Anyone who owns or rents a cottage should know the following legal risks associated with cottage life. As a homeowner, it is important for you to be informed of potential liabilities when you are inviting guests into your home.

An essential takeaway from this article is to ensure that you have enough insurance coverage. This is vital because in the event of an accident you want to be covered. However, no amount of insurance will cover illegal activity. It is also important to find out what actions are excluded from your policy, as you can use this knowledge to knowingly avoid these issues.

Whenever insurance does not cover an act that means you could be held personally responsible and that means your assets are at risk.

If you welcome someone into your abode there are basic legal obligations associated with social calls. The law assumes that when people voluntarily enter your home that it is done with the assumption that they are coming into a reasonably safe environment. Thus, if you have a large hole in the floor and no railings on your stairs you would be found negligent in the event of an injury.

However, the law does not demand perfection from homeowners. The law only makes its determinations based on a reasonable standard of care. Here are some main areas that can expose homeowners to a lawsuit:

1. Alcohol

If you bring someone into your home and provide them alcohol than you are liable for what they might do when they leave your home. For example, if they crash their boat or car and kill someone in the result of getting drunk off your alcohol than you might be liable for that death. At the very least you will be named in that lawsuit.

The guiding principle is that you cannot continue to provide alcohol to someone you know is intoxicated if you do and they leave your house you can be held partially responsible for the results of their actions. It is a good idea to have policies in place in the event that you should have a party at your house.

2. Drowning

Having a pool places you in the highest risk category for accidental death and injury. The most important thing you can do is make sure you are compliant with the bylaws in terms of fences and gates surrounding the pool. The height of the fence, the type of gate and latches are all important specifics that need to be followed.

Secondly, it is important to know that many drownings actually occur within the presence of adults around the pool. The noise and chatting of the party result in the lack of attention, causing a false sense of safety. One of the hosts should stay sober and be alert to ensure no child or drunk adult drowns.

3. Slip and Fall

Many friendships have been lost in result of a slip and fall. While visiting,  a friend will slip on a wet floor or will trip on a patio stone, resulting in an injury. The laws here are similar to the standard held to business. A spill left for a prolonged period results in a foreseeable risk and therefore is a liability. A raised or heaved stone more than 1 1/2 inch triggers an obligation to repair and if someone trips and falls you will be held liable. Another one that is often a shock to people is being liable in the result of improper lighting. Good lighting is required in areas that would be expected to be able to walk safely. Finally, safe railings on stairways are another area of the home that needs to be code compliant.
4. Boating

Everyone who owns a boat should do a detailed review of their insurance policy to know what is and what is not covered. Alcohol mixed with any kind of boat sports is a recipe for disaster since the risk of injury is already so high without factoring in intoxication. Be very aware of how alcohol is used on your boat and remember that the operator of the boat must remain sober.

Waterskiing and tubing also trigger other obligations that you must be aware of. Like knowing what the youngest possible age a child can be pulled behind your boat. it is important to know your boating policy to protect your family, you want to leave this cottage to your family, not sell it to pay off a lawsuit.

5. ATVs

Perhaps the least known area of law exists around liability surrounding the use of ATVs and the insurance coverage limitations. Homeowners must know who is covered on their ATV policy (which is usually found in the homeowner’s policy). Most policies don’t allow alcohol consumption while operating the machine. Another important question to ask is the age limitation on your policy. It is important to have the answers before an accident occurs. The last thing you would want is to be held liable for letting your friends child use your ATV and they crash it and become paralyzed. If your insurance does not cover the use of the ATV you and your family can be held liable for the entire amount of the damages, which could be in the millions.

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