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A few weeks ago, I moved into a single-person house across from a larger four-person house on the same property. We are all college students in a college town, in the US. If it matters, I'm two grades above them. We share a backyard.

About a week in, they decided to set up one of those cheap $50 inflatable pools in the backyard, fairly close to one of my windows. (There'd be no other place to put it.) At the time, I'd mentioned that standing water isn't healthy to keep around for an extended period of time, especially untreated and unmaintained. They said they'd take care of it.

It's been five weeks, and that has not happened. I've likely been negligent in not following up with them about it sooner, but that's in the past. I'd normally leave it be, and I wanted to, but it's turning into a breeding pool for mosquitoes and other bugs. I've talked with them about it, asking whether they're still planning on maintaining it, commenting that it's starting to breed bugs - but I've gotten only lukewarm responses.

The landlord does not know about this pool. I was nudged into one of those "forgiveness over permission" implicit social contracts with the other tenants, and the landlord was never informed. Though, it should be noted that the pool blipped on the landlord's radar via an abnormally high water bill for the month. It's not a small pool. While I do pay my share of this bill, I was willing to do it in order to avoid setting a bad social precedent early on. It's $10-15, and I'm willing to pay $10 to maintain amicable relations. (The landlord contacted us all, asking what was up with the water bill, but it's so far that email has been met with radio silence.)

But this does also mean that deflating the pool and inflating it only when it's going to be used is non-viable. It's about $55-70 net worth of water to properly set up, and we live in a drought region.

I'd like to stay on good terms with the residents. They are nice people, and I do have to live on shared property for the next year. But it's, well... a problem that's only going to get worse. On top of that, I am actually good friends with the landlord, and I'm not sure how my choice to not inform them will be received, and reflect on me. I would like to stay on good terms with them as well, both as a tenant for recommendation reasons, and a friend, because I just flat like them.

The reason I'm asking here is because I consider this a social problem rather than a legal one. There is both a contractual mechanism in place and a city code violation process that I could engage, but involving the law over a backyard pool is just about the coldest, silliest thing I could do, and I'd really rather not. I'd rather slather peanut butter on myself, put on a jester hat and zoot suit, and shout bug-themed obscenities through their open windows while jumping up and down in the pool than do this. (To clarify: this is not a normal activity for me.)

As I mentioned above, I've already tried the "gentle nudge/reminder" approach. I'm not sure what's appropriate from this point forward.

I'm looking both short term and long term here: what do I do right now, and what can I do later on if that doesn't work, or if the group is unresponsive? At what point is it socially reasonable for me to have done my due diligence, and escalate the issue?

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    Confused... It's a cheap 50 dollar pool, yet it's big enough to hold 55 - 70 dollars of water? How expensive is the water over there?!? – Tinkeringbell Oct 25 '17 at 16:02
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    @Tinkeringbell Extremely. Water rates went up in the drought, and they haven't stopped rising. Also, this pool, while inflatable, isn't... small. I'm realizing I may have miscalculated slightly - it might be closer to $40 to $60 total. But the difference is immaterial to me. – Aza Oct 25 '17 at 16:03
  • Just for the record, my landlord is also female - since some answers seem to be assuming that "landlord" means "male" by default. – Aza Oct 26 '17 at 8:53
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You've told them that standing water can cause problems with bugs, but that doesn't mean they've made the connection. People hear "X could cause problem Y" and dismiss it if they don't personally care much about Y. If these are young students possibly living on their own for the first time, there are tons of "household 101" stuff they might not know yet, not because they're dim but because they haven't had the experience.

What they need to hear is not that this is a problem (in the abstract) but that this is actually a problem for you. In my experience, in a case where everyone wants to maintain a friendly relationship, making it personal gets better results.

Talk to one of them when neither of you needs to rush off, and say something like: "Hey, the mosquitoes from the pool are really causing problems for me -- I can't keep my windows open and the bites are itchy. Can you folks start maintaining the pool, or should we empty it out?"

It's possible that he doesn't know what needs to be done to maintain it. If you do know and it's something fairly simple (that just isn't getting done), then instead of "maintaining the pool" you could say "skimming the pool every week" or "treating the water" or whatever it is you do to maintain pools. This invites the person to ask questions about what needs to be done, if he cares enough about the pool to want to keep it.

As for the landlord, you can proceed on the assumption that the other residents got permission, assuming the lack of permission isn't blatant. (For example, if your lease says "no swimming pools", this suggestion isn't going to work.) If the landlord brings it up, you can say "oh, I assumed they had your permission for that". If you feel conversationally obliged to bring it up yourself, you can say something like "the guys in 2A seem really happy about that pool". Either way, you're conveying that (a) it's not your pool and (b) you assumed they did things right, but since it's not your pool you didn't pry.

