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Photo of a cabin with overgrown vegetation

Cottage season is here again! Time to open up your vacation property and have some fun. This time of year is also a good time to think about safety. Taking steps now to identify and minimize risks at your cottage will ensure you, your family, and your guests are safe on your property throughout the season.

You Are Responsible for Keeping Your Cabin Safe

Ontario law, called the Occupiers’ Liability Act, puts a duty on anyone who either owns a cottage or who is in physical possession of a cottage to take care to ensure the property is reasonably safe for all people who are on the cottage premises. That includes the cottage or cabin itself, as well as the grounds, and any docks, porches, sheds, etc.

If someone is injured while at your cottage—for example, a slip and fall on a poorly maintained dock—they can bring a personal injury lawsuit against you. You will be liable for that person’s injuries and damages if you breached the duty imposed on you by the Occupiers’ Liability Act.

For that reason, it is crucial to ensure your vacation property is properly insured. If you own the cottage or cabin, make sure (1) it is covered under your existing homeowner’s policy, and (2) that the policy provides comprehensive liability coverage to protect you if a claim arises from an accident at your vacation property.

Regularly Inspect Your Vacation Property to Identify Risks

After confirming that you have adequate insurance coverage in place for your vacation property, the next step is to inspect the property to identify and eliminate hazards. You should inspect your vacation property at the beginning of the season and periodically throughout the season in case new risks or dangers arise.

Here are just some of the potential issues to look out for:

  • Does anything in or outside of the cottage need maintenance or repair?

  • Are entrances, walkways, docks and all other outdoor areas clear of hazards? Trips and slip and falls are major risks at cottages. Our Barrie slip and fall lawyers encounter many, many trips, slips, and falls from heights in our personal injury practice.

  • Is the fireplace or firepit well constructed and maintained? If it is an outdoor campfire/firepit, remove overhanging trees and make sure the pit is properly built up with sand or rocks.

  • Is the property’s electrical system in good working condition?

  • Are smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors installed and operational?

  • Are boats, jet skis, or other watercraft maintained (and insured, if applicable)? Do you have lifejackets and other boat safety equipment ready for use?

If your inspection uncovers any potential hazards, fix the issues before inviting anyone to use the cottage. If you can’t fix an issue, or can’t fix an issue before guests arrive, be sure to make your guests aware of the risk. Tell them if something is unsafe or in need of repair and explain that it is not to be used. Post signs if the dock or a walkway is particularly slippery to prevent slip and falls. Put up a barricade if there is a steep incline or drop-off on the property, or if a step or railing on the porch is unsteady. Warn guests and put up a caution sign if water is shallow so they don’t dive.

Continued Safety Awareness Helps Avoid Accidents

Now that your cottage or cabin is ready for the season, let the fun begin! But continue to be cautious of hazards and risks that may develop. If it is rainy, be alert for slippery conditions and rising tides. Make sure guests wear appropriate non-slip shoes or install non-stick traction tape to slippery surfaces as needed. Ensure campfires are properly extinguished and don’t have a fire or use fireworks if conditions are too dry. Watch out for alcohol consumption if your guests are drinking. Alcohol is a top contributing factor to vacation accidents.

Injured at a Vacation Retreat? Contact Our Lawyers in Barrie

Slip and falls, fires, broken bones, concussions…these are no one’s idea of fun. At Littlejohn Barristers in Barrie, we understand that these injuries are serious and can take weeks, months or even years to heal. In some cases, they can result in life-long complications. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while at a vacation property, our team can help secure fair and adequate compensation for loss and damages. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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