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A quick question for all the cottagers out there: what’s the difference between a bear and a skunk? Sadly, when it comes to seasonal property insurance, this isn’t a joke. While their physical differences are obvious — bears are big and scary, skunks are small and stinky — damage to your cottage by bears is probably covered, while damage by skunks likely is not.

So what’s the moral of this story? When it comes to coverage for your seasonal property, it pays to read through your policy carefully. Some policies have rules that might take you off-guard (and cost you in the long run). Take a look at the top 5 little-known facts about seasonal property insurance you should be aware of:

  1. The onus is on you to prevent losses or damages. So if your boat goes out with the tide, you’re out of luck. Damage or loss caused by things outside of your control (not things you could prevent) will most likely be covered by your policy. In the bears vs. skunks scenario, the idea is that you can prevent a critter from entering your home by taking precautions. Keeping a bear out? Not so much.

  2. If you leave your cottage unattended for an extended period, losses or damages might not be covered. Seasonal properties need to be checked regularly for safety and security. In fact, most insurance companies have a maximum number of days you can be away before coverage could be denied (for example, 60 days). So if you haven’t checked on your cottage over the winter months and the roof collapses due to snow load, you might have to cover those damages out of pocket. That’s because if you had checked your property within a 60-day period, removing the snow could have prevented the roof collapse.

    Make sure you’re checking and maintaining your property, even if it’s not the season to fully enjoy it. And don’t forget to confirm with your insurance company or broker just how many days the property can be left unattended before your coverage expires.

  3. Renting your cottage could void your insurance policy. Beware if you rent out your humble abode, as the rules regarding insurance on this are strict. While you don’t necessarily need to pay higher premiums or take out commercial coverage for occasionally renting your vacation property, you do need to tell your insurance company or broker. If you don’t and your renters cause damage or loss, your policy may not cover it.
  4. Water damage, not fire or theft, is typically the most common type of insurance claim. If you’re using your water year round, think about installing temperature and water alarms to notify you remotely of potential frozen pipes or flooding. If you close your property in the cooler months, don’t forget to drain your pipes, and consider using a monitored alarm or make arrangements for someone to check your property when you’re away to avoid water damage.

  5. That old boat you don’t care about could cost you big money. Even if you think it isn’t worth insuring against theft or damage, getting liability protection on it is essential. If you don’t and it causes harm to someone or something, you’ll be on the hook for the damages, losses, or injuries. The same goes for other toys around your property, like ATVs or snowmobiles. If they present the potential for someone to get hurt or cause damage, they should be insured.

Still have questions about insuring your seasonal property? Find out more here.