Educating Your Guests in the Etiquette of Cottage Living

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I recently read a forum post from a non-renting cottage owner blaming cottage renters on his lake for all manner of poor behaviour. Late night noise, operating watercraft in an unsafe and irresponsible manner, and general rowdiness were a few of the complaints levelled at the rental groups.

This is not the first time I have heard this viewpoint. Long time owners are at a loss to understand the erosion of respect for our lakes from newer residents or casual visitors, and to relate this to a general shift in the culture of responsibility would require more room than this blog allows. It is easy to lay the blame on the transient rental population but this generalisation seems grossly unfair. I have been renting out cottages for many years and with careful screening have rarely had an issue, or complaint from a neighbour about a rental group. The opposite has been the case in one property, where the drunken behaviour and loud profanity from neighbouring owners has caused rental guests to abandon their vacation early.

We may not be able to change the views our fellow cottage owners have about renters in general. However, we can help educate those who stay in our properties in the values of cottage life and cottage living. Teaching them the etiquette of life of the lake may be the key and this can be done sensitively in pre-arrival information as well as the cottage manual.

Don't expect your guests to know anything. Let them know everything they should about this very unique way of living, because it is very different from their day-to-day routines. As owners, we become so familiar with the differences it's as simple as exchanging winter clothes for shorts and sandals on the first day of spring weather. For newcomers to cottage country, it can be a complete culture change

Over the years, we have refined our Guest Guide and it now includes a section called Life on the Lake  – a Primer. This covers the etiquette of cottage living and includes sections on:

  • noise levels and restrictions on outdoor music;
  • safe and responsible operation of boats;
  • pet management – not allowing straying or barking;
  • respect for neighbours and their property and a description of the property boundaries;
  • campfire instructions, including the use of fireworks;
  • driving responsibly in cottage country – particularly on narrow cottage roads;
  • the mysteries of cottage plumbing;
  • garbage management and disposal.

Here's an example:

Noise levels:  Sound travels across water in ways it never does in the city. On a quiet morning or sultry dusk, normal voices can be heard a kilometre or more away. Take a moment after you are settled in to sit quietly on the dock, and hear the sounds of lakefront living. The call of a loon, slap of a beaver tail, hum of a water pump and laughter of children. The thrum of a motor as the sunset fisherman brings his boat into a dock. As you listen, bear in mind that the noises you make will be equally well heard across the water.

Shouting, dogs barking, loud arguments and loud music will all be shared with neighbours. Please respect they are all on vacation too and have a right to a peaceful time.

Please keep noise levels down particularly when playing music outside. Outdoor noise must cease or be kept to an absolute minimum after 11pm.

I'll be publishing the complete primer for my newsletter subscribers, so if you wish to see the full text, simply sign up in the box on the right.

Let me know anything else you think your renters should know.