City of Norman finds backyard pool rentals are breaking the law

NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – You can rent an aquatic center pool, the University of Oklahoma pool, but if you want to rent someone’s pool in Norman, the city says you can’t because it’s is a violation of neighborhood zoning ordinances.

Normandy resident, Steve Borden said he came across the Shark Tank-endorsed app called Swimply Last year.

The application allows pool owners to rent their pool.

“I was like, ‘Huh. That’s kind of interesting. Because there are times when we don’t use the pool as much as we would like. So it’s like we can rent it out, do a little extra cash and people could come and have fun, why not,” Borden explained.

Borden’s family tried the app last summer and won about $2,000, so they decided to try it again this year.

Norman resident, Steve Borden backyard pool. Photo by KFOR.

“It’s not a primary income. It’s just to pay the bills. You know, our daughter is getting ready to graduate from college, and we’d like to take her on a senior trip, and we’re going to use some of it for that,” Borden said.

Over the past two summers, Borden has hosted what he estimates between 20 and 30 families.

Borden charges a base rate of $60/hour. Guests can add additional amenities such as a grill or the hot tub for an additional fee.

Borden said they never received any noise complaints in the two summers they did this.

“We tell people when they get here, you know, respectable music is within the rules and to play it at a certain level, but you’re here to have fun. So I had to tell people to turn the music down, and that’s no problem,” Borden added.

However, everything changed for Borden when the town of Norman issued a notice of violation on May 18.

“VIOLATION: The rental of a swimming pool is a commercial use that is not permitted in residential areas,” the letter read.

The Town of Norman told KFOR: “In this particular case, communications from a neighboring property owner prompted the Town of Norman to send notices to property owners.”

This same letter referred to Section 421.1-R-1 of the Single Family Dwelling District as to where the violation may be found.

This city code indicating that single family dwellings may only be used for the following purposes:

  • Single-family detached house
  • Family Daycare
  • General purpose farm or garden
  • Work at home
  • Municipal recreation or water supply
  • Accessory buildings
  • Commercial parking only on days when the University of Oklahoma football team plays at home
  • Model home, subject to an annual permit of one hundred dollars ($100.00)

Under section 438.1 for home occupations, the city lists businesses that are not permitted to operate in a residence. Those being:

  • Automotive repair, major or minor
  • Hair salon
  • Beauty salon
  • Carpentry work
  • Dance classes
  • Medical or dental practices
  • Painting vehicles, trailers or boats
  • Private schools with organized classes
  • child care facility
  • Radio or television repair
  • Padding
  • Restaurant
  • Rest house

Nowhere in this list was there any mention of “swimming pool rental”.

“I kind of laughed it off, called the city, talked to them about it, you know, they referenced the code. And there’s nothing specific about a pool in there. I don’t know how they could really have code around something so new. Just because it’s not in code doesn’t mean it’s against code,” said Borden.

The city told Borden to shut down operations within 30 days, but he continued to rent out his pool, which slowed his operations, however.

A second Notice of Violation then appeared nearly three months later on August 12.

“On 05/18/2022, a notice of violation for the violation described in bold/underlined above [Zoning Violation 421.1] was sent to this address regarding this issue. As of the date of the letter, compliance has not yet been achieved. This letter is an additional attempt at compliance before taking further action. »

The letter asked Borden to cease operations within 48 hours.

Borden contacted Swimply’s legal team for guidance in which he was told via email, “I would say they are incorrect in their analysis.”

Swimply went on to say in their email that their platform is a relatively new concept for sharing household amenities and they do not exist in violation of the referenced Norman City code.

In a statement sent to News 4, Swimply said, “Swamply hosts must follow the laws and regulations of their community – this includes federal, state and municipal laws. In this case, we agree with Mr. Borden that he and all other Norman, Oklahoma residents are legally able to list their pools on our platform. Swimply works much the same as Airbnb and other gear rental platforms. We encourage the city to embrace us as a platform providing an income opportunity for homeowners. »

After further advice from Swimply, Borden drafted an email to the city expressing that he is more than willing to work with the city, but “it’s not something that’s just going to go away.”

There are currently 97 Airbnbs in and around Norman that have a swimming pool listed as an amenity that comes with the home rental.

Prior to 2020, Airbnb short-term rentals were allowed in Norman without a permit, but a an ordinance was passed requiring them to obtain a licence.

Borden hopes that, like the order that was passed regarding Airbnbs, something similar will go into effect with Swimply.

Additionally, there are at least two public pools available for hire.

To rent the Westwood Family Aquatic Center in the town of Norman, it will cost $150 for season pass holders, $200 for non-pass holders, and $5 per additional guest over 15 years of age. guest and can accommodate a party of up to 30 guests.

To rent the Murray Case Sells Swim Complex from OU, it will cost $367.50 for 100 people for up to two hours.

The difference between renting these pools and Borden pool is that they have a short term rental permitunlike Borden.

According to an application search, there are other Swimply pool rentals for the backyard in Norman, but the town told KFOR: “Next steps to address the issue regarding Mr. Borden and issues of Similar rentals are currently being evaluated by the city. The City has just become aware of this issue and will move forward with the goal of achieving compliance.

However, a rep for Swimply said, “Mr. Borden and its many neighbors in Norman who list their pools on our platform are not in violation of the law as it is, in our view.

Borden said that since his letter to the city, he hadn’t heard from anyone. Nor was he fined.

News 4 asked Borden if there was a perfect resolution, what would it be and he said, “Let the process unfold. Tell us about it. Don’t ban it right away.

Borden added that he had spoken with other Swimply pool rental companies in Norman, warning them of his situation. He said no one else had received notices of violation, based on his conversations with other backyard pool tenants in the area.

Until there is a clear order prohibiting the rental of backyard pools, Borden said he will continue to rent his space until the end of the season.

“We like to welcome, we like to open it. It’s not something we can use all the time, so why don’t others like it, so we do it,” he explained.

Borden plans to re-rent his pool this weekend.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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