If you are considering purchasing and installing a swimming pool but are within a HOA (homeowners association), then it’s very important for you to know what you can and cannot do. This is essential before committing to anything as you might end up purchasing something that you cannot install and left high and dry (literally) with no pool/spa. In this article you will find the main things to find out when it comes to your HOA, your responsibility, the main reasons HOA’s don’t allow above ground pools, how to get our pool/spa through the application process, how a Little Pool can be the answer to all your HOA concerns, what to do if you don’t get approved and what to do once/if your pool/spa project gets approved.
Where To Start
HOAs are having a larger influence on the purchase of a new home, as there are over 340,000 HOAs around the United States and more than half of the homes built now, are within HOA’s. There are several steps involved in getting your HOA’s approval before you consider what pool or spa you would like. The first step is to contact your HOA and get the covenants, conditions, and restrictions, (CC&R’s) for your area. These are the rules and regulations that the HOA has set for the community with the point to maintain the look and aesthetics of the area and keep a quality standard for everyone to uphold. You are entitled to a copy of the CC&R’s, so obtaining this shouldn’t be a problem. Once you receive it, you will want to check for anything relating to pools and or spas. Your HOA has a big say when it comes to what you can and cannot do on your property, especially when it comes to the outdoor look of your house and backyard. If there are no rules regarding pools then you are in the clear, however it is highly recommended that you still apply for approval because there could be unlisted “by-laws” that may restrict what you can get.
It is not common for HOA’s to completely deny pool installations, but a lot do restrict what you can and cannot get. Most commonly HOA’s will allow fully in-ground pool installations and restrict other pool types on the property. Spas, however, fall into a different category, and that will be discussed later. The main thing you are more than likely to find in your HOA CC&R’s is one rule in particular stating “No above ground pools shall be permitted”. To understand this, you have to understand where the HOA is coming from, how can they allow inground installations but not allow above ground pools, isn’t a pool just a pool? This is a common misconception and knowing the difference is important if you don’t want to spend hundreds of thousands getting a pool but also don’t want to be put in a position where you cannot have a pool at all.
Why do they Hate Above ground pools?
There are many reasons why the HOA is so strict when it comes to pools, the main reason being the look. This is why inground pools are accepted in a majority of HOA’s, they look professional, clean, part of the backyard, aren’t usually seen from the street and give a sense of ‘Luxury’. In ground pools can be very expensive with your standard 16’ by 30’ foot pool costing anywhere between $70,000-$120,000. This is obviously subject to many aspects like finishes, surrounds, optional extras, quality, accessibility, etc. which will be addressed in another article titled, ‘what to consider and how much does it cost when buying a pool’. With these types of pools, HOA’s usually understand they will add value to the property and in turn add value to the community. The cost of the pool reflects the community standards, hence why they seldom say no to inground installs.
Above ground pools on the other hand are seen as the complete opposite. Above ground pools are cheap, ugly, bright, usually don’t have adequate filtration so they get dirty quick, any filtration they do have is external of the pool and seen as an eyesore and are considered to pose a threat to neighbors due to the temporary aspect of the pool. Now this is where the distinction and definition of what you are applying for is important. Traditionally above ground pools are a quick, cheap option that are only used for one or a couple of seasons. The photos below are some examples of these, and as you will see the HOA has a valid point of view with the way that these pools look. The terminology of above ground pools covers a wide variety of pool costs, with you being able to buy a pool from “big box store” for $500 all the way up to a modular, steel walled vinyl lined pool that can cost up to $39,000 and all thrown into the same category. As the pools industry grows and expands, HOA restrictions will have to change to accommodate different options, as not all pools are your average above ground pool, which is where the Little Pool comes into the picture.
There are a few more reasons that HOA’s don’t like above ground pools. They are seen as cheap, low quality and temporary pools, or they deem them to be a flooding hazard. This is a fair point and with most of these pools and brands the slightest rip, tear or crack will result in failure to the structural integrity of the pool and the pool will surely leak or completely lose it’s contained water into your backyard and subsequently your neighbor’s yard. Leading to possible property damage and disputes between neighbors, hence why HOA’s restrict these types of above ground pools. The lack of filtration in some pools, like blow up pools, is a concern as they do not clean the water and therefor before long the water will get dirty, unhealthy and a breading ground for mosquitos and other insects. It’s quite easy to neglect these types of pools and the HOA just restricts this before it becomes an issue. If the above ground pool does have equipment, it is likely this equipment will be exposed and can be seen next to the pool, which is not a great look for the HOA. HOA’s will usually have a ban on temporary structures in general and some above ground pools fall into this category, remember this, as again definition is important. They also can restrict and ban some structures like pool houses, sheds, storage containers, and external pool products like water slides and waterfalls.
