Cottage Renters Ruining the Lake
How do you deal with cottage renters on your lake?
Sharing the lake with renters is a common part of cottage ownership. While many cabin owners reserve their piece of paradise in the woods for their own exclusive use, some cottagers choose to rent out their property for all or part of the summer. When it is done properly, the summer rolls along without any clashes and many people even develop new friendships.
But when it goes bad, the entire cottage community can be turned on its head. Tempers flare, relationships become strained, and everyone’s cottage experience gets affected. The lake is supposed to be the place people visit to get away from the stresses of daily life, and when it becomes the source of their stress, they tend to have less patience than they would in the city.
Why are so many cottages for rent?
Before you begin to curse your cottage neighbours who have decided to rent out their cabin this summer, it is important to understand that cottage owners are choosing this path for a variety of reasons. And given the choice, many of your neighbours at the lake would prefer to avoid the rental issue altogether.
Economic conditions in recent years have forced cottagers to turn to renters to help offset some of the extra costs. Higher gas prices, increased property taxes and reduced incomes are hitting people hard.
Time is also a factor that determines whether owners rent out their cottage. Family responsibilities, either planned or not, can quickly wipe out expected weekends at the cabin. Kids play sports, parents need a bit of extra help, and friends and family get married.
A new job followed by a new house in the city also tends to eat up holiday time in the summer. Visits to the lake get set aside, and are replaced with painting, renovating, and furniture shopping.
Rather than let the cabin sit empty, people are simply choosing to rent it out.
Regardless of the reasons, renters are now playing a larger role in every cottage community, and both owners and neighbours need to work together to maintain a harmonious atmosphere at the lake.
What can cottage owners do to avoid problem renters?
If you have decided to rent out your cottage and you want to ensure that your neighbours don’t give you the cold shoulder the next time you see them, it is wise to make sure your guests understand the rules of the lake.
Owners generally do a good job of giving their renters all the required information about the property itself, but tend to drop the ball a bit when it comes to informing them about the community’s widely understood but unwritten codes of conduct.
Each lake has its own culture, and unless the renters are briefed ahead of time it is impossible for them to know how they are expected to behave.
As such, every activity that directly or indirectly impacts the neighbours needs to be considered.
Acceptable noise levels during the day and in the evening must be clearly outlined. This includes running chainsaws or lawnmowers, playing music, and ripping around the lake on a personal watercraft or motor boat.
Remember that people who have never been to a cottage have no idea how far the noise carries across the lake, especially at night.
Parties and loud music may be the norm on your lake. If so, and your renters are planning to crank-it-up, there won’t be a problem. If your cottage community is a quiet one, it is important to let the renters know this in advance so they can leave the big speakers at home.
All boating activities should be reviewed. If your lake is popular with the water-ski and wakeboard crowd, the renters need to know where they should ski or board and when. It’s not going to be a fun summer if you get a wave of nasty calls because your renters are sending a huge wake onto the fragile shorelines of the neighbouring cottages.
Fishing can also cause grief if the guests aren’t familiar with the locally accepted code of conduct. Most of the neighbours won’t appreciate your renters bouncing muskie lures off their dock while they are enjoying their morning coffee or an afternoon cocktail.
And if your renter and his buddies decide to drop anchor to do some fishing all day right in front of his property, your cottage neighbour will likely get a bit miffed. This can be especially problematic if his daughter and her high school or college friends are sitting on the dock catching a few rays.
If the guys catch a few fish it might be fine, otherwise things could get ugly.
When the guests are going to use the community dock and parking lot, they have to know where and when they can leave the car and boat. Few things upset a cottager more than arriving from the cottage or the city to find someone has taken his spot.
Children and Pets
Pets and kids can also stir up trouble. Renting parents need to know where the youngsters and animals can play. While your trigger-happy neighbour is unlikely to shoot your guest’s child, an unknown dog found on his property may easily get mistaken for a wolf, coyote, bear, or skunk.
Fires are always an important issue, especially during dry summers. You don’t want your guests to be responsible for burning down the whole community because they didn’t know what they were doing, or even worse, had a few too many cuba libres and decided to enjoy a towering bonfire, forgetting they were in the bush instead of on a beach in the Caribbean.
The septic and grey water systems at the cottage are critical items for discussion. Don’t assume that your guests know the rules regarding the proper use of the facilities. In fact, it is best to assume they know absolutely nothing.
Keeping Neighbours Informed
It is a good idea to tell your immediate neighbours the exact dates you have decided to rent out the cottage during the season. You should also consider telling them who the guests will be. The more information they have ahead of time, the less likely it is that you will get negative feedback afterwards.
Not only will the neighbours be prepared to keep an eye on things when the strangers show up, they can also plan their own time better. If they know that a big group is arriving for a particular week or weekend, they can decide whether or not they want to be around.
How can cottage neighbours help?
As a neighbour of the properties that are rented, you can help head off potential problems and misunderstandings by being proactive.
For cottage communities that are well organized, or are seeing a significant increase in rental activity it may be worth the effort to create a welcome booklet that can be given to every renter that visits the lake. The benefit of this approach is that the message is consistent and all of the owners in the community are made fully aware of the expectations being placed on them and their renters.
When you see newcomers arrive at your lake, take the time to cordially introduce yourself. Offer to help if they have some questions or need anything they may have forgotten. Invite them for a happy-hour drink, and casually work the community rules into the conversation.
If the lake doesn’t have a formal information package for the renters, drop by and offer to jot down a few points of interest on a piece of paper, or even give the rookies a guided tour of the area. Most people will pick up on the key items of concern and you are unlikely to have any trouble afterwards.
In fact, you may even find that you get along much better with the renters than you do with the actual owners.
Patience is a virtue?
Despite everyone’s best efforts, there will be times when renters misbehave. While your blood may boil at the sight of some unacceptable conduct, it is important to keep your head. Try to be flexible and understanding. Whether you like it or not, you just have to accept the fact that renters at the lake are an increasing part of cottage living.
And at some point, one of your own guests or family members will inevitably to do something stupid. Keep this in mind when planning to tear a strip out of your neighbour the first moment you see him after his problematic renters have gone home.
At the end of the day, we all want our time at the lake to be an enjoyable experience. With a little forethought and consideration from all parties, cottage renters can become positive additions to the cottage community.
Written By: Andrew Walker