Friends at the lake
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The 10 commandments of sharing a cottage rental

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There are lots of articles out there about how to share a family cottage without causing World War III. But what if your family and friends want to share a rental cottage? After all, renting a cottage makes sense for a lot of people—you get quality time out of the city without having to worry about the hassles of maintaining a second property. That being said, sharing will always have its pitfalls—so here are some tips for keeping your cottage time happy and peaceful.

Thou shalt do thy homework

Before deciding to rent a place with friends or family, make sure you know whether the property is appropriate for everyone. Will people be bringing kids? Pets? A gentle, sandy shoreline will be more kid-friendly than a rocky shore with a steep drop-off. Folks with a teeny tiny Smartcar might have a tough time navigating a washboard access road.

Also, find out what people have to bring: Towels? Bedsheets? Bottled water? Depending on who is going up and when, it may be simpler if everyone just brings their own supplies, and then takes them home at the end of their stay.

Thou shalt talk everything out beforehand

Decide in advance about guests, parties, and use of amenities like boats. If there’s a maximum number of people allowed on the property, or if there’s a policy for extra guests, make sure everyone knows about it in advance. Also, figure out a cancellation plan so one person’s need to cancel doesn’t mess with everyone else’s vacation.

Thou shalt designate a go-to person

It’s easier to have one person deal with the folks renting out the property. That person is then responsible for passing on the rules of the rental and arranging payment—perhaps in return for a couple of extra days at the cottage or some other consideration.

Thou shalt leave things clean and stocked

This is a no-brainer, and will help your relationship with your fellow renters and with the folks you’re renting from. (Cleaning is probably part of the rental agreement anyway.) Essentially, replace what you use and clean what you dirty. You may decide to have the first person staying in the cottage bring basics like salt, pepper, and condiments and decide how much everyone owes them, or you can simply ask everyone to bring their own supplies. Make sure folks who might be bringing kids or dogs are aware that they may have more cleaning/replacing to do.

Thou shalt deal with thine own garbage

Make sure everyone knows how and when garbage gets disposed of, and where garbage should be kept if it can only be taken to the dump one day a week. Don’t leave your garbage for someone else to deal with—although, to save trips into town, you could decide that whoever deals with everyone’s empties at the end of the rental period gets to keep the deposits.

Thou shalt behave thyself

Don’t be a jerk and spoil the rental deal for everyone else. Stick to the number of occupants allowed, pay attention to the guest policy, and don’t give the neighbours reason to complain about loud parties or obnoxious pets. Pay close attention to the fire policy too—even if there is a fire pit, you may not be allowed to build a fire due to local fire restrictions and bans.

Thou shalt communicate regularly

If there’s a problem, make sure everyone staying at the cottage knows the emergency contact number for the rental. Email each other after staying, letting people know about septic system quirks, close-by hiking trails, or great fishing spots. If you’re all in this together, there’s less chance for friction.

Thou shalt be polite and friendly to the neighbours

Again, this is to make sure you’ll be able to rent again in the future. Say hi to the neighbours, offer to help when you can, and don’t infringe on their enjoyment of the cottage. It’s entirely possible the person renting the cottage to you has asked their neighbours to keep an eye on the place, so make sure to stay pleasant.

Thou shalt stay safe

Nothing ruins a cottage stay like an injury or mishap, so be safe: make sure you’ve got life jackets for every member of the family (rentals often won’t provide kids life jackets), keep a first aid kit handy, and use common sense. Something going wrong can cast a pall over everyone’s visit, so try to stay safe.

Thou shalt relax and enjoy—and remember you’re in someone else’s house

No one wants to be tense at the cottage, so relax. Enjoy what the cottage has to offer—but be aware that you’re not in your own house. Don’t leave your wet bathing suit on the dining room table for three days, leaving a ring on the wood. Don’t do a splattery painting project on the deck and not clean up the drips. You get the idea. If you like the place, you want to be sure that your group is able to rent again in the future.

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