“Is it fair to ask our cottage neighbours to pay for repairs to our shared driveway?”

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“Is it fair to ask our cottage neighbours to pay for repairs to our shared driveway?”

Illustration by Jenn Liv


Dear Rural Diplomat,

My partner and I have spent most of the pandemic at our winterized cottage up north. A few months ago, our neighbours put their cottage on the market and had more than 50 showings. With all the cars coming through, our shared gravel driveway got torn up, and it needs about $500 worth of repairs. We politely asked our departing neighbours to cover it, but they refused, saying they sold the place as is. I’m pretty miffed. Is it fair to ask the new owners to pay to fix the driveway?
—Parking Mad, Muskoka

Even if it’s fair (which it’s not), it wouldn’t be a great idea. Your new neighbours probably paid a million bucks or more for the place next door. Do you really want to welcome them to the ’hood by asking them to fork over another $500? You’re going to see these people every long weekend for years to come (and maybe much more, given the WFC movement), so make a good first impression—have them over for a (distanced) drink. Once you’re chummy, ask if they’d go halfsies on fixing the driveway, given neither of you is to blame for its condition. If it’s as bad as you say it is, they may even beat you to the ask.


 

Dear Rural Diplomat,
This past winter, my husband and I bought a beautiful cottage on Lake of Bays. We recently invited 20 people over for cocktails on our patio. We are vaccinated, as are most of our friends, but just to be safe, we asked our guests to provide proof of vaccination beforehand. A few of them were outraged—one called our request a “violation of civil liberties.” I don’t see why it’s such a big deal. Is it okay to ask people to prove they’ve been vaccinated?
—Keeping Tabs on Jabs, Baysville

If your friends are that eager to turn down free margaritas, let them. It’s your cottage, your rules. You’re well within your rights to check people’s “vaccine passports” at the door (or dock). Airlines, sports stadiums and the state of New York are all doing it, and medical experts agree it’s safe for vaccinated people to get together. Defuse the situation with your sanctimonious guests by explaining that you only wanted to keep everyone healthy, and that you look forward to seeing them when the pandemic is over. Your party will be just fine without them.


Dear Rural Diplomat,
When our dad passed away last year, my sister and I inherited the family cottage in Prince Edward County. We had some wonderful memories there, but it’s a ratty old place and I want to sell it now to take advantage of the hot market and help pay for a house in the city. My sister wants to hang on to it and fix it up, but she can’t afford to buy my half, and she gets emotional every time I bring it up. How can I convince her to sell without creating a permanent rift between us?
—My Sister’s Keeper, Cove Beach

Don’t rush it—your sister might still be grieving. That said, if you two keep the cottage, it should be because it makes sense for both of you, not because she’s having trouble letting go. The next time you talk to her, ask how she’d renovate the place. Draft up some napkin floor plans and ballpark a budget. Ask her whether she can see herself living there. How about raising a family? If not, at least you got your sister talking. Make your best case for selling, and show her some other places she could afford with her half of the sale price. If she still wants to stay put, consider allowing her to buy you out gradually—or ask her to refinance the place to pay you off. Just don’t count on an invitation next Canada Day weekend.


Dear Rural Diplomat,
Last spring, the cottage next to ours sold. The new owners, whom we’ve never met, turned the place into a short-term rental. It’s constantly occupied by remote workers and rowdy college kids breaking all sorts of Covid restrictions. Our cottage used to be a quiet retreat, but now we can hardly sleep because of all the music and yelling. We’ve complained to the rental company and written to the owners, to no avail. How can we stop this?
—Nose Out of Joint, Kawarthas

The next time you spot a pandemic protocol being broken, take a video and send it to the City of Kawartha Lakes, who can dispatch the OPP to drop a $750 fine. That should get your new neighbours’ attention. Ask them to post house rules on the listing and around the cottage, and get their number so you can call them whenever a drunken frat boy starts strumming “Wonderwall” at 3 a.m. If that doesn’t buy you some peace, keep complaining to the city. Even if it’s just a bylaw infraction, the fine doubles every time, so your neighbour will be motivated to crack down or risk having their income property turn into a money pit.