Cottage Ownership and The Occupiers Act

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Are you lucky enough to own a vacation property or cottage in Ontario? COVID-19 restrictions are finally easing and, many of us have gotten our second vaccinations. Many of us are travelling up to the cottage and are inviting our friends and family to join us for the first time in a long time!
 
 It’s a time for celebration and camaraderie. Alcohol or recreational drugs may be enjoyed. Be careful though! As the owner, you have very clear responsibilities towards the safety of your guests.

What is the Occupier’s Liability Act?

Cottage owners are subject to Occupier’s Liability which means you as the owner have a legal responsibility to your guests to make sure the property is reasonably safe for normal use. You are also responsible for the actions of your guests if you serve them alcohol or drugs and they become impaired and are involved in an accident.

Pursuant to the Ontario Occupiers’ Liability Act the occupiers of a cottage owe a duty o care to ensure everyone entering the premises (buildings and property) are reasonably safe. As the occupier this means you should be maintaining all entryways, dock, porches and decks regularly.
As the Occupier, you are also responsible for the water, boats/watercraft, trailers, portable structures or outbuildings used as a residence, cars, ATVs other recreational vehicles and aircraft. You must be adequately injured in order to protect yourself.

How can you protect yourself?

Speak to your insurance agent or broker and ensure that you are adequately insured for liability. Personal injury claims will be covered in this way. If you rent or loan or let people use your cottage make sure to disclose the information to your insurer. You’ll likely need more insurance – renter’s insurance – to adequately cover yourself and protect them.

What can you do to keep things safe?

  • Make sure any chimneys and fireplaces are regularly maintained
  • Keep decks and docks clean of mildew. Wash and sand regularly
  • Ensure that stairs, rails and porches are installed correctly and safe
  • Maintain your dock. Have a safety plan and equipment in case of a water emergency
  • Walkways and driveways should be clear
  • Consider a lighting system for nighttime on the property
  • Have a fully stocked first aid kit and emergency contact numbers in plain site
  • Make sure you have CO and smoke detectors and test them regularly
  • Make sure that guests only consume cannabis and alcohol responsibly
  • Don’t let anyone drive or boat away who you suspect has become impaired
  • If you allow people to use your watercraft ensure they are appropriately licenced and that the watercraft is equipped with all the legally required safety equipment
  • If you have people using your watercraft supervise them carefully

If you have been seriously injured in a cottage accident call the experienced lawyers at Deutschmann Personal and Disability Law today for a free consultation.