Thinking of Buying a Cottage?

 In Real Estate Law

While it may seem like winter is never going to end, soon the snow will be gone and summer will be upon us. For some, this will be the summer they finally decide to buy that dream cabin in the woods where they can relax and get away from everything. However, purchasing a cottage is different than buying a home in the city and there are often many issues to be aware of before making an offer. Here are just a few items to keep in mind when looking for a cottage.

Well and Septic

Most homes in urban areas are on city water and sewer so your biggest concern when buying is likely to be that the previous owner is up to date on paying these bills. On the other hand, most cottages will be on well and septic which brings about more questions. Is the water potable? Were proper permits obtained to install the well and septic? Are the well and septic sufficient to serve your needs? There should be numerous provisions in your offer, such as having an inspection done of the well and septic and asking for proper permits, to increase the likelihood you will not run into problems in the future. If you do not perform this due diligence in advance, there could be significant costs incurred in the future as repairing or replacing a well or septic system can be very expensive.

Crown Patent & Waterfront Issues

When you finally find that ideal spot on the water, you may start envisioning private cookouts on the beach or building a dock for your new boat. Unfortunately, there is a chance you may not own right up to the water’s edge. As a result, this could mean that you will not be the only one enjoying the water and that you will need permission from the appropriate authority before building a dock or boathouse. In some cases, there are Crown patents that could result in the government owning sixty-six feet of property from the water’s edge. Furthermore, the Crown patent may also include other reservations in favour of the government, such as rights to any minerals or timber on your property. As such, you should confirm the contents of the Crown patent so you are clear whether any rights are reserved and exactly what you are purchasing.


In more rural areas, it is common that you may have to travel over private roads in order to get to your cottage. Therefore, it is important to find out whether you have direct access to your cottage via public roads or if you are required to go on private property. If you do need to use someone else’s property in order to get to your cottage, you should have your lawyer check to ensure that you have a legal right registered on title to do so (this is called an easement). Without a legal easement, you could be deemed to be trespassing and, as a result, have no way to legally access your property.

Building Restrictions

Perhaps you find an ideal location and you intend to build your dream cottage on that land. Before committing to buy the property, you should research whether there are any restrictions on what can be built and where you can construct your cottage. For example, by-laws may restrict the type of dwelling that can be built or the property could be on a floodplain that limits where you can build. As a result, it is crucial to have a provision in your offer that makes it conditional on confirming you can build the structure you want. Otherwise, you may have end up having a permanent campsite instead of a cottage.

These are just some of the issues to consider when purchasing a cottage. To ensure you are properly informed, it is important to surround yourself with a team of professionals who can properly advise you. This would include a real estate agent and lawyer that have experience dealing with cottage properties.

This blog post was written by Jason Peyman, a member of the Real Estate team.  He can be reached at 613-369-0376  or at

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