Laying down the law for cottage renters
Cottage renters may not realize how much sound travels across the water. A code of practice is currently being developed to help educate renters and owners about expectations.
Photo by Bev McMullen
May 18, 2012
THE MUSKOKAN — It’s shaping up to be another blissful evening at the cottage.
The air is warm, the lake is still and the sunset is perfectly reflected off the water. There’s every indication that tonight will be another example of why thousands of people flock to the region in the summer.
Then, from across the lake you hear a loud echoing laughter reverberating across what seems like the whole region. It’s from a party at a nearby rental cottage and a group of boisterous renters who don’t seem to understand how clearly noise can travel across a lake.
It’s a common complaint from the region’s cottage owners that the renters who arrive in the region are not aware of the unwritten rules of cottaging. To remedy that, the CottageLINK Rental Management agency is teaming up with the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Association to not only make cottage rules written but to put them in the hands of renters.
The Responsible Rental Owner Programme, launched this spring, aims to make cottage rental better for both owners and renters.
Heather Bayer, president and co-owner of CottageLINK, said the way cottage renting has evolved has necessitated this kind of a program.
“Vacation rentals are progressing and becoming more mainstream. Owners need to be considering the fact they are part of the travel industry,” said Bayer. “It’s no longer a little mom and pop business where you rent your cottage out, get the money and it doesn’t matter what the cottage is like. We have much higher expectations from renters now worldwide.”
CottageLINK is encouraging property owners to provide relevant information to renters at all stages of the process. Bayer believes that if information about a particular cottage is available then renters can be better matched to the property that fits them. That way, for example, a renter looking for an action-packed vacation full of boating won’t be surprised when they find out the property they’re renting is on a lake with a 12 km/h boat speed limit.
Better education can also help renters who may never have been to a rural community before. For many renters, a cottage vacation will be their first experience performing a variety of tasks that are second nature to regular cottagers.
“We’ve even had complaints from people who didn’t realize it was going to be so dark and quiet,” Bayer said. “We’ve had issues where guests have never lit a campfire before. They may never have used a barbecue before. All these things, as owners, we take for granted, this is what we do, it’s totally natural to us. Being a responsible owner is having the understanding that the people who are coming to rent don’t have that knowledge.”
Many urban dwellers may find things like gas appliances, bonfire bylaws and septic systems to be completely outside their realm of experience. Another common issue is that some renters think they’re completely in the wilderness and thus able to let dogs run free.
To educate renters about these kinds of things Michelle Lewin with the Federation of Ontario Cottagers Association said many owners provide a welcome book for renters.
“We think it makes sense to take that a step further and get as much of that information into the potential renters hand before they book the rental,” said Lewin. “So that you know you’ve got a good match up front and it’s not coming as a surprise when they arrive and read something like, ‘We don’t want you to have any campfires while you’re here.’”
Lewin believes providing a guide with cottage rules and etiquette in advance will not only improve the renters’ experience but will help the property owner attract the kind of renter they are looking for. “It will help everyone to have a better match I think. From the owner’s side, there’s a desire to find the sorts of renters who will love and care for your property the way you would. This, hopefully, will help to match up those right people to the right places,” Lewin said.
Additionally, the Responsible Rental Owner Programme aims to encourage owners to maintain rental insurance, adopt a professional administration system for agreements and work with agencies to undertake responsible advertising practices.
The program is currently considered a work in progress and over the next few months CottageLINK and the Federation of Ontario Cottagers Association will be working on a voluntary code of practice for the owners of rental properties to sign.
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