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Responsible Renting of Your Cottage

Published on 5/25/2019

Responsible Renting of Your Cottage

Like many of you, growing up, my favourite summer memories were of my family spending our cherished two weeks at the cottage that we rented every year.  We couldn’t wait to splash in the water, fish, look at the stars off the dock, and roast S’mores around the campfire. As an adult, for many years I continued this tradition by renting cottages with my son, watching him wonder at the magic of Muskoka.  Now, as a cottage owner, I am proud to pay it forward and make my cottage available for rent when I can’t use it. The guest book shows me my guest families have made their own special memories on the lake and the surrounding community, just like my family did 40 years ago.  

Cottage rentals have been a valued tradition in Georgian Bay Township for decades.  Recently, there has been a technology evolution offering one-stop advertising/booking/charging services.  This ease of process has led to an increase in cottage owners considering renting their cottages.

Is this you?  There are many benefits to renting your cottage, including income to afford septic and shoreline maintenance, as well as property improvements.  But, done wrong, renting your cottage will create major headaches for you, your neighbours, and our lake community.

Here’s a few tips on responsibly renting your cottage.

  1. Safety first.   Make sure you are aware of the fire safety capacity of your cottage and have fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.  Be sure your cottage, deck, and dock is in good state of repair so guests will not be injured. Make sure you have enough lifejackets and boater safety kits for your guests to use.  Check your firepit is built properly and away from overhanging vegetation.

  2. Prioritize the needs of your neighbours and the lake community over your own needs and those of the renters.  We need to work as a community to keep this tradition going.

  3. Screen your potential guests.  Would you want a relaxing weekend next to the booking you are considering?  Most renters are families but consider the proximity of your neighbours if you are considering renting to larger groups.

  4. Be available to your renters and your neighbours.  Let everyone know you are ultimately responsible for your property and the guests in it.  If a guest has a question they should be able to reach you or your agent day or night. If a neighbour has a concern, they should be able to get you to remedy it immediately.  

  5. Take a damage deposit.  Guests are more responsible when they have money to lose.  

  6. Be clear of local bylaws such as noise, fire, garbage, light pollution.  Make your guests aware by several methods (guide book, email, signage) and let them know violations will not be tolerated and will result in a charge against their deposit.  Most guests in my experience produce no issues when properly informed.

  7. Have a contract the guests sign with terms and conditions that lay out expectations and limit the number of overnight guests and the age of the renters.  

  8. Consider hiring a professional booking and management service to help.  They take a small fee in exchange for very professional, responsible oversight.  

  9. Encourage your guests to visit local attractions and services, and provide information for these.  Tourism benefits everyone.

Make sense?  You can help keep our rental industry thriving!   This is an Ontario-wide association with free membership that is dedicated to the promotion of a responsible rental industry. Their members include cottage owners (ones who rent and ones who do not), families that want to continue to rent cottages, and local business people who support the rental industry.  Their focus is on sharing best practices to help owners and renters rent responsibly. This includes educating owners and renters on responsible renting. The association is committed to protecting the environment, respecting neighbours, shoreline restoration, and the conservation of aquatic life. The association believes all cottage owners need to work together in a positive and united approach. 

By being a responsible renter, you will enhance the lake community in a time-honoured tradition, sharing our beautiful lake with the next generation of families.