Question: We have a pool in the center of the courtyard at my apartment community. It is cleaned only on Fridays and since the filtering system is never run, there is always algae growing in the pool by Tuesday. I am concerned that it is unhealthy to even be near the pool, nonetheless actually wade through the thick layer of green slime to get in. I am wondering what kind of recourse tenants have to get the pool cleaned on a more regular basis, especially in the summer? Should the health department be notified? We have already expressed our concerns to the landlord, but no corrections were made.
Tenants’ attorney Kellman replies:
A pool can be great to have handy for those hot summer days. It must, however, be properly maintained or it becomes a danger exposing you to risks of illness or even death. Landlords should take pool maintenance very seriously. Improperly cleaned water may promote dangerous bacteria easily capable of making you ill. Improperly maintained suction vents can cause drowning if a child gets stuck against one. Improperly grounded wiring or the use of unapproved higher-voltage lighting can cause dangerous shocks. There are slip and fall hazards for improper surfacing around the pool. These are only examples of risks facing tenants from improperly maintained pool. As to your situation, the landlord must keep the water clean to avoid algae or any other unhealthful contaminant. Obviously, minimal cleaning and turning the filters off is only done to save money. This is a very unwise practice. It’s my opinion that, in the hierarchy of rental habitability issues, this lack of maintenance will cost much more in the long run in increased risks forced upon the tenants. Since both common and business sense has eluded your landlord, you should call the county health department to ask for an inspection. They can take the appropriate action with the landlord if the pool is not kept up properly.
Landlords’ attorney Smith replies:
And now the landlord’s point of view: The pool is an amenity, a luxury, and not a necessity. I am not aware of any tenant landlord laws that require landlords to provide pools in their apartment buildings. I do agree with Steve that this landlord should maintain minimum levels of filtration and chemicals to avoid unsanitary or dangerous conditions. Over the years of representing landlords, I’ve seen clients throw their hands up and be done with pools, filling in the hole with dirt. I would suggest that you approach the owner in a more amiable way. A modest rental increase to cover electrical costs for filtering and chemical service could be an option. That way, the excessive electrical cost could be shared among tenants. Remember, do not make a foolish mistake by withholding rent or exercising the repair-and-deduct statute based on the pool problem. It’s my opinion that, in the hierarchy of rental habitability issues, this pool problem does not rank high. If you make an aggressive move, such as withholding rent, you could find yourself on the receiving end of an eviction and get booted from the property.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies,” and San Diego attorneys Steven R. Kellman, director of the Tenant’s Legal Center, and Ted Smith, principal in a firm representing landlords.
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