One element of the HOA’s position, that isn’t really covered in many advice pages or community groups is the liability of having an above ground pool in your yard. It is important to know the rules and regulations from your state or local government with regards to pools, but with some pools safety fencing or safety aspects aren’t considered or necessary. This leads to a big risk for the HOA, in that is, if you were to own an above ground pool that doesn’t require fencing or other safety devices, and something were to happen to someone you know or a neighbor in that pool, then not only are you in a position of fault but so is the HOA for allowing you to have that pool. This can lead to legal proceedings and further complications for the HOA. To avoid such situations the HOA will proactively put rules in place to prevent this from happening. An example would be above ground pools that use a two-sided ladder for entry and exit of the pool. This is not considered a ‘Safety’ precaution in the pool industry and therefore can lead to accidents happening and allow small children to enter the pool quite easily.
Local and State Regulations are more important than HOA
It is Important to also be aware of your state and local government rules and regulations when it comes to pool installations. As much as a HOA might say yes to a pool, it doesn’t automatically mean you can go ahead with your project, as the HOA will also adhere to Local and state regulations. Be sure to check these regulations as they may affect whether you can get a pool or affect where you can place the pool in your yard. Setbacks are quite common in all local governments when installing a pool. This is a distance that the local or state government will determine is the closest you can get within aspects of your yard, like property lines and the house. This is one reason why some people will prefer an above ground pool, as their setbacks prohibit them from being able to get a pool, and above ground pools usually have a smaller footprint. This is one specific reason why the Little Pool is designed the way it is. To find out more about your setbacks contact your local government.
The other consideration when dealing with local and state governments is ‘Lot Coverage’. This is the amount of land, as a percentage, that you are allowed to build on/occupy on your property. Coverage includes things like houses, driveways, slabs, patios, sheds, pools, driveways, and any other structures that can be seen as taking up land. This again was a very big consideration for pool sizing by the Little Pool team, as yards are getting smaller the amount of usable land is decreasing. The location, position, and size of your pool matters, it can be the determining factor of what you can and cannot get. So, it’s important to gather all this information before you go shopping around and set yourself up for disappointment.
Risk of just doing it without HOA approval
What if you just go ahead and get an above ground pool without checking with your HOA? Or any pool in that matter. Well, if you were to get found out in an area where there are restrictions regarding pools, there are many consequences ranging from on spot fines, daily fines in the case where a pool has been erected and not taken down by a date or immediately, court cases where the HOA will attempt to sue you, or worst-case charges being pressed against you. So, it is always highly recommended to contact your HOA and know your rights regardless of the type or size of a pool, or a large-scale backyard renovation. It is more advantageous for you to apply and be rejected for your pool project, than for you to install a pool without permission, as you can approach the HOA with either a petition to change their mind (most commonly you need a majority of 67% sway for rules to change), request for reconsideration or worst case sue the HOA.
Exceptions to the ‘Above Ground Pool’ term
There are some exceptions to HOA rules and regulations when it comes to above ground pools. Some HOA’s will stipulate small kids’ pools or waders are allowed, but these will have specific maximum dimensions like 6 foot in diameter with a maximum depth of 1 and a half foot- not a pool in most considerations. The next are Plunge pools, these are considered small pools that are installed either out of the ground or in the ground, but due to the small market of these pools they aren’t well known and usually will come under heavy scrutiny when considered by the HOA. The most important one and maybe your simplest option are Spas or Swim Spas. Spa come as a one piece system, with jets and heating and usually quite small, and can fit 2-6 people. A swim spa is defined as a hybrid between a pool and spa. It has the heating therapy element of the spa but the functionality and space of a small pool.
