Help with a canoe

Our guest house is on a beautiful lake, so we thought that buying a canoe would be a good way to entertain our guests.

Is there a disclaimer that anyone else uses to protect us, just in case?

My son suggested to keep the oars at our house and not give them to anyone until they sign a disclaimer stating that they WILL wear the lifejacket.

Advice appreciated.

I would check with your insurance company and see what they require.


Not a good idea from a liability perspective or from the context of safety regulations. Disclaimers won’t always work if there’s some form of implied duty of care (I’m not a lawyer, but I know some laws apply regardless of disclaimers).

A canoe is pretty much a coffin in an untrained pair of hands. There will be some not-so-smart guests who would go out in a canoe without any experience, thinking they can wing it. I could be overly cautious, but its a litigious society and I won’t want to be undone by some conceited teenager who drowns himself or herself in a moment of stupidity.


Personally I wouldn’t do this, I think it would be far too risky in terms of liability.

Just because you ask guests to sign a disclaimer, won’t exempt you from liability if they have an accident.

Just direct them to somewhere on the lake that hires equipment.


This is exactly what we do. We were advised by a lawyer not to offer the things we’d like to for guests - bikes, kayaks and paddle boards. There is way too much liability even with safety equipment supplied, with disclaimers and with regular documented maintenance of the equipment.

We send guests to local firms that are properly licensed and insured.


Almost ALL lake properties in the Adirondacks in New York State offer some kind of boat. Usually motor free. It is an issue that needs to be discussed with a your insurer, but you may find that insurer and underwriters in heavily outdoorsy recreational areas are more open to it. If your current insurance is through a national chain, you might want to talk to a local agent.


I’ve looked at other lake properties and it looked like most had a canoe or kayak.

The lake and surrounding area is owned by the corps of engineers, so if the water itself is the hazard, we don’t own it. I mean people could drown just swimming in the lake, right?

I was thinking the only way we would be liable is if the boat had a hole it in it, or if the life jackets didn’t float or something like that.

Nope, not even close. If you let someone borrow your car and they crash into someone’s house and cause $20,000 worth of property damage, that property owner can sue YOU, even though you weren’t driving or even present. It’s your equipment that caused the damage, and you gave permission for that person to operate it.

You really need to make sure that your insurance will cover you loaning a canoe to guests. I would guess they probably won’t.

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I have two properties listed - one a river and one a lake and I offer kayaks and a canoe at both properties. I have a disclaimer in my house rules and instructions in the River House and chalet. It states that you use any equipment at your own risk and that ALSO includes swimming. I do provide life jackets in a mired of sizes and have been renting for over five years. I have found that most people are careful and I know there is always one that breaks the rules like when my brother-in-law took out our kayak and I asked him to bring along a life jacket and he refused even when I mentioned it was a state law. Oh well that’s what happens with family!


Is there an outfitter or canoe rental place anywhere near you, @jrjan1? That has been my salvation. We have a listing on a river, and we do have our own canoe, but it is hidden from guests. Well hidden. Any guest who had previously caught a glimpse of it felt cheated that it wasn’t available for them to drown themselves from.
But now that a rental place has opened, with all the permits and insurance and worry, I direct guests there. It’s wonderful. I work with the owners regarding launch and take-out points, moving vehicles, etc., and everyone - that business, the guests, and this airbnb host - is happy.


Oh you’re funny with your “the only way we could be liable” ideas.

Ever hear of an attractive nuisance? I believe there was a case in my state that involved an old row boat and a child’s death.

The attractive nuisance doctrine applies to the law of torts, in the United States. It states that a landowner may be held liable for injuries to children trespassing on the land if the injury is caused by an object on the land that is likely to attract children.[1] The doctrine is designed to protect children who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object, by imposing a liability on the landowner.[1] The doctrine has been applied to hold landowners liable for injuries caused by abandoned cars, piles of lumber or sand, trampolines, and swimming pools. However, it can be applied to virtually anything on the property of the landowner.

There is no set cut off point that defines youth. The courts will evaluate each “child” on case by case basis to see if the “child” qualifies as a youth.

If it is determined that the child was able to understand and appreciate the hazard, the doctrine of attractive nuisance will not likely apply.[2]

Under the old common law, the plaintiff (either the child, or a parent suing on the child’s behalf) had to show that it was the hazardous condition itself which lured the child onto the landowner’s property. However, most jurisdictions have statutorily altered this condition, and now require only that the injury was foreseeable by the landowner.


  • The place where the condition exists is one on which the possessor knows or has reason to know that children are likely to trespass, and
  • The condition is one of which the possessor knows or has reason to know and which he realizes or should realize will involve an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm to such children,
  • The children, because of their youth, do not discover the condition or realize the risk involved in inter-meddling with it or in coming within the area made dangerous by it
  • The utility to the possessor of maintaining the condition and the burden of eliminating the danger are slight as compared with the risk to children involved, and
  • The possessor fails to exercise reasonable care to eliminate the danger or otherwise to protect the children

(See Restatement of Torts §339)

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Seems to me that renting a STR has inherent risks of liability. Slips and falls come to mind; kitchen accidents. Fires, natural disasters. I’m not certain that a canoe greatly impacts your overall liability sphere. If you eliminate all chances of liability you won’t have anything to offer as a rental.

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A locked-up boat or canoe accessible by an adult and paying renter - not a child - is not an “attractive nuisance” in the way I understand the doctrine.

The OP should talk to their insurer and/or lawyer.

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well certainly if it’s locked up that will help mitigate the situation but I can tell you that were a child able to get past a lock there would be liability. Same thing with a swimming pool. You can fence it and lock it but if a kid gets in you’re still going to face liability.

Just wanted to throw it out there because many people are unaware of the liability lurking on their properties esp. when children are involved.

YOU may not be certain that a canoe greatly impacts your overall liability sphere – but your insurer will be. Household liability is one thing. Handing John Doe a lethal weapon (canoe, bike, rowboat) is a whole different ball of wax . WHY take a chance on losing everything??? ASK.

If you’re one of those flying under the radar without proper liability insurance (the Airbnb Million Dollar thing does not count), then shame on you.

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The lake itself is a property liability and attractive for a child to drown, but again, I don’t own the lake like someone owns a swimming pool.

I do have property liability for the rental, and I specifically asked if it covered if someone drowned and my agent said yes.

At the end of the day it is up to you what risks you are happy to take @jrjan1

You seem to keep trying to think up ways to try and avoid your liability - asking your guests to sign a disclaimer, suggesting you would only have liability if the life jackets weren’t working properly etc.

Why don’t you just ask your insurance broker or provider and let us know what they say, so other hosts can learn from your experience.

I simply wanted to know if anyone could give me an example of a disclaimer.

I said that I’ve already asked him if I am liable if someone drowns and he said I’m covered.

OMG @jrjan1 I give up :slight_smile:

Asking if you are liable if someone falls in a lake is NOT the same thing as your broker if you would be liable if someone went out in your canoe, or other type of boat and drowned.

And as has already been mentioned to you, a disclaimer would not be worth the paper it is written on, as it wouldn’t be enforceable.


Maybe a pedal boat might be safer and less expensive or kayaks.