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Seasonal and Secondary Homes

A seasonal home is used for a season or for extended periods of time. It is only occupied for a few months on an irregular basis during the year (through a seasonal period) and closed during the rest of the year (when the property is vacant or unoccupied).

A secondary home is used throughout the entire year on a regular basis, at least once a month or more. Both these types of properties present unique challenges. In order to prevent a claim, let’s look at the areas to inspect and how to avoid the traditional losses associated with them.

Underwriting Concerns

  • Vacancy
  • Exterior and interior maintenance
  • Snow removal
  • Water plan (drain in absence/seasonal)
  • Vandalism/theft
  • Pest infestation plan
  • Oil/propane tank on site
  • Woodstove
  • Power failure
  • Replacement cost, especially with log buildings
  • Replacement cost of out-structures including docking and wharfs
  • Rentals


Snow covered log cabin in a forest


  • Determine the number of days per week/ month visited by home owner.
  • Is a Certified Property Manager or neighbor used to check the property?
  • If the property is maintained by a caretaker, does the caretaker use an industry standard checklist for both inside and out?
  • Are the 7 key categories covered?  Foundation, roof, door, windows, electrical, heating, plumbing, interior.
  • Is there a snow removal contract in place, a scheduled roof inspection (including gutters and downspouts)? 
  • Are there tree inspections, yard maintenance plans, secondary water flow tests, dock inspections, and outbuilding inspections?

Weather Concerns
Severe weather events may require a tree maintenance plan, snow bars, lightning rods, and boats removed from the dock. It’s important to know if bubblers are used and to be mindful of the inherent safety precautions. Storm shutters should be installed, gates on fences kept open, and the driveway cleared within 24 hours after snowfall, based on a predetermined contract.

 Private/Public Protection Concerns

  • Private protection: Does the home have an alarm system? If so, what type of detectors are used (heat, smoke, infrared motion, contact on doors, windows, low temperature, water, humidity, glass break, etc.)? Is it monitored with a central station, cellular back up, internet connection, cameras?
  • Is road closed during the winter, is there a distance to the main road?
  • Is there a secured gate? If so, has code or locking device been given to property authority?
  • Public protection: Confirm the corresponding firehall information via FUS and direct measurements.
  • Confirm mechanism for water supply to the dwelling.


Pier on a lake with a red adirondack chair

Shutting down practices

  • Drain all water
  • Shut off electrical
  • Check generator to be operational
  • Put anti-freeze in pipes
  • Clean chimney and block from pest infestation
  • Put up storm shutters
  • Remove patio furniture and temp dock
  • Check solar panels are properly secured

In order to ensure your home away from home is properly maintained, a best practices approach should be taken, from the top to the bottom of your property, inside and out. The key to implementing these  practices is to have a maintenance plan in place and stick to it, thereby ensuring your cottage will be waiting for you safe and sound upon your return. 

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