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Will COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Affect Your Cottage Insurance?

July 31, 2020
4 mins
Two seniors sit side by side enjoying the outdoors

Ah, weekends at the cottage. A Canadian summer tradition. Beers on the dock, maybe some fishing, or just relaxing with your spouse and dog – when you can get to your cottage.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was blasted by the opposition for sneaking away for the Easter weekend at Harrington Lake, where his family had been self-isolating for three weeks. Despite the fact it’s a half-hour drive from Ottawa, it crosses a border into the Quebec hinterland. During the COVID-19 pandemic, travel was strongly discouraged, and the prime minister advised people to Skype their family dinner.

Travel restrictions are easing, and maybe you will be able to get to the cottage this summer. But, depending on your policy, the pandemic lockdown may have already affected your summer weekend home insurance coverage.

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What Kinds of Cottage or Seasonal Insurance Is There?

Your cottage is a substantial investment in time and money, whether it’s a cottage in the woods on Manitoulin Island without cellphone access or a grand terraced affair on Lake L’Amable. On that note, it’s worthwhile to consider bundling your home insurance with cottage insurance, since many insurers will provide you with a multi-property discount for doing so.

Regardless, protecting your seasonal home’s value and its contents is important. Take the time to understand the different types of seasonal or cottage insurance that are available:

  • Basic or no-frills seasonal cottage insurance. A basic or no-frills policy covers repairs caused by very specific occurrences to damage to the cottage on the property. It might be ideal for those who spend little time at the place since it costs less due to occupancy (or lack thereof).
  • Secondary seasonal insurance. Secondary seasonal insurance is more akin to a home insurance policy, so it costs more. Like a home policy, you can add coverage for specific eventualities — named perils, in insurance language. Your basic policy would cover fire and, oddly, an airplane crashing into your cottage. What riders or additional coverage to add depends on your specific circumstances: Your occupancy, the amenities you’ve added, etc. It’s a discussion to have with your insurance advisor.
  • Liability insurance. It is advisable to include liability in your policy. Especially if you rent your cottage out to others over the season, it’s a necessity. Even if you don’t, an accident victim could use the attractive nuisance argument, particularly if the added amenities — even a porch swing — are likely to attract unwanted visitors.

As Travel Restrictions Ease, Caution Is Advised

Travel restrictions are slowly easing, but non-essential travel is still strongly discouraged. Alberta’s cottage related restrictions are looser than most, though gatherings of more than 15 people are off-limits.

In Ontario, meanwhile, daily updates from the premier as he tries to navigate the complexities that come from higher population densities means hard and fast rules can change. As the province slowly reopens, there’s a concern that city folk might export the virus to rural areas where it hasn’t existed before.

Monitoring Your Cottage Property

Herein lies the rub. With travel discouraged, it can be difficult for cottagers to monitor their properties.

That is a good argument for a remote monitoring system. Insurers might knock 5% to 15% off your insurance premium, depending on the quality of the monitoring system. If it doesn’t notify local authorities, it doesn’t mitigate the likelihood of losses. Cameras may be handy after the fact, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, but they likely won’t deter theft. But technology changes quickly, and it becomes more practical to install more sophisticated technology in smaller and cheaper packages. Insurance providers are open to considering technology that makes the likelihood of claim lesser.

Here’s to summer.

Dave Webb

Dave Webb is a writer and editor of 30 years’ experience. He has written about municipal politics, conservation issues, information technology, medical technology, music, and the manmade diamond industry along with insurance. And some sports. He is also an avid semi-professional roots musician. He lives in Toronto.

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