Renting a Cottage This Fall? Renting out Your Own? Here's What You Need to Know

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A cabin, shining waters, and a beautiful spot for a bonfire; renting a cottage in Ontario is a great way to get that perfect holiday. When it comes to cottage season, most people think of the summer. But there are a lot of good reasons why fall is a great time, too.

The changing leaves make for a scenic drive and great views from the window or dock. Bonfires are best when they help keep you warm. And of course, there are fewer bugs and less traffic to fight.

For cottage owners, renting your property out can be a great way to defray some of the costs of keeping a seasonal home. For renters, you may be able to rent a cottage for less, since the summer is considered the high season for cottaging. But before any keys are handed over, there are a few things both parties should know.

Cottage insurance: protecting yourself

If you’re a cottage owner and plan to rent out your property, the first step is to contact your home insurance provider (most insurance companies will only sell you cottage insurance if your primary home is insured with them as well). Many providers will cancel your coverage if they find out you’re renting your cottage without their knowledge. In most cases, this can be easily avoided by calling your insurance representative and changing your plan to allow for rentals. If you don’t, you'll be on the hook for repairs if your property is damaged in any way.

Anne Marie Thomas, Insurance Hotline’s former insurance expert, agrees in a Globe and Mail article about renting out your cottage:

"Some seasonal property policies exclude damage caused by a renter," she says. "Some insurance companies will allow a renter for a very short period of time (maybe a week). Some policies will cover renters with specific conditions. Check to see exactly what you are covered for currently and inquire about how you can obtain coverage for renters."

Renters should protect themselves, too, by doing the following:

  • Ask for references from past renters before signing on the dotted line.
  • Search for online reviews.
  • Remember: if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If a listing has beautiful photos but the price is much lower than nearby competitors, you should question why that is.
  • Never pay in full up front; a deposit should do.
  • Be wary of cottage owners who ask you to pay by Western Union, MoneyGram, etc.
  • Take pictures of the cottage when you arrive and when you leave. Make sure the photos have a digital date. This will prove that you left the cottage in good condition if something happens to it after you leave.

A clear contract

Having a clear contract that outlines the terms of a renter’s stay is the best way to make sure both parties walk away happy. Make sure even small issues are addressed in the contract; many disagreements between cottage owners and renters are a result of expectations not being clearly communicated at the outset.

The rental agreement should address items like: how many people the cottage can accommodate; the rental period; the check-in and check-out times; the location; whether smoking or pets are allowed; the payment structure; deposits required; the cancellation policy, and the responsibilities of both the owner and renter (the condition of the property, damages, cleaning, repairs, to name a few).

Ask questions — lots of them

Prospective renters, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Cottages come in all shapes and sizes, so be sure to:

  • Get recent photos of the cottage
  • Obtain directions
  • Get the owner's contact information should there be problems
  • Inquire about local sites, events, and stores
  • Ask if there’s recreational equipment onsite and whether you have permission to use it
  • Ask about the wildlife around the cottage
  • Inquire about the proximity of other cottages and the vibe or the area (is it tranquil, family-friendly, or is there an active community?)
  • Find out about drinking water (is it from a well or does the municipality provide water?)
  • Is there a barbecue, and will you have the propane needed to operate it?
  • Ask about the local rules for fire pits

When done right, everyone wins with a cottage rental. Owners can pocket some cash from sharing their seasonal property with others, while renters often get more mileage for their money by opting for a staycation. Follow the steps above to do your due diligence. If your home insurance policy is up for renewal, consider comparing insurance providers on to find your lowest premium.

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