We’re no longer using our cottage as frequently as we used to, but we aren’t ready to sell. We want to start renting it out. Should we tell our neighbours that this is our plan?—Torrie Samson, via email
Yes. A million times, yes. Reverse the situation: “Would you want to be advised?” asks Suzanne Nourse, an etiquette consultant with the Protocol School of Ottawa. “Well, then, there’s your answer.”
We certainly understand why you’re asking. Renters get blamed for all kinds of lakeside sins: playing loud music, partying late, drinking too much, setting off fireworks, attracting bears, owning poorly trained dogs, parenting children who shriek all of the time while swimming…You’re probably dreading a tense and uncomfortable conversation. But telling them “is 100 per cent the polite thing to do,” says J.T. Lowes with All-Season Cottage Rentals in Haliburton, Ont. “We encourage all of our owners to let their neighbours know that they are renting.”
That said, you’re best not to open the door to a discussion by making it seem as if you’re asking their permission (“Would you be okay if…”). Instead, say something like, “ ‘Just giving you a heads-up, the cottage is being rented for the first two weeks of July,’ ” says Nourse. If the neighbours respond that they’re not comfortable with that plan, “I would bite my tongue from saying, ‘Well, that’s not up to you,’ ” says Nourse. “And ask them, ‘Is there anything in particular that you’re concerned about?’ Ask them to be specific, but don’t be confrontational.”
Assure your neighbours that you’ll be vetting the renters and that you’ll have clear rules in place about noise, music, pets, water safety, etc. (Because you will, right?)
“And let them know that they can alert you when someone is not following those rules, or if they feel that things are getting out of hand,” suggests Jay Simpson, the owner of A Shuswap Holiday in Lee Creek, B.C. One snag: this could backfire if something does go wrong, and the neighbours call expecting an immediate response—not realistic if you live far away.
In that case, “it’s best to have someone local involved—for example, a property management company,” says Simpson. “That way, if there’s a problem at any time, the neighbours can call someone to go over and have a talk with the renters if need be.” (Bonus? It would also give the renters someone local to call: “We don’t know what’s wrong, but now the toilet just won’t flush!”)
Good luck, and happy renting.
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This article was originally published in the May 2022 issue of Cottage Life magazine.