How to handle road associations and private roads at your cottage

You’ve rounded the last bend in the road toward your cottage and every bump in the crunchy gravel road reminds you that you’re coming one step closer to your summer getaway. You’re finally on vacation! Or are you? Let’s take a closer look at the road you’re on.

Now, most of the time the road leading to your cottage isn’t something you’d worry about because the municipality takes care of maintenance and assumes all risks. For example, if someone were to get into an accident on a public road and filed a lawsuit claiming the road is unsafe, that person would target the municipal body, not the cottage owners whose houses line the street.

However, some cottage owners reside on private roads and are potentially liable for incidents on that stretch of road. To better manage private and unassumed roads, cottagers sometimes band together in road associations where each person contributes a sum to cover expenses related to the road. These associations can also provide insurance coverage for liability risks and cover part of the maintenance expenses.

This seems like a genial arrangement at first, but problems may arise if the residents do not have a written agreement defining their rights and responsibilities to fellow members. Lack of an agreement also makes it easier for individuals to renege on obligations and cause disruptions for their neighbors.

Indeed, road association members have been known to obstruct their portion of the road, preventing others from accessing their houses, despite prior—albeit verbal and informal—agreements.

We can see how a dispute can become hazardous very quickly. If one association member is blocking the road and this causes an accident, all the other members can be held liable. Other drawbacks include the disruption caused and being potentially unable to access your property. But until your township assumes the road, it falls squarely on you to care for that road and your insurance can help you measure up to that responsibility.

But you need not shoulder the responsibility on your own. Instead, consider enlisting your broker as a trusted advisor to guide you through the landscape of risk. With summer approaching fast, has your broker told you everything you need to know about cottage living? Comment below or tweet us @TheShepherdGroup