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Do you own "Vacant" land? Is it insured under your homeowners policy? Most likely- NO.

Feb 17, 2012
Determining if land is vacant is an issue that comes up quite often. The importance of whether or not property is vacant land is that homeowners forms include vacant land in the definition of insured location.
In Section II of the HO policies, certain types of activities, such as the use of an owned recreational vehicle, are only covered if they take place on an insured location. Undeclared premises that one owns or rents are typically excluded unless they are insured locations. Some locations are automatically included in the definition—if not, they can usually be added to the policy.

What constitutes "vacant land"? It is common belief within the industry that virtually any man-made structure on a premises removes it from the vacant category. In addition, in most cases, such property would need to be specifically described as an insured location on the declarations page—that is, no automatic insured location coverage as per the policy definition—in order to extend liability coverage.
Tthere are few plots of ground considered vacant because the insurance manual definition is "any land on which there exist no man-made structures." Fences, walls, telephone poles and roads eliminate virtually every tract, thus the coverage grant.

The policy doesn't define vacant land—at best, it's referenced only in the manual or underwriting guide—so it is subject to interpretation. Most experts and case law support that land isn't vacant if there is a man-made object on it.

Vacant land, according to the courts, refers to land that is unoccupied and unused, and/or has no structures on it. Vacant land requires that the property be unoccupied, unused and "in its natural state".

Here are some examples of things that make a property not vacant and, unless declared, not an insured location:
  • A chain across a road injures a snowmobiler.
  • Someone is injured falling out of a deer stand that someone other than the owner constructs without the owner's knowledge.
  • A child falls into an old foundation from a home that has been there for years without the owner noticing.
Some states have some statutory relief for owners of vacant land, but that does not help the defense costs


Provided by Bill Wilson. Director of Big I Virtual University















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