VACANT LAND INSURANCE – A COMPLETE GUIDE

Vacant Land Insurance – Do I need it?

If you own a home, then you are aware of the financial burden that is homeowners insurance. It protects the buildings and any personal belongings that are on your property.  Additionally, this might make you believe that if there are NO structures on the property, you won’t need insurance.

Well, that’s not really how it works.

Regardless of the size of the property, there are inherent risks that come with owning vacant land. Risks that if you are not protected from could turn serious quickly. Knowing that a company has your back when it comes to vacant land accidents can often be the peace of mind that landowners need. Accidents happen, even on land with nothing on it.

Defining Vacant Land

Confusion on how some land is described or identified by mortgage lenders and/or insurance companies is understandable. Even they don’t fully agree with what terms best describe land with no improvements or residents living on it. Leaving many people with the question of what is vacant land?

A quick Google search provides at least 5 different vacant land meanings. Which further proves that the answer to a relatively simple question can be a little complicated. Let’s see if we can clear it up for you.

Vacant Land or Lot?

The initial confusion comes from the words land or lot.

Millions of Americans purchase vacant lots every year. Most buy their lots to build a home, barn, or garage on. While others may purchase a slightly larger piece of land to build a business or even a large factory upon. A vacant lot is typically less than one acre and is obviously free of any buildings or general improvements. To be clear, the words land and/or lot are 100% synonymous in this instance. Regardless of the size of the tract, either can be considered vacant.

Vacant land is relatively similar to a vacant lot, but the larger a tract of land is, the more likely some improvements, structures, or personal property. Even older barns, sheds, and boat docks (by definition) can relegate your property out of the “vacant land” category. If you find yourself in a situation where your mortgage lender requires you to provide liability coverage for your property and you have a dilapidated, older barn, you may have difficulty finding coverage.

What Is Vacant Land?

So, let’s define Vacant Land for you now (as it pertains to liability insurance). Any size tract of land with no structures like homes, barns, or boathouses is considered vacant. It is predominantly an empty piece of land.

. . . but what if there is an old barn in the woods that is uninhabitable and not used for any purpose?

The American Hunting Lease Association (ahuntingleas.org) has created the only program we are aware of that permits these types of structures. While still providing liability coverage for their use. As long as no permanent residences or buildings are being used regularly. The AHLA program provides coverage. Even a seldom-used cabin or camper parked on the property is covered from liability claims on the AHLA policy. There is no requirement to allow hunting either; the AHLA simply provides coverage for landowners to protect themselves from claims made by their guests and even trespassers.

What Land Insurance Do I need?

Chances are, if you searched for information or guidance on which type of insurance policy (hunting lease or vacant land) was best suited to protect you and your property, you have landed here. Good news! You have come to the right place to have all your questions answered. Moreover, you will leave armed with the knowledge and confidence to secure the appropriate coverage affordably and responsibly.

Getting Started In Owning Land with Land Insurance

Let’s begin with a simple congratulations. As a landowner, you are one of a very select group of Americans. Those who can lay claim to owning a piece of coveted ground. It is also likely that you worked hard. Saved your money and planned for this day, and the only thing left to do is sit back, relax and enjoy owning your own property.

A considerable part of enjoying your land is sharing it with others. Additionally, you may allow friends and family to hunt deer. Or co-workers to fish in a pond, or even you may have purchased land to lease access to a hunt club. As outdoorsmen and women, the American Hunting Lease Association is grateful that you allow any type of access and know that generous landowners like yourself are the key to preserving habitat.

However, allowing access to anyone for any reason comes with significant risk to you and your assets. Not to worry, those risks are easily and affordably addressed. The important part is to make sure you have the appropriate coverage.

How To Avoid Liability Claims

Avoiding Liability claims on vacant land might seem like a no-brainer to some. I mean, it is an empty piece of land with nothing on it, right?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Multiple situations can arise and accidents can occur on your vacant land that could lead to an expensive liability claim. A claim like this could possibly cost you tens of thousands of dollars in damages and/or medical bills.  But fear not. You can take steps as a landowner to mitigate your chances of having a lawsuit filed against you.

Steps to Prevent Liability Claims

Prevent Vandalism/Trespassing

One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to limit your risk is taking the appropriate steps to prevent vandalism and trespassing. Preventing trespassers is more than just putting up a “no trespassing sign” at the front of your property, although that DOES help. In order to really keep your property safe, you need to do more.

