By Caroline Kirby
Whether you're a first-time buyer or an experienced investor, considering the potential liability of a property is often an afterthought for many buying land. While every state has its own laws which certainly curb the liability placed on landowners, there are some things you should keep top of mind to ensure you're protected.
What is landowner liability?
The National Agricultural Law Center cites landowner liability as being the "duty of care owed by landowners," and while some states classify liability as more of a general duty of care, others are more specific.
If you open your land up to others for activities such as hunting, fishing, riding ATVs, hiking, camping, etc., then you will definitely want to ensure your property is covered.
Do your due diligence and get clear on the laws in the area where you plan to buy land. Once you know what you're working with, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself from liability issues on your property.
What are potential liabilities on your land?
Every land and region will differ, but in general, there are some common issues that you can get ahead of with a little planning. Regardless of if you plan to live on the property or it will mostly be vacant land, there are some potential liabilities you could be exposed to. The most common issues are often:
• Road or sidewalk defects
• Insufficiently lit areas
• Attractive nuisance doctrine
• Inadequate security
While the other items are straightforward, the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine is lesser-known to many. This is a law in many jurisdictions created to protect children. Cornell Law defines this as "a landowner may be liable for injuries to children who trespass on land if the injury results from a hazardous object or condition on the land that is likely to attract children who are unable to appreciate the risk posed by the object or condition." This is especially applicable to properties that have items such as a dock, a piece of machinery, or even a tiny home that could reasonably attract a child's attention.
How can you protect yourself from liability?
Whether you're looking to purchase more land or have owned a property for years, it's worth taking a look at the following steps to ensure that you and your property are as safe as possible. Want to protect yourself from liability? Follow these steps:
• Take a walk around your property and identify any potential hazards such as potholes, broken equipment, no caution or warning signs, etc. This is especially important if you have a vacant property.
• Speak with an attorney to draft up a liability release form for people who will use or enter your property.
• Create a specific list of rules for activities that you have on your land and ensure they are visible to visitors.
• Look into liability insurance as this could ensure you are protected from all angles.
Manage your risks and protect yourself by getting clear on your legal responsibilities. If you're looking for more helpful landowner info, check out LandHub's blog library
for more resources!
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