If you have a cottage in a prime location, renting can be a great source of ancillary revenue. Unfortunately, renting out your property isn’t as easy as handing over the keys. Even if people are only staying for a weekend, you need measures in place to protect you, your guest, and your property. To do this, create a cottage rental agreement.
“A rental agreement itemizes the terms, the price, and any security deposits that would have to go down,” says Bradley Samuel, a real estate lawyer with Tierney Stauffer LLP.
If you’re creating your own rental agreement, here are the details you should include:
Don’t hand your property over to a complete stranger. In the agreement, collect the guest’s name, phone number, email address, and home address. Some hosts will even ask for a copy of the guest’s ID to ensure they are who they say they are.
Beyond the guest who made the booking, you should also require the names, phone numbers, and addresses of all people who will be occupying your property, including guests just visiting for the day and not staying overnight.
Having this information gives you a better idea of who you’re hosting and should keep your guests’ behaviour more accountable during the stay.
Give the guest a detailed overview of what’s available at your property. Include an itemized list of amenities, such as laundry machines and internet access. Some hosts also provide watercraft. If you’re providing a motorized watercraft, Samuel stresses that you must outline the rules around its use. “If they’re getting use of a boat or watercraft, [make sure] that they’re appropriately licensed, drinking is prohibited, and so forth,” he says.
This section is also where you can specify what’s off limits to guests, such as utility closets or work sheds.
Terms of the stay
To avoid issues with poorly behaved guests, include rules around the stay. Start with the check-in and checkout dates and times. Make sure they’re exact so that guests don’t have wiggle room to show up and leave whenever they want. Specify the maximum number of allowed guests at the property, including those just visiting for the day—otherwise you leave yourself open to parties.
Follow this up with any firm rules, such as no smoking, no pets, or no loud music. Samuel also suggests including a note on any fire bans in effect, especially if you have an outdoor fire pit.
Finally, let the guest know that upon departure, you expect the cottage to be in the same condition they found it. Some hosts will even provide dump passes, requiring the guest to take their garbage with them.
“You would want to include a clause that says breach of any of those rules is a deemed termination, and you can be ejected immediately,” Samuel says. “So, you sort of swing the hammer if you need to.”
According to Samuel, this is a must-have section in the agreement. In case anything happens during the stay, you need to make sure you’re protected against lawsuits or major financial loss.
The first step is to check what your insurance covers. “Most people’s homeowner’s insurance covers them for blanket liability,” Samuel says. “So, things like boating accidents or negligence that causes injury…typically [the host’s] house insurance will cover that.”
As an added precaution, Samuel advises including a separate indemnity waiver to ensure that “the actual person or persons putting their name and credit card down are the ones who are going to take liability for their guests.” This means that if someone other than the person who made the booking drives your boat while intoxicated or performs a dangerous act, you’re not liable for their well-being. We suggest having a lawyer look over the waiver before sending it to guests.
This is where you can confirm the nightly price, how you expect to be paid (through a booking site, e-transfer, etc.), and when the fee should be paid by. If the guest is booking more than 30 days in advance, you may want to ask for part of the payment up front so that the guest is less inclined to cancel last minute.
Add a section about cancellations—how the guest should go about it, how far in advance you need to be notified, and any ramifications, such as a lost deposit, so the guest knows what to expect if they change their mind about the stay.
This is also a good place to include any information on security or cleaning deposits. Communicate why you collect the deposit, how much you collect, and under what circumstances the guest would lose the deposit. Claiming a deposit can be a point of contention between guests and hosts, so make sure you’re clear on what your expectations are.
As much as the agreement is about the guest committing to your rules, you need to provide them with some promises. This includes a section about maintenance—that the property will be clean, safe to use, and all amenities will be working.
You should also address your right to access the property during the stay. “If it’s a weekend or a week booking, we’re talking shorter term, I would say in the agreement that you can access the property at all reasonable times,” Samuel says.
Finally, provide information on keys, alarms, and lock codes—anything the guest needs to access the property.
Once the guest has read and completed the agreement, all you need is their signature and you’re ready to rent.