I’m currently building a small cottage, which I intend to use as a short-term rental. How do you recommend treating any boats or watercraft associated with the rental? I have kayaks and a pedal boat that I will include, but I also have a pontoon boat that I would either consider renting separately or as an inclusion with the cottage at a slightly higher price. What is your advice?—Jeff Thompson, via email
Good call on including the kayaks and the pedal boat. Non-motorized craft are a big selling feature when it comes to cottage rentals, says J.T. Lowes with All-Season Cottage Rentals in Haliburton, Ont. “Especially when guests have a short list and are weighing the pros and cons of each. The cottages that offer non-motorized craft almost always get the booking.”
Win! But when it comes to the pontoon boat, our advice—and Lowes’s—is to think carefully about whether you want to offer it to your renters at all.
“Without exception, we advise our cottage owners not to include any motorized watercraft,” he says. “Providing motorized watercraft really exposes you to liability. It’s not a question of if someone will damage the boat, it’s rather when it will get damaged.”
Well, that’s grim. But a large motorized boat is riskier, certainly in the eyes of an insurance company. So your first step is to check with your provider: for short-term rentals, many general cottage policies will cover “incidental” watercraft—canoes, kayaks, even small motorized craft—but exclude anything above a certain size or with an engine above a certain horsepower. This means you could need additional insurance to cover the use of the pontoon boat by your renters. And that could get expensive.
You’d also need to confirm that the person driving the boat has a boating license and give them all the details about fueling procedures and lake topography. For example, are there any hidden rocks or areas they should avoid? “And obviously, you’ll want to take a sizeable damage deposit,” says Lowes. “For all the extra work, extra costs, and increased exposure to liability, it’s simply not worth it.”
Hey, maybe you could put the time, effort, and money into getting more non-motorized boats. Who doesn’t love a SUP?
This article was originally published in the May 2023 issue of Cottage Life.
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