Winter cottaging may not be for you, but some cottagers actually prefer visiting their retreat at that time of year. Whether it’s the serenity of the season, the lack of crowds, the ample opportunities for winter sports, or the opportunity to curl up by a fire with a good book, something about winter cottaging just speaks to them; which could explain why more and more cottagers are winterizing their properties.
Before you jump in to winter cottaging, there are insurance considerations you should think about.
Is this really a year-round proposition, or do you just plan to spend the occasional winter weekend at the cottage? Coverage and premiums differ depending upon your answer. For example, even if your cottage is winterized, some policies may not cover claims if the cottage is left unoccupied for more than 96 hours at any time or if you haven’t taken proper steps to close your cottage for the winter.
To get the best insurance rate for your cottage, it will require 24/7 road clearance for cottage access. In fact, your coverage options during the winter may be limited if your cottage is in an area that is not accessible during the season. In the winter this could mean arranging for snow clearance, especially if you aren’t at the cottage often.
Winterizing your cottage can be a complicated affair. Many summer cottages were built with seasonal use in mind. More time spent at the cottage means more strain on the electrical, heating, and plumbing systems. You may need to upgrade these items to accommodate your cottage’s extended use, especially if it was built 25 plus years ago. For any large renovations and upgrades, you’ll need to notify your insurance company and you should arrange to use qualified, licensed professionals.
Wood stoves can be a great heat source, and they smell nice to boot. But installing a wood stove can increase your risk of fire, which will be reflected on your policy’s premium. You will also need to show your insurance provider documentation that your wood stove has been certified, meets current codes, and has been installed by a qualified professional.
If you’ve added an indoor washroom and increased the size of your living space to make your winter visits more pleasant, then you have a contractual obligation to report these and any other renovations to your insurance company. Failure to do so can affect your coverage in the event of a loss or damage. This includes the replacement value of your cottage. Your cottage has likely increased in value as a result of being winterized, but if you haven’t informed your insurance company, the replacement cost for a rebuild or repairs due to insurable damage could be based on your cottage’s previous valuation and may not take new upgrades into account.
Docks, outbuildings, and exclusions
Find out about coverage exclusions for things like docks or outbuildings. For example, what if your dock is crushed due to moving ice on the lake? Are you covered? If you don’t take adequate steps to store your dock for the winter, you may be out of pocket for the damage. If the roof on your shed collapses under the weight of snow accumulation, are you covered? Be aware of your obligations.