Kevin Benton has owned his Burlington home with a beautiful backyard pool for about 14 years.

But in May he began renting his private paradise by the hour through the California-based swimming pool rental platform Swimply. That makes its saltwater pool one of 300 Canadian Swimply lists: 200 of them are in Ontario and 78 are in the Toronto area, according to a search conducted Thursday on the Swimply site.

The idea of ​​renting pools by the hour has attracted surprising interest in Ontario, says the company’s vice president of growth, Sonny Mayugba. Ontario ranked second after California in the second quarter of this year in user acquisitions – people “who sign up or download the app.” That’s after a first quarter in which Ontario didn’t even make it into the top 20 markets.

Swimply started in 2019. But the concept really took off with the pandemic.

Swimply has 15,000 group listings in North America and Australia, and there are hundreds of more onboard hosts, meaning the company verifies that they have a properly priced group. The platform has a 15 percent cut from the rental price.

With 10.4 million pools in the US alone, there is plenty of room to expand into swimming space, but Swimply wants to be more than just a pool site, Mayugba says.

That is why he plans to launch Joyspace, a platform for the rental of private tennis courts, outdoor kitchens and yoga studios, home gyms and climbing walls.

“Cool spaces by the hour – that’s the Swimply way of thinking,” he says. “You’d be surprised what people have built in their backyards. It is simply amazing. We have a host from San Diego who literally built an 18 hole professional miniature golf course, lit up at night. “

Unlike Airbnb, where owners often leave their properties when they rent them, most Swimply hosts are present while their pools are in use, Mayugba says. Only owners can rent pools on the platform.

Benton says that in nine out of 10 cases, he personally greets his guests and generally stays for the duration of the rental. If the guests are regular visitors, you could come and go.

It is the simplicity of the system that attracted him to rent his pool, he said. The money helps pay some bills, meets interesting people, and when the guests leave, it’s simply a matter of cleaning the bar and running the pool vacuum.

“The pool is already there. It is already disinfected, it is already clean; all costs are static. The amount of money you have to spend to maintain a used versus unused fund is almost inconsequential, ”Benton said.

Mayugba says the average Swimply rental costs $ 45 an hour, but there is a range of $ 15 to $ 150 an hour. All prices are in US dollars, including Canadian rentals. The host sets the price.

GTA pool listings ranged from $ 23 (US) an hour for a standard city pool and a couple of chairs, to $ 200 an hour for an elegant, landscaped oasis in King City. Most cost between $ 50 and $ 75 an hour.

Benton’s Burlington Pool It comes with a cabana bar, patio furniture, pool toys, life jackets, a mini fridge, and bluetooth speakers. It rents for $ 55.20 an hour on weekdays and $ 69 on weekends for the first five guests. Your listing adds $ 10 per hour for each additional guest.

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So far, he estimates that he has made between 40 and 50 rentals this season.

Mayugba says the average rental party is five people, but larger parties make bathrooms cheaper.

“When you talk to 10 people for three hours, you are talking about $ 15 a head,” he said. “It’s cheaper than bowling.”

Although the majority of users are families, swimming pools are also rented for parties, physical therapy and swimming classes, even photo and video sessions.

Benson said she welcomed two parents and two children this week. “They had literally just come from another Swimply pool in Burlington. They were jumping out of the pool, so they were able to jump in and try a couple of different ones, ”he said.

He has learned to rule out guests who may stay longer than welcome or annoy neighbors through profile photos, the tone of his messages and requests for overnight reservations without children. Swimply hosts in the Toronto area also have an informal Facebook group where information is shared.

Benton doesn’t take late, loud parties, but he’s not worried about grown-ups having a drink or two. “I have a family that comes to see me regularly. They bring food, prepare it as if they were going to the beach and spend an entire afternoon. I don’t care if they have a couple of beers, ”he said.

According to Mayugba, 80 percent of Swimply listings include access to restrooms. Those that don’t are limited to one-hour bookings.

Swimply users pay and receive their instructions on how to enter the pool, usually through a door on the side of the house, through the app. Benton asks his guests to respect the reservation time. Sometimes he pops his head out with a friendly reminder that the reservation is coming to an end. If guests wish to extend the time and the pool is available, he will try to accommodate them.

Although rare because Swimply hosts are often on site, Mayugba says there are occasional issues, such as guests saying they bring four people and show up with 20. The company has 24/7 customer service. the week and neighbors and guests can make complaints. by phone or email. A review system allows guests to review hosts, but hosts also review guests. Out of tens of thousands of rentals a month, less than 1 percent have a problem, Mayugba said.

The Swimply app leaves an hour gap between bookings. Benton said the rule was put in place to deal with COVID-19, but some hosts would like it to be shortened to 30 minutes because the one-hour gap reduces their earning potential if they get a lot of hour-long bookings.

Mayugba said Swimply’s insurance program provides hosts with $ 1 million in liability insurance and $ 10,000 in property damage. But he acknowledged that hosts should check local requirements. Swimply is fighting an attempt by Wisconsin to treat backyard pool rentals as commercial pools that require a license.

The Star checked with the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). He advised that people who rent a house or pool for the short or long term speak with their insurance representative.

“The conclusion of a rental contract of this type could cause a substantial change in risk in the profile of your property, which means that you must inform your insurer. It is in your best interest to inform your insurer before any potential damage or injury occurs while your place is being rented, ”IBC said in an email.

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Tried it: a swimply swim test

The first time you rent a pool through Swimply it can feel strange, a bit like sneaking into your neighbor’s yard, says Swimply Vice President Sonny Mayugba.

“But once you do, this is no different than getting into an Uber,” he said.

My editor agreed to help cover an hour’s rent from an average pool listing so I could verify the user experience.

Mayugba’s description turned out to be quite accurate. My adult daughter said she felt weird, like we were trespassing, as we climbed up the side of a standard suburban home about 15 minutes from our home in Mississauga.

When the door swung open to reveal an inflatable flamingo and a palm tree floating in a glistening pool, she was delighted but hesitant. Were the people in the house looking at us? We assumed someone was home because there were cars in the driveway, but we didn’t speak to anyone during our hour-long rental. That was fine, which added to the brief fantasy of it being our private pool retreat.

Our host, through the app, had instructed us to park on the sidewalk and send a message if we had any problems or questions. We did not do it. The instructions were clear and simple.

To cheer up my daughter, I went into the pool to test the water and declared it cool but comfortable. He had declined the option offered by applying an additional $ 10 for the pool heater. I thought the recent heat wave would make the temperature comfortable and I was right.

In a couple of minutes, my daughter was floating in the flamingo and admiring the privacy and the manicured landscaping of the garden.

We swam, splashed, and chatted for about 45 minutes. Wanting to be aware of the booking end time, I probably made my way to the changing room, a neat pool shed with curtained windows and an outdoor rug on the floor, a little earlier than necessary.

We were a little sad when we closed the door behind us. By the time we got home, our host had texted us asking if we had enjoyed the bath. I assured them we had done it and complimented their little garden by the pool. There was also a dining room, a children’s area, and a hammock on the patio.

Next time, he said, we should help ourselves to tomatoes and zucchini.

Overall, the experience was perfect. The application is intuitive and friendly; the host prompt, patient and friendly.

The only downsides I could see were the access to the bathrooms and the American prices. The listing said that access to the bathroom was available indoors, but I wasn’t sure if we would message the host or what the procedure was for that access. Swimply prices are quoted in US dollars, a fact that is clear on the website but barely recorded when I booked. Our $ 71.50 swim actually showed about $ 92.28 Canadian on my credit card.

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