|Buying Our Cottage and Doing It Right - Buildings and Waste|
By: Jayson Schwarz
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I am sitting in my lawn chair on the edge of the lake, my deal closed last week and now I own my own piece of cottage Ontario. The sun is a beautiful golden orb, the fluffy white clouds only serve to show the brilliant blue of the sky. Out on the lake a mild breeze blows tiny ripples only marred by the occasional splash of a jumping fish. My architect is on the way and I cannot wait to plan the cottage, the garage, the bunkies, all right down here on the water with a big boathouse that I can drive my boat right in and maybe have some rooms on top like I’ve seen in Muskoka.
Sounds good right but it may not be that easy. Today things are different; most new cottages have to be located a minimum distance back from the water and it may be as much as 150-200’. Almost all municipalities preclude together with a myriad of Government agencies, Federal and Provincial restrict or forbid the construction of new structures that encroach on the lake.
So the first thing we do before we buy is attend at the planning department of the municipality that controls the area where we are looking for our cottage property and see the Clerk and get a copy of the by-laws that control these issues. Speak to the planners and the building inspectors and get a feeling for what the township wants and what is allowed for new construction and for renovation.
Here is a great tip, if there are existing buildings on a cottage property, generally, providing you retain the existing foundations and do not move closer to the lake you can renovate and expand the main cottage and restore all other buildings and maintain them. This is really important and you should consult a lawyer who understands these issues to make sure you get what you want.
Hmmm, the next topic is smelly: sewage. Sewage at the cottage is always an issue. It is critically important that we do not create a scenario where anything can leak into the lake and at the same time we need to adequately handle the waste products of all of those people that suddenly remember how close they are with you and come to reunite and reignite your friendship at your cottage. Ok so as part of any Agreement of Purchase and Sale to buy a cottage include a description of the size of the holding tank, the fact that is warranted (such warranty to survive closing) and it is emptied before you close. In addition check with the municipality as to the requirements for septic, location if you make the cottage bigger and add washrooms. All of these things can come back to haunt you later if you do not check up front. Also remember that generally out buildings are not allowed washrooms just bedrooms. Check on self contained units (lots on the market) and see what the municipality does if you add the compost style toilet.
Buying a cottage should be an enjoyable experience. Please find a lawyer that understands cottage property and get good legal advice BEFORE you firm up that Offer.