Understanding HOA Rules for Installing Pools or Hot Tubs

If you reside in a newer suburban community or planned development, you likely signed some documents at closing from your homeowners association (HOA). This likely included language regarding what kind of swimming pools are allowable.

While some are more lenient than others when it comes to pools/hot tubs, just know that there are roughly 351,000 HOAs currently operating in the U.S. with about 40 million housing units subject to them.

You and more than 100 million people in the country live in homes that are subject to an HOA.

Before installing a pool or hot tub, do your research to know what your HOA allows. If your HOA has strict rules, it may be worth relocating if this is something you really want to enjoy. After all, many HOAs do allow pools or provide them as an amenity.

In this post, I will cover a few things to keep in mind when it comes to HOAs and installing a pool or hot tub, and what to keep in mind as a homeowner.

First, understand the purpose of an HOA

While you may already know this, it’s important to understand that an HOA is a mandatory association comprised of the homeowners in a neighborhood. When you purchase a home in a neighborhood with an HOA, you agree to abide by a set of rules known as covenants, conditions, and restrictions or commonly abbreviated “CC&Rs.”

These documents are specific to each HOA, and typically include requirements and restrictions on landscaping, maintenance, and other aspects for the outside of the home, like swimming pools.

Want to paint your house pink? Read the CC&R’s first to see if it’s permitted.

The purpose of an HOA and its CC&Rs is to protect, preserve, and enhance property values in the community.

5 reasons HOAs may regulate or ban above-ground pools

semi above ground pool

Let’s look at the legal implications with above-ground or inflatable pools as well as the reasoning behind why so many HOAs ban them.

Safety is generally the biggest issue for why HOAs ban above-ground pools. While there are generally regulations for fencing and self-closing gates for in-ground swimming pools, many municipalities may not have strict guidelines or even require permits for above-ground pools; as a result, some HOAs don’t allow above ground pools simply due to liability risk.

As a pool owner, you could be held liable for injury to guests and trespassers. By extension, the pool owner’s HOA may be brought into the litigation and may incur a portion of the fault if an incident occurs.

1. Flooding potential and property management risk of above-ground pools

Pools can flood or damage property, especially in neighborhoods where houses are close together. The average 30-foot round above-ground pool (filled to a four-foot depth) holds approximately 18,500 gallons of water.

If a pool ruptures, it can also flood a neighbor’s property, damage expensive landscaping, and even damage a home’s foundation Many HOA members don’t want above-ground pools right on their property line for this very reason.

2. Pool water

There may be concerns about water use in filling and maintaining the pool, along with discharge and sewer costs.

Many HOAs understand how difficult it can be to ensure private pool owners sanitize their pool to prevent algae, germs, and pathogens which can cause health issues.

Depending on the area you live in, even above-ground pools may require a permit pursuant to a municipal code, and is something that many HOAs may not want to have to police or deal with.

3. Visibility and the potential effect on home values

Also, an HOA may deny the installation of an above-ground pool because it is visible through the backyard fencing. Plus, some homeowner associations see these pools as “cheap” and are worried that they may hurt home values—a major concern for everyone. (Above-ground pools can run from a few thousand dollars to eight grand.)

4. The temporary nature of above-ground or semi-in-ground pools

For many residents considering semi in-ground pools, while partially in-ground (or even with a deck surrounding it), these are often still considered above-ground pools due to the temporary nature of them.

For many HOAs, it likely comes down to upkeep, and the assumption that regular maintenance and cleanliness of semi in-ground or above-ground pools isn’t as likely to be on-par with in-ground pools. Since in-ground pool owners have invested tens of thousands in the pumps, chemicals, and the construction of them, neglect is likely to be far less common than something more temporary in nature.

Again, while this many not be the case 100% of the time, it really comes down to protecting home values, limiting complaints, and HOAs simply not wanting to police and enforce dozens of these types of pools or hot tubs.

A real-world example

More recently, several of the 240 homeowners in the Country Cove Homeowners Association in Altoona, Iowa requested that the HOA relax its ban on above-ground pools for in the summer of 2020 because of the pandemic. However, not everyone agreed.