In most HOA’s that don’t allow above ground pools they will most likely allow Spas or swim spa’s, the reason for this is these aren’t seen as cheap products, they are usually quite small, they are portable, they are seen as therapeutic, all their equipment is usually installed in the footprint of the spa and are self- contained, they have an element of being automatically sanitized (less likely for the water to go bad and be a breeding ground for insects), less likely to fail and causing flooding, can be covered easily, have the ability to be used year round with heating and is are usually finished in a way that is aesthetically pleasing with the ability to customize the outside.
Another major reason why HOAs don’t mind Spas and Swim spas is because of the lack of installation that is required for these, as it’s quite simple, get a platform or a base built and then set Spa or swim spa on it, and you’re done. In many instances, local and state governments do not require permits for these as they are non-permanent structures (please check your local and state government requirements) and therefore only need to get permits for the base and electrical. Again, terminology and definition are important when you approach the HOA with your pool plan, because non-permanent DOES NOT mean temporary, as much as the swim spa and Spas are portable, you do not want to say temporary- HOA’s do not like temporary pools. Another term HOA’s don’t like is above-ground, even though they are not in the ground, you don’t want to use the word above ground, consider portable, freestanding fiberglass pool, concrete pad pool, Swim spa, modular pool, portable plunge pool, etc. See how the way you define your pool or spa can lead to a different opinion from your HOA.
The Little Pool Co and Why you should consider it to get approved by your HOA
This is the part where the Little Pool Co comes into play and how it can be the answer to your HOA and pool needs. The Little Pool is the latest innovation and product in the pool industry. Please read the article ‘Little Pool vs. modular pools’ to understand the benefits and differences between The Little Pool and other products on the market, specifically Swim Spas. The main point that you need to focus on is that from a categorical standpoint, the Little Pool can be classified as a Swim Spa. As it correctly matches the criteria for being a Swim Spa, if you were to look at the dimensions of the Little Pools compared to Swim Spas, you would find they are very similar with most cases being that the Little Pools are slightly deeper. As previously mentioned, terminology and definition are of the utmost importance as this can affect your application. As the Little Pool Brand and others like it grow, there will be a more accurate name given to these types of pools. The few under consideration now are free standing pools, spools (spa pools), Modular pools (prefabricated off site) and a few more, but what we are trying to get away from is the term ‘above ground pool’.
The Little Pool Co. line of pools offer the same benefits that the Spas and Swim spas offer that the HOA likes, but they don’t only just do that, they offer a lot more. Firstly, and most importantly, are the benefits of the Little Pool’s interior surface. The Little Pools are a fiberglass pool shell with a long-lasting, smooth, and attractive gelcoat interior surface, which are designed for outdoor use without the need for covers to protect them from the elements. Whereas the Little Pool shell is constructed by a leading warranty fiberglass pool company with a world-renowned leading warranty. The Little Pool is constructed to be free standing with a non-corrosive framing product called FRP (fiberglass reinforced polymer), as opposed to Spas and Swim spas that usually use timber or steel that can corrode, break down and lead to failure. More detailed information regarding the difference is in the previously mentioned article.
The Little Pools are as easy to install and take up the same footprint, however they have a greater ability to be customized externally. This is a really big aspect to the HOA consideration, as they will stipulate that all additions to the yard will need to resemble or compliment the house. You can attach any cladding, siding, or exterior finish to our pool to the point where it can exactly match the house. Some HOAs even have architectural guidelines that you must adhere to, this document can be obtained from your HOA, and is typically called, ‘Architectural and Landscape design Standards’. The size of the Little Pools also makes it easier to get through the aspects of lot coverage and setbacks previously mentioned. The Little Pool is the perfect size for people wanting a pool as well as potentially heating it up to use all year round. The Little Pool can be pricey but again that will be advantageous for you when you approach the HOA for approval (costs ranging from $30,000 to $70,000). The best thing about the Little Pool is piece of mind knowing is that it will last longer than any other similar product on the market.
You’re probably wondering what to do with all this information and thinking, wow this is a lot of information. Yes, it is, but the more you know and understand where the HOA is coming from and the product you are wanting, the more likely you will prepare for the application process leading to approval instead of disappointment. From here on the article will assist you in preparing for your application and hopefully get you approved.
