Swimming Pools and Handicapped Accessibility – A North Carolina Twist

A previous blog discussed “Swimming Pools, the ADA, and Handicapped Accessibility.” The middle of winter may seem like a strange time to discuss pools, but there have been North Carolina developments worth sharing.

Changes to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) for public pool facilities were issued in 2010 to be effective March 15, 2012, with the intent that public pools be more handicapped accessible. In May 2012, the Justice Department extended the compliance deadline for existing public pools to January 31, 2013 “to provide additional time for compliance and to respond to concerns and misunderstandings about the standards.” Generally, the new ADA requirements do not apply to existing pools at homeowner or condominium associations used only by members or guests due to the ADA definition of “public accommodations,” so many community associations haven’t closely followed the new requirements. (NOTE: ADA codes are separate from Fair Housing Act Amendment (FHAA) issues, where a handicapped owner can request a “reasonable modification” to make necessary changes at the owner’s own expense.)

North Carolina Take on the ADA and Swimming Pool Accessibility

Several North Carolina associations have recently been told that modifications to their existing pools require that they comply with the handicapped accessible guidelines of the ADA despite the fact that the pools were pre-existing, the associations have never been considered public, do not sell pool memberships, and do not host swim meets. These statements are not directly related to the new ADA guidelines, but are the result of lesser known changes to the NC Building Code. According to the state’s Chief Accessibility Code Consultant, after June 1, 2012, the new constructions of all pools and alterations of all existing pools (public or private) “are required to comply with the 2012 NC Building Code and the 2009 ANSI A117.1. The ANSI A117.1 requirements parallel the provisions that the 2010 ADA has for retrofit of existing pools.” So what does this mean? Some associations that have been required to make repairs or alterations to their pools requiring a building permit have been told that no permit will be issued unless the existing pool is brought into compliance with handicapped accessible guidelines in line with the ADA.

Obviously, facts vary from case to case. Also, state codes and interpretations can change. At present, however, if you attempt modifications to your pool that require plans and permitting, you’ll likely be told the current NC Building Code requires the pool to adhere to the new ADA guidelines. Otherwise, the plans will not be approved. What sorts of pool changes require a permit? A permit will likely be needed for increasing the size of the pool, adding pools, changing the shape of a pool, changing the type of filtration system, or other significant construction in the pool area. Lesser repairs or replacements of existing equipment, like replacing a diving board, will likely not trigger the new requirements, but that could vary by location.

In the event you decide your pool may be governed by the new ADA requirements (e.g., the association rents out the pool to the public, sells memberships to non-owners, hosts swim meets, a building permit is required for modifications, etc.), the Justice Department has now set up a “Questions and Answers: Accessibility Requirements for Existing Swimming Pools at Hotels and Other Public Accommodations” that may be of interest.

HOA & Condo Associations Real Estate