NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR)- You can rent out an aquatic center pool, the University of Oklahoma pool, but if you want to rent someone’s backyard pool in Norman, the city said you can’t because it’s a violation of neighborhood zoning ordinances.
Norman resident, Steve Borden said he stumbled across the Shark Tank approved app called Swimply last year.
The app allows pool owners to rent out their pool.
“I was like, ‘Huh. That’s kind of interesting.’ Because there’s times we don’t use the pool as much as we’d like. So it’s like, if we can rent it out, make a little extra cash and people can come have fun, why not,” Borden explained.
Borden’s family tried out the app last summer and made about $2,000, so they decided to do it again this year.
“It’s not primary income. It’s just to pay bills. You know, our daughter’s getting ready to graduate college, and we’d like to take her on a senior trip, and we’re going to use some of that towards that,” Borden said.
Over the last two summers, Borden has hosted what he guesses between 20 and 30 families.
Borden charges a base rate of $60/hour. Guests can add on extra amenities such as a grill or the hot tub for an extra fee.
Borden said they’ve never gotten noise complaints in the two summers they’ve done this.
“We tell people when they get here, you know, respectable music, it’s in the rules and to play it to a certain level, but you’re here to have fun. So I have had to tell people to turn music down, and that’s not a problem,” Borden added.
It all turned around for Borden though as the City of Norman sent a violation notice on May 18.
“VIOLATION: Renting out swimming pool is a commercial use that is not allowed in residential areas,” the letter read.
The City of Norman told KFOR, “In this particular instance, communications from a neighboring property owner prompted the City of Norman to send notices to property owners.”
That same letter referred to Section 421.1-R-1 Single Family Dwelling District as to where the violation can be found.
That city code reading that single family dwelling districts can only be used for the following purposes:
- Detached one family dwelling
- Family day care home
- General purpose farm or garden
- Home occupation
- 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 a one hundred dollar ($100.00) annual permit
Under section 438.1 for home occupations, the city lists those businesses that are not allowed to operate within a residential home. Those being:
- Auto repair, major or minor
- Barber shop
- Beauty shop
- Carpentry work
- Dance instruction
- Medical or dental offices
- Painting vehicles, trailers, or boats
- Private schools with organized classes
- Child care establishment
- Radio or television repair
- Rest home
Nowhere in that list did it list ‘pool rental.’
“I kind of laughed it off, called the city, talked with them about it, you know, they referenced the code. And there’s nothing specifically about a pool in there. I don’t know how they could really have a code around something that’s this new. Just because it’s not in the code, that doesn’t mean it’s against a code,” stated Borden.
The city told Borden to pull the plug on his operation within 30 days, but he continued renting out his pool, slowing down his business though.
A second violation notice then showed up nearly three months later on August 12.
“On 5/18/2022 a violation notice for the violation described in bold/underlined above [Zoning Violation 421.1] was mailed out to this address regarding this issue. As of the date of letter, compliance has not yet been achieved. This letter is an additional attempt to achieve compliance prior to taking further action.”
The letter requested Borden now cease operation within 48 hours.
Borden contacted Swimply’s legal team for guidance in which he was told via email, “I would argue that they are incorrect in their analysis.”
Swimply continued on in their email stating their platform is a relatively new concept of home amenity sharing and they do not exist in the City of Norman’s referenced code violation.
In a statement sent to News 4, Swimply said, “Swimply Hosts are expected to adhere to the laws and regulations of their community – this includes federal, state and municipal laws. In this instance, we agree with Mr. Borden that he and any other residents of Norman, Oklahoma are legally able to list their pools on our platform. Swimply operates in much the same way as Airbnb and other amenity rental platforms. We encourage the city to embrace us as a platform that offers an income opportunity to homeowners.”
After further guidance from Swimply, Borden drafted up an email to the city expressing that he is more than willing to work with the city, but “this is not something that will just go away.”
There are currently 97 Airbnbs in and around Norman who have a pool listed as an amenity that comes with the house rental.
Prior to 2020, short-term rental Airbnbs were allowed in Norman without a license, but an ordinance was passed requiring those to get a license.
Borden is hoping that like the ordinance that was passed regarding Airbnbs, something similar will go into effect with Swimply.
Additionally, there are at least two public pools available for rent.
To rent the City of Norman’s Westwood Family Aquatic Center, it’ll cost $150 for Season Pass Holders, $200 for Non Pass Holders, and $5 each additional guest over 15. Each party area rental is two hours and comes with 15 Day Passes for your guest and can accommodate a party up to 30 guest.
To rent OU’s Murray Case Sells Swim Complex, it’ll cost $367.50 for 100 people up to two hours.
The difference between renting those pools and Borden’s pool is that they have a short-term rental license, whereas Borden does not.
There are other Swimply backyard pool rentals in Norman according to an app search, but the city told KFOR, “Next steps to remedy the matter pertaining to Mr. Borden and similar rental issues 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 Swimply representative said, “Mr. Borden and his many neighbors in Norman that are listing their pools on our platform are not in violation of the law as it stands, in our view.”
Borden said since his letter to the city, he has not heard back from anyone. He has also not been fined.
News 4 asked Borden if there was a perfect resolution, what would it be and he said, “Let the process play out. Talk to us about it. Don’t just outlaw it right away.”
Borden added he has spoken with other Swimply pool renters in Norman, warning them about his situation. He said no one else has gotten a notice of violation, according to his conversations with other backyard pool renters in the area.
Until there is a clear cut ordinance prohibiting backyard pool rentals, Borden said he’s going to continue renting his space until the end of the season.
“We enjoy hosting, we enjoy opening it up. It’s not something we can use all the time, so why not other people enjoy it, so we do,” he explained.
Borden plans to rent out his pool again this weekend.