Replace the word “home” with “cottage” and you know all you need to know about cottage liability and insurance, right? Not quite. While it might seem a cottage policy would mirror that of a primary homeowner’s policy, there are important differences.

Notably, contents limits are usually lower than a primary residence because most people don’t keep valuables at their cottage.

Darlene Leggett, underwriting manager for Toronto Gold Centre at The Guarantee Company of North America cautions that prior to insuring your cottage, your broker may try to gauge how much you value it. For example, some cottage owners hire a property management company or caretakers to check on and maintain the property.

“What insurance companies want to see is an owner who is thinking ahead, doesn’t want to have claims and takes steps to protect his assets,” she says.

Andrew Pettipas, broker at J.M & C.W Hope Grant Insurance agrees that proper care and maintenance is important to insurers assessing an account.

“This affects rates,” he says. “The better shape the property is in, the easier it is to insure.”

Cottage Risks

According to experts, cottage claims typically include damage to property due to wind and fire, or liability due to slips and falls. Water damage is a risk for any property, but with cottages it’s even more troublesome because the property is typically vacant for long periods of time.

“Things can happen when owners are absent,” says Leggett. “If you experience a really hard winter and you aren’t up at the cottage regularly, ice and snow can be a factor, and burst pipes can cause water damage.”

She recommends having alarms installed so your property is monitored year round for fire, burglary and low temperature. If an emergency does occur, this will provide the earliest alert to the fire department or police and the greatest potential for minimizing a loss.

Also, if you have a boat it is a separate liability that requires additional coverage.

“If [owners] have a canoe on the property and [renters] take it out, we’re not covering liability for that,” she says. “Brokers need to explain to their clients exactly what is included in one of these policies.”

Some cottages also have wood-burning stoves—typically freestanding units that are used to heat the cottage—that can also be a risk.

Christine Horuc-Lake, manager of personal lines, Totten Insurance Group says owners should ensure the stove is “ULC or CFA approved and that it’s installed to code.” If the wood-burning stove meets these requirements, the customer can get coverage for it.

Other common exclusions include wear and tear of the building, moving and bulging of property, loss or damage caused by birds, vermin, insects, or rodents, water damage, and freezing.

“The more information you can provide to your broker, the better they can rate it for you with the best coverage,” adds Horuc-Lake.

Suzanne Sharma is associate editor of Advisor Group.