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What you need to know before renting out your cottage this season

With restrictions on international travel still in place, many Canadians are looking to vacation locally this year. Demand for private rental properties, like cottages or chalets, is higher than ever before. If you own a cottage or other seasonal property, you may find the idea of earning some extra cash while allowing someone else to enjoy your home away from home more appealing than having your property remain vacant for the season. 

If you’re considering renting out your cottage this season, there are four steps you need to follow before handing over the keys. 

1.    Set clear rules and guidelines

It’s important that both you and your renters are on the same page when it comes to the rules and guidelines they’ll need to follow while renting your cottage. Even if your renters are family members, friends or have come recommended by a trusted acquaintance, a clear understanding of the expectations and a binding rental agreement will ensure a smooth rental experience for both parties.

Draft a rental agreement that outlines all rules and guidelines your guests will need to adhere to while enjoying your space. If your cottage’s lake has rules about campfires, boats or noise restrictions, you’ll need to clearly list these in the rental agreement. 

2. Create a resource guide 

Think about the things in your cottage that may be second nature to you, but that could pose a challenge to first-time visitors. Leave your rental guests a detailed guidebook that contains all the information they’ll need for a safe and enjoyable stay.

Your resource guide should include:

  • Instructions for how to safely operate appliances, like your woodstove or other heating units. 
  • A detailed list noting the location of all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, life jackets and other safety equipment.
  • Information on secure garbage disposal and how to prevent unwanted visits from local wildlife.
  • Guidelines for septic system best practices, if applicable. 
  • Emergency contact numbers, including a number where you can be reached at all hours.
  • Manufacturer’s manuals for all recreational equipment, if your rental agreement includes guest use.  
  • Instructions for operating the water tank and preventing frozen pipes in winter

3. Prepare for visitors 

Ensure your cottage is in pristine condition before your guests arrive. This will set the tone for the way you expect them to leave it once they pack up. Before you head out for the season, tidy your cottage and lock away or bring home all personal items. Check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are in good working order. If your guests are bringing small children or pets, make sure that all potentially hazardous items, such as fire starters and insect repellant, are safely stored.

4. Review your seasonal insurance policy

You’ll need to check with your insurance broker to ensure your seasonal property insurance policy will cover you while your cottage is being rented. Many policies will include a limit on the number of days you’re allowed to rent your cottage out per year, while some will not allow for rentals at all. There may also be rules for what types of rental services you can use, and what kinds of coverage may be excluded while it is rented, such as vandalism. 

You’ll also want to talk to your broker about your liability limit. If someone gets hurt while on your property, you could be held liable. It’s important to ensure your policy’s liability limit is right for you. 

Before renting out your cottage for the season, review your seasonal insurance policy and contact your OTIP broker with any questions at 1-800-267-6847. If you would like to get a quote for seasonal property insurance, call an OTIP broker today at 1-866-561-5559.

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