The Winter Access Committee prepared a report on winter access in the fall of 2009. The report was presented to the Directors of the Association in the spring of 2010. Sections of the report are presented here for your information.
What Other Associations Have Done
The committee reviewed examples of what some other associations have done and found that there is a wide range of attempts to deal with the winter access issue
One has a gate at the end of the road and only those who pay get in Some count the #of winter visits or the #of months that the road is used. Some pay an equal share.
The Federation of Cottagers Association of Ontario receives questions related to why all members of a local association should support winter access. Their response is that all benefit and all should support winter access. The degree of support and the method of implementation is of course up to the local association.
Organizations have tried to develop systems that are fair to all .The ‘more you use the more you pay or the pay per use systems sound ok at first glance. However, one needs to understand and consider that the road or driveway is not plowed for you personally the day before you intend to visit. The road/driveway needs to be kept open for the whole winter period. Let’s say that you want your drive plowed for Feb. 14th. Contractors do not consider it cost effective to arrive on Feb. 13.th to plow your drive By this time the snow may be very deep or hard packed and it takes a long time with a high stress load on the equipment to open the drive. It is considered better to take ten minutes after each snowfall to keep the drive open full time. In the same way the road is not plowed for you personally the day before you visit ……It needs to be plowed and paid for…. For the full winter!!!!!! So it does not really matter how many visits you make, each owner should pay an equal share of the cost for the full winter. Just as in summer people come and go and no one is counting or debating what group they fit in.
There is also the question of FAIRNESS. On a neighbor to neighbor level …Is it fair that an owner does not contribute to a service from which he receives benefit?????
In case law there is precedent for owners being forced by the courts to pay for road maintenance. The judge ruled that the owner was ‘unjustly enriching’ himself and required the owner to pay his share.
Our committee concluded that the most successful system for Star Lake would be a system based on an equal share of the road plowing cost being paid by each cottage owner.
This type of system obviously requires a belief that all benefit from winter access.
Benefits of Winter Access to All Cottagers
When the committee researched what systems other cottage associations employ, it is clear that many systems are built on the principle that all cottagers benefit from winter access to their cottage. The degree of support, the amounts paid, and how money is collected varies considerably from group to group.
It is generally accepted that the benefits listed below apply to all of us :
- Property values are higher for properties with winter access.
- Access is required to shovel the cottage roof.
- An occasional visit to check the cottage is possible.
- Access is available for emergency vehicles.
- A Police presence is possible.
- Delivery of propane and other fuel is possible.
- Renovations to cottages now must meet building code ……Winter standards.
- Insurance coverage ….Protected properties require winter access.
Note: Since the Insurance issue seemed to be an important consideration we contacted three Insurance Brokers for an opinion……..They all stressed that insurance companies vary greatly when it comes to coverage for cottage properties. Most companies, however, use the terms PROTECTED OR UNPROTECTED to describe a property. Most companies quote a much higher rate for an unprotected property and some will not insure the property at all. Normally the insurance agent asks what distance you are from the closest fire station or you are provided with an opportunity to complete a box on your insurance form with the number of kms. you are from the closest fire hall. When the distance is stated, the assumption is that there is year round access to the property. This makes it a PROTECTED property. Failure to have a proper designation may cause difficulties if you need to make a claim.
Some companies apparently use terms such as ‘ seasonal’ and ‘ permanent’ as designations and some require that you can say that you are at the property on a regular basis…example .. once per month.
Below is a quote from the Ontario cottagers group which indicates that this is a common concern.
Q3. I don’t go to my cottage in the winter but my neighbour says I have to contribute to snow clearing of our road because my property insurance would otherwise be void. Is that so?
A3. Permanent residents on private roads usually have more things of value to insure — silver tea service, valuable paintings and china, high quality rugs, jewellery, computers etc. —the kinds of things you would more typically find in a permanent home in the city but not in a seasonal cottage in the country. Such being the case, an insurance company may require a road to be open 24/7 for the lowest premium or offer insurance at a much higher premium if your road is not open year round. Possibly some insurers wouldn’t offer insurance unless an access road is plowed. Therefore one way to keep property insurance premiums down is to have a road open 24/7. If you could lower your insurance premiums or get insurance by having your road plowed, would you encourage others on your road to have it plowed? Would you encourage as many as possible to share in the cost of plowing to keep your plowing costs down? You are contractually obliged to follow what your policy says. You will have to check the details of your specific policy to find out if plowing is a condition of keeping your policy in force.