DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from "Desperate in Kansas," about uninvited guests showing up to use their new swimming pool, I had to write.
Here's how my wife and I solved the problem when neighborhood children started showing up at all hours. First, we decided that rules would have to be set -- and enforced.
We began by having a sturdy fence and locked wrought-iron gates installed around the pool area. Then we increased the homeowner's liability limits on our insurance. We asked our attorney to draw up a "liability waiver" to be signed by the parents of the children in our neighborhood and returned to us personally by the parent or guardian. If there was no signed waiver, the child was not permitted to swim.
We allocated two evenings a week, between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., when the neighbors' children were welcome to use our pool. These were evenings when my wife and I would be home to sit on the patio and watch and referee the children. No swimming would be permitted at any other time unless by special invitation.
"Desperate" should try our method. Her neighbors will respect her for it. -- EXPERIENCED IN YUMA, ARIZ.
DEAR EXPERIENCED: Consider yourself fortunate that your neighbors abided by your rules. Since I printed that letter, I have heard some horror stories. Read on for a sample:
DEAR ABBY: You suggested that "Desperate in Kansas" put a stop to the drop-ins by becoming assertive, installing a flagpole or signs to indicate when the pool was open, increasing the amount of homeowner insurance, and suggesting the pool be fenced. I don't think you went far enough.
When I was in college, part of a constitutional law course I took covered the subject of torts and liability. One particular case we studied stands out in my memory. It involved a family whose swimming pool was surrounded by a 6-foot-high locked fence. While the family was away on vacation, several youths scaled the fence and went swimming. Unfortunately, one drowned, and the owners of the pool were convicted of negligent homicide!
The ruling stated that the owners of the pool should have contacted each neighbor and informed them of their plans because a pool is considered an "attractive nuisance." I would urge "Desperate" to contact an attorney who can advise her about local law and liability. At the very least, she should place a "No Trespassing" sign on the lawn, install a locked fence, and send a card to the neighbors explaining the rules.
The cost of these measures is minuscule compared to a potential liability suit. -- CHRIS IN PELHAM, ALA.
DEAR CHRIS: Thank you for the warning. One of my readers sat on a jury for a wrongful death suit with similar circumstances and urged me to inform "Desperate" as well as other pool owners that uninvited children using a swimming pool without permission or parental supervision should be reported to the police for trespassing. Better to have it on record than to risk being held liable for an accident.