When Is “Clean” Actually “Clean”? Common Usage Issues in Cottage Succession Planning

Common Usage Issues in Cottage Succession Planning

Many of you have been there. You tell your children, “Please clean up your room” and get the response, “But I just cleaned it!”

This exchange is often the same source of frustration that commonly confronts families who own and use the family cottage. I often hear about “No matter how much I clean the cottage before leaving, my sister/brother will always find the speck of dust that I missed.” Or, my favorite, “I drove eight hours to the family cottage and arrived at midnight, and all I wanted to do was get into bed. When falling between the covers, I encountered dog hair, sand and a dead crayfish my sister’s Springer Spaniel left behind!” 

Everyone has different standards on how they take care of their homes and how they clean up after themselves. Oftentimes these differences can be the thread that unravels the ability of family members to get along as co-owners of the family cottage.

Rules of Conduct

To address the above potential for conflict, many families typically incorporate rules governing usage and related items into their cottage plans. Here are some issues to address/consider:           

  • Schedules to determine fairly who gets to be at the cottage and when.
  • Are pets allowed? Are guests’ pets allowed?
  • When can friends or acquaintances use the family cottage when the owner is not with them?
  • How old do the owners’ children need to be to stay at the cottage without their parents? How old do the owners’ children need to be to stay at the cottage without their parents but with guests?
  • Are spouses of deceased owners/family members allowed to use the property? If so, when and with whom?
  • Will there be a common time for usage for all owners on certain holidays or the occurrence of special events?
  • Will there be a check-in/check-out list to follow at the beginning/end of their stay?
  • Will there be usage fees such as a small per diem fee to help cover the expenses of various utilities and other expenses incurred at the cottage?
  • Will there be daily usage fees for guests who use the cottage?

Don’t Sacrifice Good Memories for Clean Floors

Like with any rules, some grace and compassion in administering/enforcing the rules are probably a good idea when commonly owned cottages are being used by family members. Not that you need to accept sleeping in sandy sheets with a dead crayfish, but maybe first-time transgressions may be due to “special” circumstances and should receive more understanding than others. You see, you could have the best and strictest rules possible to protect against misuse of the family cottage, but the rules, or how they are enforced, may scare away anyone from ever using the family cottage.

All in all there needs to be some balance between establishing rules that reasonably protect the family cottage as well as promote comfortable and non-stressful stays for the cottage owners. Most often, these issues are better planned ahead of time as opposed to calling your sister, or worse, sending her the dead crayfish in the mail.