Cottages And Winter Use

Cottagers need to talk to their insurance agents.
Carol Todoruk, Canwest News Service
Published: Saturday, November 22, 2008

While increasing numbers of people are retiring to their lakeshore retreats, and many people do have fully winterized cottages, many of us still have to close it all up in the fall, knowing we won't be back until spring.

But with the rise in winter outdoor recreational activities such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and ice fishing, there is a significant trend toward year-round use of formerly seasonal cottages, says Robert Taylor, president of the Provincial Association of Resort Communities of Saskatchewan (PARCS).

"In the old days, the cottages were basically boarded up after Thanksgiving," he says. "Now, we're seeing more year-round activities, so 'seasonal' now means more than one season."

One of the most important steps cottagers can take — whether they are seasonal or permanent — is to talk to their insurance agent, says Taylor.

"I've heard stories where someone has had to really go to bat against insurance companies to collect a loss," he says. "People should really find out from their insurance agent as to how they're covered during the period of time that they're not there, especially if it's weeks or months away."

Insurance brokers for SGI Canada agree it's a good idea to sit down with your agent because there are different kinds of insurance policies available. For example, if cottages built after 1950 are in use year-round, they can be insured the same as the owners' main residence, while seasonal cottages will require additional coverage. Security can also be a concern when you're leaving property alone for weeks or months at a time.

The RCMP recommends having a privately monitored security system installed if you're going to be away from the cottage all winter. At the very least, a timer to turn different interior lights on and off at varying times can help deter break-ins.

It's also a good idea to alert any year-round neighbours you may have that you're not going to be around. Most people are pretty good about keeping an eye on others' cottages.

And either a regular trip out to shovel the sidewalk and/or driveway, or hiring someone to do so can help to keep the place looking lived in.

Having someone looking out for your property on a regular basis can also assist with any insurance claims you may have to make, says Taylor.

SGI Canada says the owner has a responsibility to ensure there is no additional damage on top of any initial damage from the weather for example, so keeping an eye on the weather and/or having someone contact you if there is damage to your property can be a big help in the long term.

If you do have to leave the lake, and summer, behind for the winter, closing up the cottage entails the same steps as getting ready for winter at home, only more so.

Besides all the usual yard work, cottagers also have to contend with the boat and its accoutrements, as well as with the vagaries of resort plumbing, says Larry Schneider, executive director of PARCS.

Regina Leader-Post