In an earlier article we looked at the detailed requirements placed on health club operators in the state of California under the California Health Studio Services Contract Law. Like California, many states have laws specific to health and fitness club operators. For those looking to establish a presence in multiple states, state-by-state adjustments must be made, most particularly in the terms contained in membership agreements. As noted in our earlier article, California law has specific requirements for health club membership agreements, including minimum font size for specific information and certain verbiage that must be in close proximity to a new member’s signature line. Here, we take a look at some other states’ requirements for health club facilities.
In considering the various state laws that apply to health clubs, there are points of commonality. Most state laws provide new members with a “cooling off” period after signing a membership agreement. This allows the new member a short period of time after joining to rescind a new membership. In addition to a “cooling off” period, like California, most states allow members to cancel their membership if they move a specified distance from their gym, and most set maximum limits on the length of the membership contract and total membership fee obligation. We’ve looked at three states below as examples:
Nevada: Nevada’s health club act defines “Health Club” broadly, with some limited exceptions for schools and nonprofits, and encompasses any business that offers its facilities for the maintenance or development of physical fitness or the control of weight, including dance studios.
The owner of a Nevada health club (including a dance studio) must register with the Consumer Affairs Division of the Department of Business and Industry and must make a security deposit of funds with that registration. Further, at least one member of the “governing body” of the club must live in the county where the facility is located, and that person will be the agent for service of process for the club.
Nevada law protects members who become disabled and can’t use a fitness facility for more than three months. Any such member may suspend their membership contract for the duration of the disability, and upon recovery may extend the membership for a period of time equal to the length of the disability. If the member is permanently disabled, the member may terminate the membership, and is entitled to a pro rata refund of the amount paid.
New York: Fitness club operators must comply with the New York Health Club Services Act, which covers contracts for instruction or training in bodybuilding, exercising, weight reduction and figure development, martial arts (including judo, karate, and self-defense), tennis and racquetball, and other types of physical training, as well as spas. (We chuckle at the antiquated term “figure development” and wonder if it may make sense for the New York legislature to replace “racquetball” with “pickleball” or “padel,” but we digress.) The Act contains some very specific requirements for fitness club membership agreements, such as:
- The membership contract cannot exceed $3,600 per year (excluding tennis and racquetball facilities).
- The contract cannot be for a term longer than three years.
- The new member must be able to cancel within three days of signing the membership agreement; a cooling off period, as mentioned above.
- The member must be able to cancel his/her contract at any time for any of the following reasons (and all of this must be stated in the membership contract):
- The health club stops offering the services stated in the contract;
- The member moves 25 or more miles away; or
- A physical disability, as per a doctor’s order, which prevents the member from receiving the services stated in the contract for more than six months.
New Jersey: Locations devoting more than 40% of their space to health club services must register with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and must renew that registration every two years. Additionally, New Jersey requires that fitness clubs allow for the following:
- Members cannot be obligated to maintain their membership for more than three years.
- Membership contracts must be cancelled upon request within three days of signing (cooling off period), or if:
- The club stops offering the services stated in the contract;
- A member moves 25 or more miles away from any health club operated by the club operator. In other words, if there is a different location of the same club within 25 miles of the member’s new residence, that membership will be transferred, not cancelled; or
- A member’s physical disability, according to a doctor’s order, prevents receipt of the services stated in the contract for more than six months.
The above is just a small sample of the laws applicable to fitness studio and health club operators outside of California and illustrates some of the specific requirements with which health and fitness clubs are required to comply.
At the time of writing this in 2023 we are finally coming out of the pandemic and people are getting back to the gym – whether that be a traditional gym, a specialty fitness studio like yoga or dance, one of the myriad branded studios, such as Orangetheory®, Soul Cycle®, CrossFit®, or Pure Barre®, and even facilities focused on “figure development,” whatever that may be. To meet this demand, new facilities are opening up throughout the country and existing providers are extending their offerings across state lines. The fitness industry is subject to various consumer protection laws in each state that are unique to the industry, and it is crucial to comply with these laws on a state-by-state basis.
If you have questions about health club laws applicable to you, please contact us here at Crown®, LLP.