The fee-based sharing of their backyard retreats by some Destin property owners has caught the attention of City Councilwoman Prebble Ramswell.
“Did you know people are now renting out their backyards and pools by the hour?” Ramswell wrote in the latest edition of her quarterly newsletter, “The Ramswell Review,” that highlights various city issues.
“I have requested the city investigate this commercial use in residential areas,” Ramswell added in the newsletter, which she recently emailed to various subscribers.
Ramswell could not be immediately reached Thursday for comment.
Details on several backyard and/or pool rentals in the tourist hot spot of Destin and elsewhere are available on Airbnb-like websites such as Swimply.com.
For example, that site contains a listing for a saltwater swimming pool for rent at a property its owner/host calls the “Destin Country Club.”
The property’s exact location is provided after booking, according to the site, which also states that the host has been offering the pool for rent since April.
For a weekday rate of $38.25 per hour or weekend price of $45 per hour, up to 10 “guests” can rent the pool under the “Destin Country Club” listing.
“This is more than just a pool, the whole yard is ready to go,” the pool owner/host, listed as “Ryan K.,” says on the listing.
He adds that besides the pool, the yard has a putting green, propane grill, poolside day bed, conversation seating area with umbrella and games such as corn hole.
Ryan K., who could not be immediately reached for comment, also notes that his yard has “fences and/or shrubbery that makes it hard for neighbors to peer,” and he advises guests to “Just be respectful and clean up after yourselves please.” His listing says a restroom is available.
Destin spokeswoman Catherine Card said the city’s code of ordinances does not currently specifically prohibit the renting of pools, but it does prohibit commercial activities in residential areas.
“Code Compliance does not have any active cases, as we have not received any complaints” from the general public about backyard pool rentals, Card said in an email to the Daily News.
She said Ramswell at the Sept. 7 City Council meeting directed City Manager Lance Johnson to bring back a proposed ordinance on how to better address the issue of residents renting out their backyard and swimming pool to other people by the hour.
The city staff is evaluating the issue and will report back to council at a future date, Card said.
The Swimply website also includes listings for pools for rent in Fort Walton Beach, Mary Esther, and Navarre.
“Awesome deck and pool oasis” is how one host describes his amenities in Fort Walton Beach.
The weekday rate for up to five guests using his deck and his above-ground pool that’s buried halfway in the ground is $27 per hour. The weekend rate is $30 per hour.
This host also notes that his “slice of heaven” backyard has fences and/or shrubbery that make it hard for neighbors to see.
Under the site’s “additional rules” section, the host wrote, “No peeing in the pool, if it’s an emergency and have to use the restroom you can come in the residence.”
According to the “Swimply Neighbors Community Page,” the Los Angeles-based Swimply online marketplace “is about enhancing communities at the local level, allowing homeowners to earn an extra income by sharing their pools with nearby families looking for private, safe, and blissful ways to spend time together.”
The site adds to say that each host on Swimply should comply with its “Good Neighbor Policy” prior to becoming a host. Instructions are provided to neighbors who want to report a host who violates the policy.
According to the Associated Press, Swimply started in 2018 with just four pools in New Jersey.
In a July interview with the Asbury Park Press, Sonny Mayugba, vice president of growth for Swimply, said the company grew by about 4,000% from 2019 to 2020.
It added thousands of private pools across the country to its hourly marketplace, especially after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared there was no evidence that COVID-19 could be spread during recreational swimming, the Press reported.
The average hourly cost of a pool rental is $45. A Swimply host gets 85% of the revenue while the company receives 15%.
In many locations, Swimply’s business model has been challenged by local governments and neighborhood residents who assert, among other things, that these sorts of commercial rental enterprises are a risk and a nuisance in residential areas.
Wisconsin regulators briefly discussed holding backyard pool rentals to the same safety and health standards as public pools, as well as requiring pool owners to get a permit for their rental. That proposal was scrapped after Swimply threatened to file a federal lawsuit.
Source: The Destin Log