Spring is finally here and summer will soon follow. With the warm weather comes cottage season. For cottage owners, renting your property can be a great way to generate additional income. For renters, a relaxing getaway at a cottage may provide a much needed escape from the busy urban centers. However, before starting you vacation, all parties should be advised of the risks and obligations associated with renting.
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The following advice is recommended to ensure that both owners and the renters are protected:
Tips for Owners
- Reasonably Safe Premises – Serious injuries resulting in ongoing impairments can occur while vacationing at the cottage. In Ontario, the Occupiers’ Liability Act imposes an affirmative duty on the occupier, or someone who is in control of a property, to take steps to see that individuals are reasonably safe while on the premises. Thus, the standard of care owed to a renter is one of reasonableness, and not perfection. This applies to owners of cottages.
- Duty to Warn – In addition to keeping the premises reasonably safe, the owner has a responsibility to warn renters of dangerous conditions and hazards on the property to help avoid negligence. For example, renters should be warned of any property damage before arriving, no matter how minimal, and proper signage should be posted around the property where necessary.
- Cottage Insurance – Many insurance providers will void an owner’s coverage if they are renting out their cottage without insurance provider’s knowledge. This can be avoided by contacting the company and changing the policy to allow for rentals. Doing so will protect you from property damage and potential injuries sustained by renters while on the premises.
- Comprehensive Agreement – Having a contract that explicitly sets out the terms of the stay and communicating them to the renter will provide clarity and manage the renter’s expectations. Some terms that may be included are deposit requirements, the cancellation policy, the maximum amount of individuals that can be accommodated, whether smoking or pets are allowed, among others.
Tips for Renters
- Make Inquiries – Review the rental agreement and ask questions about the property and its permitted use. There may be restrictions that are not mentioned in writing, such as rules relating to the use of fire pits, recreational equipment, vehicles, etc. It is also important to be proactive and inquire about any potential dangers located on the property. Do not assume the owner will provide details without being prompted. Finally, make sure you obtain references from past renters.
- Surroundings – Become aware of the property and its surroundings when you first arrive. This will reduce the risk of an accident or injury occurring.
- Know Your Rights – Rental agreements are often drafted in favour of the owner and some may attempt to limit liability during your stay. However, do not assume that this prevents you from bringing a negligence claim for an injury sustained while on the premises.
- Photos – Take photos, with digital dates, of the rental when you arrive and when you leave. Photographic evidence will be relevant if a future property or negligence claim is advanced.
Cottages can be a great opportunity for both owners and renters. The above recommendations are a positive step towards ensuring that both parties are protected. Through greater education and awareness, this can be accomplished.
If you or someone you love has suffered a serious injury, contact one of the critical injury lawyers at McLeish Orlando LLP for a free consultation.