Sharing Access to Your Vacant Land

If someone other than you is on your vacant land, you are sharing it. You share access to your vacant land with:

  • Guests at your Memorial Day picnic
  • A work colleague who fishes in your pond from time to time
  • A surveyor or real estate agent evaluating the property
  • The developer for a subdivision parking heavy equipment on your vacant lot overnight
  • The children who cross your vacant property to reach their bus stop without your knowledge
  • And anyone else who steps foot on your land.

Depending on the law of your state, a person who visits your vacant land will likely fit into one of four categories, depending on who gains access and why they are there:

  • Someone who has an easement
  • A licensee
  • An invitee
  • A trespasser

 

Easements

Your vacant land may be subject to a property right known as an easement. The key hallmark of an easement is that it grants someone other than the landowner an enforceable property right.

Easements may be granted in exchange for payment, granted without payment, or required by law. Easements may be permanent and open-ended or have a definitive end date. The right to access the property isn’t, however, terminable by the landowner at will while the easement exists.

Some examples include when:

  • Your neighbor crosses your vacant land to access to their own adjoining land that is inaccessible from any nearby road
  • You share a driveway or private road along the border of your vacant land with the adjoining land’s owner
  • A utility company accesses your vacant land to place and maintain utility poles and lines that are necessary to provide service to you or to others

 

Licensees and Invitees

You also share your vacant land with invited guests or with someone who has access in exchange for something of value to you. Permission to use the land can be communicated by an engraved invitation, a lease, or even a nod of the head.

These categories differ from an easement because the landowner can terminate a visitor’s use of the vacant land at will or, if one exists, by the terms of an agreement.

Licensees are visitors to the land for their own enjoyment and sole benefit, including social purposes or any reason unrelated to business. Depending on your state’s laws, this category may include guests at your weekend bonfire and/or friends camping on your vacant land. Visitors that you permit on the land for altruistic purposes—like a Girl Scout troop you allow to hike on your vacant land or someone who parks her car on your property while she waits for a tow truck—may also be licensees.

By contrast, invitees are visitors that you allow on your vacant land for your mutual benefit. Delivery people, contractors, employees, and tenants are common examples of invitees under many state laws. An invitee is any individual who has permission to use your land in exchange for something of value. If you give access to your vacant land in exchange for a fee to the organizer of a music festival or to a church that needs overflow parking, they are invitees. That developer of the subdivision who pays you for permission to park heavy equipment on your vacant lot is also an invitee.

 

Sharing Access to Your Vacant Land

 

Trespassers

Finally, individuals that access your vacant land without your permission or who have stayed longer than permitted are trespassers.

Why Does Any Of This Matter?

Depending on state law, you may have different obligations for maintaining your land and ensuring safety on your property for each of these groups. Your liability for any injuries that happen on your land may also depend on the category of the visitor.

Understanding these categories can help you in selecting the right insurance coverage for your vacant land. Trespassers are excluded from many policies. A policy might not cover vacant land at all. You do not want to find this out only after a claim arises.

The American Landowner Alliance provides zero-deductible insurance policies to owners of vacant land. Their policies provide coverage for claims of visitors alleging bodily injury or property— even trespassers. ALA provides coverage for properties of any size and a wide range of urban, suburban, and rural vacant land.

Learn more about the ALA’s coverage for your urban, suburban, or rural vacant land by visiting our Vacant Land Liability Insurance webpage and requesting an instant quote.