Step 1: Approach/call/email the HOA and ask for your CC&Rs booklet, alternatively ask them about pools in your HOA and the rules surrounding this. At this point be general, as you will need to prepare more details as to what you want, how you want to use it, and what options are available to you. Do not use any terminology that will affect your chances even before you start. At this point you will probably get an answer that will either be yes you can get any pool; you can have a pool as long as it’s not above ground or no pools at all. After this start to devise a plan or project that you would ideally like. Also be realistic with expectations. At this point, it’s also recommended to check with your home insurance to see if your rates will increase and if you need to change your coverage to the appropriate amount of Liability coverage.
Step 2: Gather all the appropriate information regarding what pool you would like. In this article we are going to specifically target HOAs that allow pools but don’t allow above ground pools with the intention of installing a Little Pool. At this point ask your Little Pool representative or dealer for the ‘HOA Little Pool Specifications’ sheet, this simplistically breaks down the Little Pool and how it is not an above ground pool but more like a swim spa. Find out how to apply, whether that be via form or email. Its also recommended to have a talk to your neighbors to hear their opinion and advise them of your pool intention. This can assist when going to the application stage.
Step 3: Apply for the Little Pool Approval. It is vitally important for you to remember this article and the terms to avoid and use instead (there is a list at the end of the article). Be sure to point out the quality, cost, simplistic nature of the pool and all the benefits previously mentioned in the article. In the application have a detailed plan for the pool installation, most dealers will have an accurate timeline of the way the pool will be installed. Have details of the project and what it will include in detail, especially safety features and fencing (fencing will have to adhere to the HOAs CC&Rs as well). Depending on your HOA, other aspects of the project may need approval like Land grade changes and site prep, a good rule of thumb is any alteration, modification or addition to your property will need approval. For context most installations for little pools take 2-3 weeks (with the first week being curing time for concrete). Detail which days trades people, installation equipment, trucks and cranes will be on site, this is for HOA to consider how much of a disturbance this will have to the community. A typical fiberglass installation can take up to 6 weeks, and a typical concrete pool can take up to 14 weeks. Doing this shows you are serious about your pool intention and not just wanting a quick cheap solution.
The Little Pools are portable, even once installed they can be moved and taken off site if needed for any reason like property maintenance or services below ground that need to be accessed. Also, point out that you would like to swim year-round, whether that be therapeutic needs or just wanting a heated pool due to most community pools closing for a portion of the year. It is important to be patient and understanding during this process, getting angry or impatient will NOT speed up the process and might even produce negative results. The HOA might immediately see this as an above ground pool, don’t be discouraged. Knowledge can go a long way, educate your HOA leadership in the benefits of The Little Pool, show them the benefits of the pool and the way it adheres to the HOA guidelines, and most important be patient and always courteous.
Step 4: Wait for approval, this usually happens within a few days. Three things can happen, they will approve, deny, or send you more questions. If they ask more questions to be sure to talk to your dealer or Little Pool representative to gather this information. If they approve it then congratulations, you can move ahead with your pool. The one thing that is recommended is that if it does get approved, don’t flaunt it. Meaning don’t go not following your plan, or going twice as big as you applied for, or having massive slides and pool stuff scattered around your yard. Be grateful to be approved. If you get denied, you can either request an appeal with more information to back up your appeal and request a criterion of pools that you may be allowed to get. You can also try to get a local petition started where you try to get the neighbors to all agree that the rules need to change, this takes effort, and you need a 67% sway in most communities to even be eligible for consideration to change the rules. If you are serious about getting a pool you can always take it further with legal action, this is not a legal advising article, we recommend you contact an attorney specializing in that. One long shot that you may have if it’s denied, is that in some local and state governments, especially where there is a high percentage of veterans, you can get through the application process by requesting a therapy pool. Yes, Little Pools can definitely be configured as a therapy pool, with the addition of our swimming harness options, mineral sanitation system, spa jets, therapy jets and heating capabilities of the filtration system, all resulting in a functioning therapy pool. If you need more details on this, please contact the Little Pool Co or your local dealer.
The Little Pool Co is a brand focused on quality and trying our best to ensure that everyone can get a pool, with the peace of mind, that it will last and be able to be installed in almost any yard, whether that be within a HOA or not. Keys points, are to do your research, be sure to know what you can and cannot install, be sure to define the Little Pool in a way that is advantageous to your application without being false, make a detailed plan (the more detailed and specific the more likely you will get approved), be patient and be grateful.