Things to remember before you rent out your cottage this season
Renting out your cottage can be a great way to let someone else enjoy your home away from home as much as you do — and make a little extra cash while you’re at it. But before you put your cottage on the rental market, you’ll need to do some planning. From deciding who you’ll invite to setting some ground rules and making sure your seasonal property insurance policy will keep you covered in an emergency, check these cottage rental tips off your list before you roll out the welcome mat.
Before you hand over the keys…
- Rule out some renters (and set some rules). Some strangers might take perfect care of your pristine property, but others won’t be so careful. Your most reliable guests will likely be relatives, friends, friends of friends, colleagues, or other renters who have been recommended by someone you know. Before your renters arrive, have them sign an agreement outlining any concerns or rules you may have (if you don’t want them inviting guests to camp out on your property, or if your lake has rules about boats, noise, or campfires, make sure you say so in the rental agreement).
- Write a “welcome book.” While you may know your cottage like the back of your hand, your renters will need a little guidance. Be sure to leave them a handbook containing detailed instructions for anything they may not be familiar with, like how to safely operate your woodstove or other heating unit, what can and can’t be flushed into the septic system, how to locate and reset your smoke detectors and electrical box, where to find lifejackets and other safety equipment, and how to dispose of garbage to avoid run-ins with local wildlife. Remember to include a contact number where you can be reached 24/7.
- Keep it in tiptop shape. If you expect your renters to leave your cottage tidy and secure at the end of the weekend, make sure that’s how they find it when they arrive — if it’s a mess when they get there, it’ll be a mess when they go home. Before you leave your cottage with renters, tidy up, test your smoke detectors, and make sure all windows, doors, and screens are in good shape. If you expect your renters to leave the cottage exactly as they found it, leave them with proper cleaning supplies and outline your expectations in the welcome book.
- Expect a little wear-and-tear. Even if your renters do their best to treat your cottage like it’s their own, it’s reasonable to expect some wear-and-tear when renting out your property, so leave some time between renters to clean things up and do any necessary repairs.
Don’t forget about seasonal property insurance
Before you rent out your cottage, reach out to your group’s insurance broker to make sure you’ll be covered by your seasonal property insurance policy while your cottage is rented. Here are a few things to consider when you’re thinking about renting out your seasonal property:
- Know the rules. While some policies won’t allow you to rent out your cottage at all, many do allow for rentals — but there’s usually a limit on the number of days or weeks you’re allowed to rent out your cottage for each year. Other policies may have rules about how you rent out your cottage, and they can prohibit the use of certain types of rental services.
- Find out how your coverage might change once you start renting. Some insurance companies will only offer limited coverage if you’re renting out your cottage. You may be able to keep coverage for certain risks (like fire, lightning, and explosion, for example), but others might be excluded (like vandalism or sewer backup).
- Go with a higher liability limit. When you have more frequent visitors (like renters and their guests), you increase the risk of someone getting hurt on your property, which means you increase your chances of experiencing a liability claim. Talk to your group’s broker to make sure your policy’s liability limit is right for you.
- Mind your boats and wheels. Your insurance policy likely won’t cover liability claims resulting from the rental of your motorized vehicles or boats, and you may need to purchase special coverage if you’re planning to allow renters to use them. Be sure to check in with your group’s broker before giving them the green light.
Sometimes accidents happen, despite your best efforts to prevent them. Before the rental season begins, read over your insurance policy and contact your group’s broker to make sure you have the coverage you need to protect yourself and your property.
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