Cottage Q&A: Why can’t I camp on my property?

A yellow camping tent beside a lake, surrounded by trees By Asukanda/Shutterstock

I’ve bought land located in zone WR 4 in Haliburton County. Until I build my cottage, may I put up a tent to camp on my property? What kind of insurance do I need?—Mykola Skyba, Wenona Lake, Ont.

According to the zoning bylaws in Dysart et al, where your lake sits, you shouldn’t put up any tents until a “seasonal structure” is in place, says planning assistant Jeff Iles. Your lot is zoned Waterfront Residential Type 4, where the permitted (residential) structures are a “seasonal dwelling” or a “private cabin.” Iles says a tent just doesn’t fall under those definitions.

If the lot were zoned differently or located elsewhere, tenting might be fine; bylaws vary between municipalities.

Section 3.4 does say that with a building permit, you can put up a “structure incidental to construction,” such as a shed or—as a temporary dwelling—a trailer, for 12 months. Still no tent, but hey, now you can sleep on your own damn property.

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Even with an empty lot, you need liability insurance. “People often don’t want insurance unless there’s something tangible there,” says Todd Minor of Mason Insurance Brokers in Welland, Ont. “But if someone trespasses and gets hurt, you could be named in a lawsuit.”

The lot may be automatically covered under the policy for your primary residence, but check with your insurance provider. Different companies have different guidelines, says Fran Robbers of Canadian Cottage Insurance in Lancaster, Ont. If you then change anything on the property, it may no longer be covered.

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Before any actual construction begins, apply for a Dwelling Under Construction policy, to protect against damage to the buildings. This should be written up before the foundation is finished, says Robbers, and can be stand-alone or extended from a home policy.

This article was originally published in the April 2011 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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