opening until a professional has ensured that the pool has reached a safe chemical balance.

Promote preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Continuing to practice healthy hygiene and communicate those practices while pools reopen is critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those practices include:

  • Encourage pool patrons to wash their hands often and cover their coughs and sneezes.
  • Cloth face coverings should be worn while visiting the pool area, but not necessary while in the water.
  • Educate people visiting the pool to stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

Include clear instructions for social distancing at the pool.

While stay-at-home orders are being lifted, strict social distancing guidelines are still in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including for time spent at the pool. Any new rules should have instructions for pool attendees to practice social distancing, which include:

  • Staying a minimum of 6 feet apart from other groups.
  • Limiting the size of groups to under 10 people.

Rules that will help ensure proper social distancing is followed include the following:

  • Promote “resident only” usage (no visitors).
  • Temporarily reduce pool occupancy limits.
  • Schedule pool usage by maximum number of occupants with time restrictions.
  • Require making reservations using an online amenities reservation system.
  • Limit the time of day the pool is open to a more controllable time frame (e.g. 10 a.m.. to 6 p.m.).

To help with condominium and HOA pool rule enforcement, here are some things that staff should do in the pool area:

  • Place chaise/chairs at least 6 feet apart. Any extra furniture should be removed, stacked or chained so it’s unusable.
  • Place tables at least 6 feet apart and provide only two chairs per table.
  • Provide physical cues or guides to help swimmers meet social distancing rules. For example, lane lines in the water.
  • Discontinue towel service.

Develop rigorous cleaning schedules and rules.

Social distancing is only one part of defending against COVID-19 at the pool. The other part is frequent and meticulous cleaning and disinfecting in the pool area, along with regular handwashing by the residents at the pool.

When cleaning the pool area, staff should:

  • Clean and disinfect all pool and beach furniture and high-touch surfaces (i.e. hand/ladder rails, umbrella handles, baby changing stations, light switches, doorknobs).
  • Provide disinfecting wipes for residents to clean chaise, chairs and tables in between use. If wipes aren’t available, ask residents to bring their own.
  • Ensure restrooms are open, properly stocked and properly maintained when the pool is reopened.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning of public restrooms and showers.

As more residents begin using the amenities, it’s imperative that staff members continue with their cleaning and disinfecting routines. A quick refresher on proper methods for cleaning the pool areas as well as other common areas and amenities will ensure they are up to speed on responsibilities.

Communicate new pool rules through several methods.

The updated rules will only be effective if residents are aware of them prior to visiting the pool. Post any new rules in highly visible places in the common areas of your association well before the pool reopens to ensure that they are seen by the majority of residents.

Additionally, send residents emails that outline the new condominium or HOA swimming pool rules. Provide contact information so that anyone can contact the property manager with questions regarding the new regulations before they venture poolside.

Finally, confirm that clear, visible signage is hung in numerous areas around the pool. Below is an example of coronavirus pool signage with any new rules:

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PLEASE DO NOT MOVE POOL FURNITURE

In response to concerns about the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and as a precaution to our residents and staff, please do not move the pool furniture from its current location to allow for social distancing.

The health and safety of our residents and associates are our top priorities. Please be aware that it is impossible for the community to disinfect all amenities and furnishings in a manner to totally eradicate the potential spread of COVID-19. Facilities are open at this time, but you must use personal distancing guidelines. We strongly encourage you to wipe down high-touch surfaces prior to use or avoid using them altogether.

We also recommend following CDC guidelines on personal hygiene, using face coverings when not in the water, and staying home if you are sick or tested positive for COVID-19.

Management assumes no responsibility for any injuries you may receive from the use of our amenities and furnishings.

The Board of Directors thank you for your understanding and patience and for being vigilant with respect to practicing safe habits and social distancing.

Please contact your management team if you have any questions.

Manager: _______________________________

Phone number: ___________________________

Email address: ____________________________

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Ensure rules are enforced.

While residents adjust to new pool rules in their community, they may need some reminders of the guidelines when at the pool. Assign a dedicated attendant to the pool area to enforce the condominium or HOA pool rules if they observe residents who are not appropriately distanced, have too large of a group or are not following any other regulations created for their health and safety.

Look for other ways to maintain a healthy environment.

Depending on the configuration of the pool area, there may be other ways to help promote a healthy environment.

  • Review ventilation systems of indoor spaces to ensure they are operating properly.
  • Increase circulation of outdoor air, if possible.
  • Take steps to review that all water systems are safe to use after a prolonged shutdown. This includes drinking fountains, decorative fountains, and hot tubs.
  • Discourage people from sharing items that are difficult to clean such as goggles, nose clips and snorkels.
  • Discourage sharing of items such as food, equipment, toys and supplies. If equipment, such as kick boards and pool noodles, are supplied, minimize sharing to the extent possible or limit the use to one group at a time and clean and disinfect between use.

As a board member, you naturally want residents in your community to enjoy the amenities that drew them to the property in the first place. While reopening the pool after stay-at-home orders have been lifted will no doubt excite residents, it’s important to respect the social distancing guidelines still in place by updating your pool rules to keep everyone safe from the coronavirus.

This article is a compilation of proposed operational guidelines and procedures for possible use, after consultation and approval by the Board of Directors of the association, including their attorney, in connection with the management of residential communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This article is not intended to and must not be construed as or relied upon as providing medical or legal advice of any kind on any issue. The referenced guidelines may change from time to time as federal, state, or local authorities and healthcare organizations issue new and/or revised directives.