Currently, the State of Connecticut allows pools to open on June 17. But, before diving in, there are several legal, financial, and practical issues to consider.
First, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), the risk of contracting COVID-19 at a pool is minimal. The CDC has found no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas, and that proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.
Second, boards should be aware that most association commercial liability insurance policies contain exclusions for virus or bacteria-related claims. This means that, even though the risk is minimal, should someone get sick and claim that their use of the pool caused them to contract COVID-19, the association has no insurance coverage for this claim or for the cost of defense. Even though it is doubtful that such a lawsuit would be successful as it is nearly impossible to prove where the virus was contracted, the cost of defense (i.e. attorney’s fees) could be significant and would need to be borne directly by the association.
Third, if your community does open the pool this season, operation of the pool must be done in accordance with the guidelines issued by the State of Connecticut. These can be accessed at:
Additionally, the CDC website contains useful recommendations and suggestions for operating pools safely given the COVID-19 threat. These can be accessed at:
Fourth, proper implementation of the state guidelines for pool opening will require an expenditure of association resources. The State rules require appointing a Program Administrator to be sure the rules are properly implemented. This can be a board member, paid employee, or community volunteer (the association should discuss whether it needs to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for employees and volunteers with its insurance agent). Touched surfaces such as handrails, gates, lounge chairs, and other shared surfaces must be cleaned at least daily and more frequently depending on usage. The Program Administrator would be responsible for making sure this is done, or training staff to do so. In order to help manage these tasks, the association may want to consider removing the pool area furniture and have residents bring their own chairs to the pool this season, and keeping bathrooms and locker rooms closed. You can also set up stations containing disinfecting wipes and hand-sanitizers. Also, you may want to prohibit guests as a way to reduce crowding, usage and potential contamination.
If your association decides to open, we recommend that the board formulates rules for the pool in keeping with state and CDC COVID-19 guidelines, and posts signs at all pool entrances containing these rules. The following are suggested rules (which can be changed to meet your community’s needs):
The adoption and posting of these rules does not absolve the association of liability should someone claim they contracted COVID-19 at the pool, but it does put residents on notice of the rules and that there are risks involved.
Due to the lack of insurance coverage for potential claims and the financial costs involved in complying with the state protocols, some associations may decide that opening the pool at the present time is not worth the risk or cost. In this case, be advised that, according the state statute and most bylaws, boards have the absolute authority to regulate the use of common elements like swimming pools. This means the board is perfectly within its rights to close the pool for the season or pick a later opening date if it decides it is in the association’s best interest to do so. Unit owners are not automatically entitled to a refund of common charges if the pool does not open.
This is a general statement of our firm’s position on this matter and is subject to change if the state protocols change. Feel free to contact our office should you have specific questions about your pool opening. Good luck and have a safe and fun summer.