Muskoka’s cottage country comprises a number of closely-knit communities where being respectful of your neighbours is of the utmost importance. You should understand what your role is in maintaining that calm that inspires community harmony, especially when it comes to noise levels.

The unwritten rules to know
Between boat traffic and kids playing, there can be an awful lot of noise on the lake on those beautiful summer days. However, those are the kinds of sounds we come to expect in cottage country. What nobody wants to hear is all-day construction and the sound of a chainsaw revving up before the sun rises. Don’t forget, on the lake sound travels easily. 

A good, general, unwritten rule to follow is to avoid doing construction during summer days unless it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise, the construction and lake activity can become a cacophony of noise that nobody will enjoy!

The written rules to follow
For as helpful as the unwritten rule, above, is to follow, your municipality will have written rules, too. The local bylaws could differ depending on where you are, so be sure to follow them in order to avoid a complaint or a fine. Full bylaws for each municipality can be found by following the links, but there are a few things worth noting for each. 

  • Town of Huntsville. — Notify neighbours if you are doing any loud work and limit construction to standard working hours.
  • Town of Bracebridge. — Domestic tools such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, snowblowers, and saws are not permitted outside of standard working hours.
  • Town of Gravenhurst. — The operation of any public address system, car stereo, sound equipment, loudspeaker, or other electronic device intended for the amplification of sound is prohibited.
  • Township of Muskoka Lakes. — Noise bylaws apply between 11 pm and 7 am and include the use of loud music, engines, shouting, or any other sound that can be heard beyond your property.
  • Township of Lake of Bays. — Most excessive noise, whether it’s residential or construction, is not allowed between 9 pm and 7 am Monday-Saturday, or before noon on Sundays.
  • Township of Georgian Bay. — Unnecessary operation of vehicles that causes tire squeals, exhaust, banging of equipment, or excessive sound from a horn or stereo, is prohibited. 

In many cases, individual lake associations have their own guidelines on noise in addition to the written law from the municipality –  make sure you brush up on these annually. 

Guidance for renters
If you are renting out your cottage, whether it’s to family and friends or as an AirBnB, it’s important you provide guidance to your guests. In the end, the fines you get for their behaviour and the annoyance levels you’ll have to face from neighbours will be yours to deal with and not theirs. 

Once you have read up on the specific noise bylaws in your area and any rules your lake association has, you can apply those specific requirements to an AirBnB listing, including the time cut-offs. An additional layer can be to add the details into the rental agreement itself, in order to protect yourself and the community in the event of a problematic guest.

Additionally, AirBnB allows the listing to have each individual guest register, in order to ensure everyone is aware of the rules and bylaws for the property and surrounding community. In the event of a large gathering, a phone call ahead of time to communicate everything can be helpful.

The Federation of Ontario Cottagers has an excellent resource page for responsible cottage rental that everyone who is renting out their cottage should review. 

When should you complain? 
If noise levels are contravening local bylaws, and are significantly impacting your enjoyment of the lake, chances are good it is annoying your neighbours too and you should contact your municipality’s bylaw enforcement office. Things to give a pass for may be events like weddings, but realistically if someone is holding an event like that they should have already given a heads up to the neighbours. 

Just be respectful 
At the end of the day, it all goes back to respect for your neighbours and mindfulness of the community. As long as everyone is courteous, whether you are doing renovations or enjoying a fire in the evening, there shouldn’t be a problem. However, in the event of an issue, using bylaws as a guideline serves as an excellent fail-safe and help to maintain the peaceful cottage country environment you know and love.