“What we are trying to do is mandate people who are serious about a pool, they meet city codes, get permits and are not going to cause damage,” says Jessica Olson, a homeowner and whose husband is on the board of the association. “Not a $200 pool with 700 blowup tools.”

What about HOA approval for an inground swimming pool or hot tub?

round hot tub

An in-ground pool, while more expensive, may be a more successful venture when working with your neighborhood HOA. You’ll need approval from the HOA before you start.

A major reason for getting your HOA ducks in a row is that the average cost to install an in-ground pool is about $35,000 with some homeowners spending up to $55,000. Plus, there’s the additional cost of pool ownership for basic maintenance, increased utilities, and repairs. Count on somewhere between $2,500 to $5,000 fore that each year.

Hot tubs, spas, and HOAs

Since hot tubs are not considered above-ground structures, and fall into the spa categories, many HOAs will allow these. Again, there may be fencing self-locking gate guidelines to abide by.

While it does depend on the HOA, the use of a spa for disability reasons may be permitted by law, assuming the HOA is making reasonable accommodations.

One HOA cited a new community handbook rule that prohibits above-ground pools and restricts above-ground spas. In that community, the handbook section on pools and spas stated that “above-ground spas must match the home’s primary color or be screened by a stucco wall painted to match the home.”

If you’re looking for a few options to shield your hot tub or spa, be sure to check out my post 9 Privacy Privacy Options for any Pool or Hot Tub Area.

Tip: Check with your HOA and review the CC&Rs

Most CC&Rs will specify precisely what’s required to have an in-ground pool plan approved. Check with the HOA and review the CC&Rs to see what’s expected. You should also contact your HOA to establish some rapport and make a contact for any questions you have in the process.

Remember that in addition to the pool, you’ll have heavy equipment, materials, and workers in and out of your backyard for at least several weeks.

Know that all pool construction is messy, but an in-progress concrete pool is the worst. That’s because the builders are spraying concrete with a hose, and it gets everywhere. There will be dust and considerable over-spraying, which is why municipalities take pool installs so seriously.

Best practices for installing a pool or hot tub with an HOA

building in ground pool

Simply call or email your HOA if you have questions about their pool policy. You should be able to find out: (i) if pools are permitted; (ii) the type of pools permitted (if any); (iii) the requirements for HOA approval; and (iv) the most expedient way to make it happen (perhaps there’s an official request form to which you need only attach your architectural design).

It helps to do your homework if you are serious about installing a pool (or hot tub). Here are a few questions you should have handy if you approach your HOA:

  • Are there city zoning restrictions in addition to the CC&Rs?
  • How much will my homeowners’ insurance increase with a pool?
  • What safety features (gates, fencing, etc.) are required by the HOA and the city?
  • What type of schedule will the contractors keep?
  • What permits and approvals do I need from the city or county?
  • Do I understand pool injuries and premises liability?
  • Am I prepared to handle the maintenance of the pool or spa myself, or should I hire someone?
  • Can I design the spa to be part of the landscape, rather than an eyesore?
  • How much mess will construction create for the community?

Is it worth filing a lawsuit against your HOA for a pool or hot tub?

What’s worth more to you… your time or your money?

If your HOA prohibits pools and spas of any kind, ask yourself how badly you want to take a dip. The legal expense may double the price of the pool—and you may not even be successful in court. Plus, you do have the option to move if you feel it’s worth it.

Remember these thoughts and plan carefully when considering a pool or spa and working with your HOA. Good luck!

About the author

Kurt R. Mattson is the President of Union Legal Research. He has spent more than 35 years in the legal services industry as a research attorney, writer, editor, and marketer.Reach Kurt at kurt.mattson@unionlegalresearch.com. Connect with him on LinkedIn and read his blog at theulr.com/blog.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is purely informational and should not be used without consulting a legal professional in your country or state. Waterfront Central makes no guarantees and is not liable for any legal related consequences resulting from basic information given in this post.

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