If you injure a trespasser while engaged in an activity like target practice, you could be held responsible.

Make sure that your property appears to be well maintained.  Doing things cutting pastures, installing timers on lights, or clearly marking your border helps give the impression it is owned and maintained regularly. Having land that looks like no one has been on it in years might seem like an open invite to trespassers.  It also helps to know your neighbors. It also helps to have a second set of eyes that you trust looking over your land.

Limit Liability

An obvious tactic to limiting liability claims is to simply make sure your property is free from significant hazards. Hazards like

  • Unmarked wells/cisterns
  • Large dead trees
  • Washed out ditches
  • Old, unsafe tree stands

Really anything that could cause injury to a person on the property should be removed or well marked. If a police officer, maintenance worker, or conservation officer has to access your land for any reason, that becomes a possible liability risk.

Understanding Vacant Land Policy Coverage

What is Vacant Land Coverage

If you own vacant land, then you are susceptible to the incidents that occur on your land. Vacant Land liability coverage is needed to keep your land safe and yourself safe from third-party claims. With potentially thousands of dollars in medical bills and defense costs from an accident on your land, getting the right coverage can make all the difference.

While it might seem odd to be concerned about liability on an empty lot, overall it is the right choice. A vacant land policy is essentially liability insurance similar to the way your homeowner’s policy protects you against accidents on your property. Vacant land policies will protect you if something happens on your vacant lot that leads to an injury or damage to someone’s property.

Is Allowing Hunting necessary to buy Vacant Land Insurance?

For some who are new to owning land, the multiple types of insurance coverage can be confusing. Things can get confusing with multiple terms being thrown out like hunting lease insurance,  vacant land insurance, and umbrella policies. A question that many folks find themselves asking is if they own vacant land, does hunting have to be allowed to buy the policy. The simple answer is no, but first, it is helpful to know the difference between vacant land insurance and hunting lease insurance.

Does my Home Owners Insurance Cover Vacant Land?

The short answer is, maybe! Depending on your homeowner’s insurance, they may be able to offer you an extension to vacant land insurance. Typically if your property is where you live, your homeowner’s coverage will cover the entire tract. Even land that might be adjacent to or relatively close to your own can be included in your homeowner’s policy. Ask your agent if this is possible.

The one problem seen with getting vacant land insurance through your traditional homeowner’s insurance provider is a lack of expertise. Most agents just don’t have the experience to advise on matters involving outdoor recreation type coverages. That’s why many people prefer to work with companies that specialize in insuring vacant land.

Companies like The American Hunting Lease Association are trusted among the outdoor industry by landowners and hunters alike. Giving them expert service and always catering to their needs.

Can I afford Vacant Land Insurance?

Vacant land insurance is very affordable, starting at just $225 for up to 750 acres. With properties over 750 acres are covered for a mere .30 an acre. Coverage can be purchased through a reputable organization like the American Hunting Lease Association online. Or over the phone in just a few minutes. Your coverage begins the next day. Don’t be fooled by their name. The AHLA has provided access tools and resources to tens of thousands of landowners. Although hunting leases were the focus of the AHLA’s early mission. The group has broadened its focus to include landowners and outdoor enthusiasts. Who is looking to enjoy private land access for any number of reasons?

Also, any coverage you purchase should always include a custom liability waiver for you to use, guidance on avoiding claims by improving safety on your property, and even “No Trespassing” signs if needed.

How Much Does Vacant Land Insurance Cost?

When you compare the cost of a vacant land policy to most other insurance, it is not expensive at all. A 1-2 million dollar policy price will vary in the range of 27 to 50 per month, based on the factors location and amount of acreage. Which makes it extremely affordable and a no-brainer for owners of vacant land.

“Vacant land insurance protects your land – that’s not leased and has no development or construction activities – from lawsuits with rates as low as $27/mo.  The Insurance Information Institute notes the average claim for bodily injury and property damage from 2014 to 2018 was over $26,870. That alone makes this type of coverage essential for all property owners.”

Prevent Trespassing On Your Vacant Land

If you own vacant land, you should be fully aware that trespassing is a crime. As a landowner, you should proactively prevent unauthorized people from using, abusing, or stealing your property.

In addition, accidents happen, and you do not want to be liable. A simple first step to take is to post your property lines with Posted or No Trespassing signs. However, each state has different laws about criminal trespassing, so do your homework to understand what the laws are in your state. Fines or even jail time are often the penalties associated with trespassing on someone else’s land.