If neighbours get to their dock through our property are we responsible if they get hurt on the land? Can they gain any legal rights to this passage if they keep using it?
If your neighbours were injured while on your property, you could be liable, but the Comprehensive Personal Liability portion of any standard cottage insurance policy would cover you if you were sued and had to pay. A court of law would first determine your “duty of care” for the property—the level to which you, as the landowner, are responsible for maintaining the property where your neighbours were and are, therefore, to blame for their injuries. If your neighbours cross a remote chunk of land that nobody else uses, the court might decide you aren’t expected to maintain it, so you’re not at fault if they get hurt. But let’s say they access their dock by riding an ATV along a dirt road through your property, and crash when they hit a fallen log you failed to move after a storm. Then, the court might find you negligent.
Whether your neighbour could, after years of cutting across your land, gain legal right of way depends on a few factors, such as where your cottage is located and whether it’s recorded under the Registry System or the Land Titles System. The simplest, safest way to prevent “adverse possession,” a.k.a. squatter’s rights, is to make up a written agreement stating that you’ve granted your neighbours permission to cut through your land. This could be a yearly lease-type document that gives your neighbours access, but lets you end the arrangement as long as you give them written notice. The agreement could spell out that your neighbours are using your land at their own risk and establish just who’s responsible for property maintenance, so—hello, two birds and one stone—it would help to cover you in the case of ATV v. log.