A landowner in Southwest Tennessee posts his land to make it clear he does not want trespassers using it for hunting purposes.
To protect himself against any liability in the event someone is injured on his land or destroys personal property, he has an umbrella policy with a value of several million dollars. He is safe, right? For the most part, yes. However, what if that landowner had a change of heart and decided to lease his land to a local hunting group? His umbrella insurance may no longer be adequate. He may need hunting insurance coverage.
Landowners leasing out their property to hunters for the first time may assume a current umbrella policy is adequate. Most of the time it is not. Umbrella insurance is a particular kind of coverage intended to protect homeowners from liability exposure to certain things not covered by standard homeowners insurance. However, umbrella insurance is not as comprehensive as many people think.
The first thing to understand is the difference between trespassers and hunters with a legal lease agreement. Trespassers are, by default, lawbreakers over whom landowners have limited control. A landowner can put up posted signs and fences but short of posting armed guards, can do little to prevent trespassers from coming on the land. Umbrella insurance provides adequate coverage because the liability exposure posed by trespassers is limited.
Hunters with a legal lease agreement are not trespassers; they are invited, guests. The lease agreement gives them the legal right to occupy the land and use it for hunting purposes with the consent of the landowner. This scenario exposes the landowner to a higher level of both responsibility and liability. This is where umbrella insurance can get a little fuzzy. Umbrella insurance may not cover certain liabilities associated with land leases; hunting insurance coverage will cover all of them.
The other thing to consider is the fact that leasing land to hunters is regarded as a business activity for tax purposes. If you already have an umbrella policy, take a look at the exclusions it contains. You will probably see somewhere in the fine print that liability exposure related to business activities is not covered.
A landowner in this situation could buy a business insurance policy complete with umbrella coverage to protect himself in the event of an accident or property damage. However, this would be overkill. Hunting insurance coverage provides the protection needed for hunting leases without extra coverage the landowner and does not need. With hunting insurance coverage in place, the landowner is covering the business activity by covering the land and the hunter’s use of it.
Any landowner preparing to lease a parcel of land for the first time should do his/her due diligence regarding insurance policies. It is entirely possible though unlikely, that a landowner could have a comprehensive umbrella policy in place that would protect the use of his/her land by hunters. In the event that is not the case, hunting insurance coverage does the job.
Hunting insurance is an affordable kind of coverage that landowners can get from a variety of sources. Policies are offered by specialist insurance companies, hunting organizations, land lease trade groups, and a small handful of general insurance providers. For the small amount a landowner would pay every year, this is insurance that can pay off in a big way. Landowners should not even consider leasing without it. To allow hunters on your land without appropriate hunting insurance coverage in place is to play with fire.