Family Cottages #1 – Operational Guidelines
There are few things more infuriating than arriving at your family cottage for your designated week of relaxation, only to find:
– food-encrusted dishes laying in the sink, and old food in the fridge
– soiled bedding left in a pile on the floor, and
– tools, kitchen utensils, and books gone missing or misplaced
This obviously drove the arriving family members crazy; and it is a situation that could have easily been avoided if the proper planning documents were agreed to and put in place by the family ahead of time!
This frustrating situation actually happened to one of our client families, but it’s not unique. For many siblings and cousins who share a family cabin or cottage, scenes like this are all too recognizable. Without a mutually agreed upon set of guidelines, what passes as “leaving things clean” for one family unit might be totally unacceptable for their cousins who arrive the next day. You can imagine the emotions this would create, and animosity, frustration, and resentment may be the long-lasting results if important planning is not undertaken by all stakeholders.
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
As a Family Office, we often help our clients – from sibling partnerships to cousin consortiums – collaborate on and agree to a set of “Operational Guidelines” for the family cottage. These guidelines typically address things such as:
– Who gets to reserve what week(end)?
– Are friends of the family allowed to use the cabin? Are rentals allowed?
– Who pays if the cottage requires repairs? Are there yearly dues?
It is also important to revisit these guidelines – as well as plan for the year ahead – by holding an Annual Meeting for the family.
If your family or someone you know has a family cottage, consider putting together an agreement that addresses many of the above potential issues. “But we’ve never had any problems like that!” you might say – to which we’d reply, Wonderful! That makes it the perfect time to create an agreement like this – it’s much harder to do when animosity has already begun bubbling up under the surface.
Oh, and the messy cottage story that I referenced at the start of this article? After some work, the family now has a “Cottage Life” agreement in place, and these mutually agreed upon guidelines have ensured that nothing like the above scenario has ever happened again.
Just like good fences make good neighbours, so too does good governance make for harmonious families!