Northern Muskoka Exposure: Insuring Cottage Properties

Picture from Andrew’s listing Log Masterpiece.

In real life, very few dreams live up to the advance billing. The experience of enjoying your own Muskoka cottage, however, can be the exception to the rule. In Muskoka, in Lake Of Bays, in the Kawarthas, further west or north among the lakes, wherever your home-away-from-home is found, it often becomes a refuge of value far beyond any details in a real estate listing. The clear separation from routine, a deliberate dedication of personal and family time, the co-existence with nature, all deliver immediate rewards to the spirits of those who can spend time there.

Of course, cottage ownership also includes some special challenges, but prudent owners can plan ahead to mitigate the potential risks.

Risk factors that new cottagers should keep in mind include:

  • How will you manage and monitor the security of a property you will see only at intervals? Are alarm systems an option? Should you arrange for someone to verify security at regular intervals year-round?
  • Some cottage maintenance routines are new to urban dwellers; features like docks or septic systems, or the snow load of Muskoka winters, deliver a whole new list of regular chores. For some, do-it-yourself becomes a new form of recreation, while others prefer to let local pro’s handle the tasks.
  • More significant repairs or reconstruction may be best performed during the off-season. Identifying the right parties to carry out work largely unsupervised is an important task. Local professionals such as realtors or your insurance broker can help in locating good candidates.
  • Consider unusual liability risks such as shared private roads. Get to know the neighbours with whom you share obligations, and talk with your lawyer and insurance advisor to understand what your insurance does, or does not, cover.
  • Watercraft bring their own maintenance and safety issues. Make sure that guests and family members alike can enjoy them safely. Good information on regulations and best practices is available at Transport Canada’s websitehttp://www.tc.gc.ca/media/documents/marinesafety/TP-511e.pdf . Again, your local marina is also an excellent source of advice.

Careful maintenance arrangements are essential, but of course, insurance plays a big part in cottage owners’ risk management. Purchasing the right coverage for your cottage is the key, but can also be a challenge. Take the time to consult with your broker to understand your policy. All property owners should be careful to confirm what special conditions, such as inspection intervals, may apply when they are absent for an extended period. Owners may also encounter difficulties in finding protection if their property is unusual, or on an island, or if they do not insure their primary home with the same Insurer. Often, in a one-size-fits-all world, unique, custom-built properties aren’t suited for standard insurance policies; other properties are family heirlooms, where absolutely unique embellishments have been added over time. Owners will want assurance that their home’s unique features are accounted for.

In Canada, there are now a number of Insurers who understand the rhythms of the cottage season, and who specialize in insuring custom-type homes and will work with your broker to produce similarly customized insurance coverage.
Cottagers may be interested in some of the benefits available exclusively through specialized Insurers, such as

  • Funds for concierge service in the event of a loss, to provide local property management or caretaker services who can liaise with adjusters and assist in rebuilding / restoration following a loss
  • Additional fund to repair or replace damaged property with more environmentally friendly alternatives
  • Increased watercraft special limits
  • Extension of Non-profit directors’ & officers’ liability coverage to include the shared ownership of private roads and access routes

No one wants their cottage dream to turn into a nightmare. Devoting some time to understanding the unique challenges your cottage entails, and preparing accordingly with the assistance of knowledgeable professional advisors, is well worth the investment.

Looking for Insurance Brokers with knowledge of Muskoka and Lake Of Bays unique coverage needs, contact Andrew Bulloch.