Nothing describes a cottage getaway quite like the patriotic words, “glorious and free”. However, with the glorious freedom of time spent at the cottage comes potential risk. We encourage you to review and implement the following precautions in order to make your long weekend as safe as it is fun.
Under Ontario’s Occupiers’ Liability Act, if you are either in physical possession of a cottage or have responsibility for and control over the condition of a cottage, then you owe a duty to take all reasonable care to ensure that all people and their property are reasonably safe while on the premises of that cottage. This means that you must take reasonable steps to make certain that all areas of the cottage are safe, including entrances, docks, and porches.
The first step to ensure that your cottage is safe is to have an appropriate insurance policy in place. Typically, insurance for a cottage is added to an existing homeowner’s policy by virtue of a “Seasonal Dwelling” endorsement (i.e. an addendum to the policy). It is critical that this policy provides comprehensive personal liability coverage in order to protect you against any claims arising from accidents at the cottage.
Next, and before inviting any visitors to your cottage, inspect the premises. Attend to any hazards so that the cottage is in a good state of repair. If there are parts of the cottage that you know or suspect to be hazardous, but are beyond your control to repair, such as slippery surfaces, steep inclines, and shallow water, post visible warning signs. An effective warning sign is one that has clear and unambiguous language and is brought to the attention of visitors. If an area is particularly dangerous, place barricades to prevent visitors from entering the area and post warning signs. It is crucial that you warn visitors with both posted signs and verbal warnings about potential hazards at your cottage. This could be the difference between a great getaway at the cottage and a loved one getting hurt.
While visitors are on the premises of your cottage, make sure that anyone who is operating equipment of any kind is sufficiently supervised, experienced, and if required, licensed to do so. This includes everything from using the barbecue or chainsaw to operating a boat. Don’t forget to properly extinguish all open flames and dispose of hazardous garbage or debris, such as glass, in an appropriate manner.
When alcohol is consumed at your cottage, you must be especially vigilant in protecting visitors. Although you may not be intentionally creating a situation of danger for a visitor, if alcohol is served and you fail to act to prevent a foreseeable harm to them, then you may be exposed to liability.
Having taken the above precautions, you will be able to have a glorious and free Victoria Day weekend with your loved ones without the need to stand on guard. We wish you a tranquil, warm, and safe holiday!