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Risk Management at Holiday Properties

Is there a better place to contemplate the meaning of life than the deck of your holiday cottage? Building contractor Paul Young didn’t think so. One afternoon several years ago, he fell asleep on the deck of his cabin near Banff. When he awoke, he found himself under close examination by an adult male grizzly. Risks are everywhere, even at your holiday property.

By Guy Robertson

Guy Robertson is a senior emergency planner, auditor and trainer at TMC and an instructor at the Justice Institute of BC and Langara College. He has written five books and hundreds of articles on disaster planning, and offered workshops and lectures at conferences across North America and in the UK.

More than Bears

“His face was a foot away from mine. I froze. He sniffed at me, then ambled into the woods at the edge of my property. He was probably looking for food. I’ve never seen an animal of that size in the wild before. I don’t want to see another.”

Young notes that while bears receive much media attention, there are numerous other risks that prevail on holiday properties across Canada. These include fire, explosions, leaks, floods, storm damage, rodent infestation, and intruders.

Insurers note that any site near a body of water could be at risk from flooding. That view of the lake may be lovely, but as the lake overflows its banks and water moves towards a cottage, the owner may develop a radically different opinion of waterfront property.

“When owners are away from their cottages for extended periods, any small problem can get bigger,” said Young. Many of Young’s customers ask him to repair damage that has occurred after a strong wind has blown open a door and let in substantial amounts of moisture. Broken windows are another point of water ingress. Overgrown and falling tree branches can smash through even the most durable glazing.

Young notes that rodent infestation is an increasing nuisance. “There are more of them to burrow into roofs and chew wiring. You might not see the holes until the rainy season, when water flows through them.”

Break-ins and vandalism rates appear to correlate with proximity to neighbouring towns and highways.

Brendan Enos, Insurance Manager at G & F Financial Group in Vancouver comments on fuel tank leaks. “With abrupt seasonal changes, propane tanks can experience more wear and tear, which can lead to serious safety hazards.”


Enos urges property owners to inspect all tanks carefully during each visit. While underground tanks may be impossible to examine without unearthing them, owners should be suspicious if fuel supplies decrease more quickly than usual. “Considering the cost of fuel these days, I think a proper inspection is worth the effort.”

“The traditional fireplace with a stone or brick floor and chimney is not much of a worry,” he adds,“but a freestanding unit can pose a real risk if people don’t clean it regularly. These units are popular, but they require more attention.”

Other risk mitigations include removing trees that pose a risk to the structure, conducting thorough inspections to look for rodent damage or structural cracks. It’s also important to ensure that you have an effective drainage system to offer more protection from floods.


If absence from a property increases risk, such as a small leak turning into a big one over time, one way to avoid trouble is to visit more often. Unfortunately, owners’ schedules might not permit more time at the cottage. Enter Joan Foster and her fellow volunteers at Citizens on Patrol, an organization that keeps watch over properties in Deka Lake, a small community in BC’s South Cariboo region.

“Our population comprises around 250 year-round residents and 150 holiday property owners,” she said. “In this area, you look after your neighbour, and your neighbour looks after you. We have a competent RCMP detachment, but they can do only so much.”

“We don’t have many squatters, but we experience the occasional break-in. Sometimes visiting teenagers throw wild parties. We had a rash of break-ins years ago, but since COP started its site visits, break-ins have decreased by over 80%.”

COP volunteers follow a simple set of procedures. Working in pairs, they arrive at a site and complete a visual inspection. If they see anything unusual or out-of-place, like a broken window, they report it to their senior member, who will contact the owners and the police if necessary. While COP programs are intended to reduce crime, they’re also a good way to protect property from different kinds of damage.

“We’re careful about wildlife,” said Foster. But she’s not inclined to nap on her back deck, just in case.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help by auditing your current hazard, risk and vulnerability assessment, or to comment on this article, contact me at

This article was published in the May 2024 edition of The TMC Advisor
- ISSN 2369-663X Volume:11 Issue:4

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