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    You (OP) may want to note that in addition to mosquitoes, stagnant pools are also a breeding ground for disease-causing bacteria, and may pose a (legally liable) drowning risk if not fenced and locked. The CDC has information about this. By leaving the pool in this state, you and your neighbors are potentially opening up yourselves—and your landlord—to significant consequences. – 1006a Oct 25 '17 at 19:26
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    I talked with them a little earlier and this was indeed the case: they'd registered that it could be a problem, not that it was actually an active problem. W/ some help from me, they drained it pretty much immediately. Good thing, too: there were larvae and macroparasites visibly swimming in it. (I even had no idea it was that bad.) ...but this house apparently wasn't set up to drain several hundreds of cubic feet of water at once. Oh well. They're gonna end up contacting the landlord anyway. Thanks for the advice; as of now, all are still on good terms. :] – Aza Oct 25 '17 at 22:43
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I'd go with one last, final warning. No gentle coercion, but cold hard truth. Tell your roommates that:

  • There are mosquitoes breeding in the water. I'm assuming hot weather, so you want to be able to have your window open at night. You're bothered by the mosquitoes and it's worse for you since they decided to plant the pool under your window.
  • You're willing to tolerate the pool beneath your window, as you've stated before. But there was a condition to it, that isn't being met right now. You want them to do something about that within a week.
  • Set an ultimatum, I arbitrarily chose the week. You might negotiate a little (e.g. if roommates can prove they ordered a pump for the pool, but that will arrive in two weeks. Then give them 3 days or so to install it after).
  • Tell your roommates that if this ultimatum isn't met, you're no longer going to risk your relationship with the landlord. The pests will spread, and in the end, other people than you will be bothered by them. If they report to the landlord before you, you're in trouble and you don't want to go there. So, either they do something about the problem before it spreads, or you go to the landlord to have the pool cleaned up.
  • Nice thing to have handy would be a solution to propose. There are some tricks to get rid of mosquito larvae, this was the top google hit. Tell/show them it's easy to tackle the problem and support some suggestions for them. Leave them free to decide on another solution, however, if they wish to do so. Of course, the easiest solution would be to drain the pool, and put it in storage for a few weeks of fun next year.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Make your point very clear, so they can't accuse you of not warning them of it in advance. You're going to the landlord to have the pool removed if your roommates are not willing to clean it up.

Since it's filled with bugs, I can't really imagine there are still people swimming in/using it! You could make a fun day with a barbecue or something on 'pool-clean-up-day'.

As for your relationship with the landlord, not having told them earlier does not make a good impression if they're very strict on the rules. What you can try here is an appeal to their sympathy:

  • You have to live with your roommates, so you also want a good relationship with them. You didn't rat them out immediately because you wanted to keep good relations with them.
  • You are ratting them out now because the pool is becoming a public health hazard. And you want to keep your good relationship with the landlord. You don't want the property infested by insects.
  • Something like

    'I hope you can understand. The pool wasn't my idea, and at first, I didn't see the problems it could pose. I'm doing now, so here I am, humble and repentant, to fix the issue before it is too late'.

I don't think the landlord will get too upset over the water bill, after all you were all willing to pay your share and so even the abnormal high water bill was paid without any trouble.

3

So the way I see it, you have two options. The first would be to contact your landlord and have them take care of it. It sounds like part of your goal here is to avoid dealing with this with an appeal to authority, as that would hurt your relations with the other tenants.

The second option is to deal directly with the tenants. You described them as generally good guys, and I completely agree that being direct with them is the way to go. I understand that you've already talked with them once. If they are like any of the college guys I met and/or was, they probably remember the conversation and even feel kind of guilty about not doing anything, but will continue to not do anything until they feel the pool is actually an issue.

You need to talk to them. Really, just one of them. If you know them well enough to make this judgment call, find the most mature or at least the friendliest one and talk to him one-on-one. Explain that the pool is becoming an issue and mention the mosquitoes specifically. Forget asking them to maintain it. They might clean it once, but there's a good chance you would have to have another one of these talks each time it needs a cleaning.

If you either don't feel comfortable confronting any of them one-on-one, or feel like you might end up having a hard time expressing the issue or staying calm, a note left on their door might work, but would likely require more forceful language to be effective. If you go the note route, I would probably suggest including language indicating you'll need to talk to the landlord if they don't take care of it.

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Need to come up with a pretense for getting your landlord over to your rooms, a problem nothing to do with the pool. Something like a leaking tap, light not working. While he's there, it'll become patently obvious that there's another problem with his property - the pool. You're in the clear, he sorts the pool, job done!

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    Why do you need a pretense? Landlord specifically emailed asking about the water use spike. Respond to the email. Right? Whoops, that came from OPs comments, but let's say OP has indicated the pretense is already there for use. – PoloHoleSet Oct 26 '17 at 14:46
  • Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – user58 Jan 30 '18 at 16:12
  • @ArwenUndómiel - I thought it so obvious, it didn't need any more! However - the landlord hasn't visited for a while, it seems, so he needs to be given a reason to arrive. The OP calls him, fair enough, but not for the pool problem. While there, it should be patently obvious something's amiss, but he could hardly be blamed for snitching. So, while he's there, he could sort out the pool problem. – Tim Jan 30 '18 at 16:19
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It actually is becoming a health problem.

The infringement of putting down that pool without permission and then neglecting to own up on the incurred responsibility makes this an escalating health risk.

How would you react on hearing a young child in the neighbourhood contracting encephalitis, dengue, yellow fever, malaria, or filariasis to name but a few?

So, warn. Verbally if you can or by putting a note through the mailbox if you must. Give fair warning and a reasonable term to remove the entire mess.

Be very clear about their responsibility.

Wait out the term, give a one day final deadline and act by removing the water and pool, and call it a day.

And to be sure mix in a healthy dose of chlorine into the water right now.

Reference:
https://www.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol/joint-statement-mosquito-control-united-states

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    Do not secretly chemically treat other people's property, especially not something that they may submerge themselves in. – user3306 Oct 25 '17 at 18:41
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    @thumbtackthief Swimming pools are treated just like this, for sanitary reasons. Not exactly a health hazard, the opposite in fact.. – Bookeater Oct 25 '17 at 20:27

protected by Community Jan 31 '18 at 14:09

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