MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin regulators have backed down on demands that operators of a startup that allows private homeowners to rent their swimming pools by the hour said would kill their business.
The regulators told Swimply in April that pools offered for rent would have to be treated the same as large, public swimming pools. That meant a pool’s owner would have to obtain a license and meet construction requirements that are more onerous.
But on Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection notified attorneys for Swimply that most pools offered for rent would not have to meet those higher standards.
"However, whether any particular pool would be subject to public pool licensing requirements would depend on the facts of the situation for each individual pool," the agency said.
Swimply co-founder Asher Weinberger, who is also its chief operating officer, said Wednesday he was "thrilled" with the change in direction. And Luke Berg, an attorney with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty that represented the startup, said they were grateful that state regulators "took a reasonable approach in their review of their regulations and confirmed that Swimply can legally operate in Wisconsin."
An official with the regulatory agency in April cited a Wisconsin law to Swimply that says a pool becomes public, and subject to licensing, if it is used on a regular basis by people other than the residents where it’s located.
Swimply argued that the state was interpreting the law incorrectly, inconsistently applying it and exceeding its regulatory authority.
Wisconsin was the first state to push back against Swimply, which started in 2018 with four pools in New Jersey but has taken off during the pandemic as more people looked for private spaces to swim and have fun. The business works like an Airbnb for swimming pools, with private homeowners listing their pools on the website and app.
Swimply's attorneys threatened in July to file a lawsuit if the state didn’t back off. Wisconsin was the only state that had challenged Swimply or that the business has threatened to sue, said WILL spokeswoman Erin Collins.
Most of the pools on Swimply are in warm weather locations, but it recently entered the Wisconsin market.