Occupiers’ Liability Act And How It Affects Your Cottage Hosting Responsibilities

Kicking off the start of summer usually means one thing for many – a trip to the cottage! While the cottage can feel like an escape from reality, where everyone can just cut loose and relax, it’s important to remember that as the host, you must remain responsible.

In Ontario, there is a thing called the Occupiers’ Liability Act. It applies to everyone who owns property, whether that be a business, home, or cottage. Essentially this act is in place to keep people safe while on other people’s property. If a property owner has not been responsible for mitigating risk and keeping others safe, then they may be found liable for those injuries.

The Occupiers’ Liability Act puts a duty of care on the occupier of the property to ensure all people visiting the property are safe within reason. In many cases, the occupier of the property is the owner, but in some cases, there could be more than one person responsible. This could also include landlords, managers, other people who live at the home, etc.

If someone becomes injured while on the property, the act is responsible for dealing with the liabilities that may arise from it.

What Does The Occupiers’ Liability Act Cover?

The act covers the premises or property. This often refers to someone’s business, home, cottage, or other property. However, it can also extend to land, buildings, vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and more.

This includes:

  • Private homes and residences
  • Apartments and condominiums
  • Hotels, Airbnbs and other rentals
  • Parking lots and driveways
  • Hotels and other healthcare facilities
  • Restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses
  • Amusement parks and other outdoor entertainment spaces
  • Schools
  • Retirement homes
  • Factories and office buildings
  • Boats
  • Aircrafts
  • Cars, trailers, and other vehicles

What Are The Exceptions To The Occupiers’ Liability Act?

If you were injured due to your own negligence, for instance, if you were acting reckless or unsafe, the owner may not be found liable.

If you are trespassing, you assume all risk in the event of an injury.

In the event of a victim’s injuries being caused due to a contractor’s work, then the contractor may be found liable instead of or in addition to the homeowner.

Certain recreational areas that do not have an entrance cost are free from liability. For instance, private roads, forests, and farms where the visitor has entered at their own risk.

If the owner could not foresee the actions of the victim, due to intoxication or behaving in a strange manner, then the owner may not be found liable.

However, if the victim is a minor and the injury was caused by actions that should have been foreseen by the homeowner, then they will still be held liable. An example of this could be a child sneaking into a neighbour’s backyard and drowning in their pool. Despite not being invited over and technically trespassing, the neighbour should have foreseen the risk and installed adequate fencing and locks to keep children out.

To read the full details of the Occupiers’ Liability Act, click here.

In Case Of Injury, Make Sure Your Cottage Is Covered By Insurance

Many people have home insurance and understand the importance of ensuring their main property is covered. However, it’s equally important to make sure your cottage or seasonal property is also covered under home insurance.

Review the fine print of your existing policy, and if needed, request additional coverage for your second property. You want to make sure that your policy includes personal liability coverage. In the case of someone injuring themselves on your property, this policy will help protect you.

Protect Yourself By Maintaining Your Cottage Regularly

Before inviting anyone over, and on a semi-regular basis, it’s important to take a thorough walk through the inside and outside of your cottage to ensure it’s all in good working order.

Make sure to inspect:

  • Any entranceways to make sure they are tidy, clean, and dry.
  • Porches, walkways, and steps to make sure they are not falling apart, they are clean, and the railings are sturdy.
  • Pools or hot tubs to make sure the walkways around them are clean and dry and all necessary safety equipment is present.
  • Docks to make sure they are clear, dry, and not slippery. Also, make sure the dock is not falling apart and there is no broken wood.  
  • Fireplaces to make sure they are regularly being maintained and the chimneys are clear and free of debris.

Extra Steps You Can Take To Ensure Cottage Safety

Keeping guests and visitors safe is about more than just making sure the space is not falling apart. It also includes installing additional safety measures to make sure people can easily and safely navigate the space.

You should install:

  • Smoke and carbon dioxide detectors around the cottage, making sure there is one of each on every floor and they are working properly.
  • Outdoor lights around the property so people can see where they’re going late at night or early in the morning. By installing a motion detector light, you can ensure they will always be on when needed.
  • Slippery surface signs wherever water may be present, such as on the dock and near the pools and hot tubs.

There should be a fully stocked first aid kit on the property that is easily accessible to treat minor injuries or allergic reactions. This kit must be checked regularly to make sure the products inside haven’t expired.

As the cottage owner, you are allowed to relax and unwind, however, we recommend that you set a good example and imbibe responsibly. Do not overindulge in alcohol or drugs, so that you can be alert and responsive should someone get injured or overindulge themselves.

Occupiers’ Liability Act And Alcohol – It’s Complicated

If you’ve ever taken your Smart Serve, you know that the laws around serving alcohol to anyone can be strict. Just like if you were working as a bartender overserving a customer, you can get in trouble for overserving in your own home or cottage. You must make a concerted effort to prevent reasonable harm or injury to your guests when serving alcohol. If that guest overindulges and hurts themselves, you may be held liable.

How Does It Pertain To Boating Accidents?

Just like on your property, you are also responsible for your guests when they are in the water. Anyone who is a guest of yours that is operating boats or watersports equipment should be monitored. This includes boats, jet skis, paddleboards and more.

Anyone operating these vehicles must have the appropriate licensing required to operate them and cannot be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Make sure your guests understand proper boat safety.

Accidents can easily and quickly happen in the water, so it’s important to make sure your guests are behaving in a responsible, law-abiding manner.

De Rose Lawyers Is Here To Help You Get Your Life Back On Track After A Serious Personal Injury Accident

Summer fun in Ontario can be done safely with the right precautions. As a cottage owner, you bear the responsibility if someone is seriously injured while on your property. Take the right precautions to ensure you’re protected should a guest get hurt on your property.

Should you be injured while visiting a friend’s property, De Rose lawyers can help you get the care and compensation you deserve. Contact us to learn more about Occupiers’ Liability and how it can help your situation. Protect yourself by making sure you know your rights as an injured party or a cottage owner that is being held liable for a personal injury.