The degree to which you are responsible for the safety and well being of others on your property as a Texas landowner depends on a few details – namely why was that person on your property to begin with and what was their level of permission to be there in the first place?
1. Trespassers – Obviously we can’t always know if there is a trespasser on our property. If we don’t know they are there, we can’t notify them of potential hazards, so our primary duty as a landowner is just to not intentionally hurt them.
2. Someone who visits for their benefit – Example: Someone who comes to hunt for free. You do have a responsibility to notify them of any dangerous conditions you are aware of, especially if it’s not readily seen by the visiting person. For example, if you know there’s a big sink hole on the property but it’s hard to see because of brush, you still have a responsibility to notify them with a sign or something readily visible.
3. Someone you invite for mutual benefit – Example: Someone who PAYS you to come hunting on your property. You have the same duty to notify them about anything potentially dangerous that you for sure know about on the property. But the tricky part at this level is that you also become liable for anything that you SHOULD have reasonably known about as a landowner. So if there is a big hole, you didn’t know it and a paid hunter falls in and gets hurt, you could be liable.
So now what?
Yes, sorry I know this is complicated – and again, I am NOT an attorney and this is NOT legal advice. But I do have lots of clients who either currently own property for recreational or hunting use, or are in the market to purchase some in the near future. These are important things to consider as a landowner – I don’t just want you to get a great deal when you buy your property, I also want you to be a responsible landowner and well protected in all of your projects with your place.
Recreational Use Statute
If you are a Texas landowner and you let anyone come on your property for recreation – whether it is hunting, fishing riding 4 wheelers or horses, hiking, etc – you are under this statute. This is a free limited liability if someone gets injured on your land. There are three criteria in order to qualify under this statute:
- The land involved is ag land that is suitable for growing crops, forestry production, raising livestock. You do not have to be actively doing it on the land, but it does have to be suitable for it.
- The land is being used for recreational purposes like hunting, fishing, swimming, riding 4 wheelers or horses, hiking, biking, nature photography, picnics, etc.
- There are certain monetary requirements that also must be met:
- You don’t charge a fee for the property. OR
- The total charges for the past calendar year for all recreational use is less than 20 times the amount of ad valorem taxes last year. (In other words, add up your recreational property income and multiply by 20. If that multiplied number is less than all of what you paid in property taxes last year, then you qualify under this statute).
No matter what you charge on the property – you are automatically covered if you have liability insurance coverage of at least $500,000 per person; $1,000,000 in single occurrence bodily injury or death; and $100,000 for each single occurrence of injury or destruction of property.
Texas Agritourism Statute
You might have seen the “Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 75A” sign on some of your friend’s gates. This is a newer statute that provides limited liability if someone is injured on ag land used while there for recreational or education purposes if proper signage or release language is used.
Under this statute ag land is defined as being suitable for growing crops and grazing livestock. It is worth noting that this statute does NOT mention forestry as an ag use like the other statute I mentioned does. The definitiion for “recreational purpose” is defined the same as the other statute as well – “hunting, fishing, etc.”
In order to be protected under this statute, YOU MUST HANG the 75A SIGN with the correct/specific wording in order to have the limited liability.
There are LOTS of places that you can get this sign. Here are a few:
- Texas Farm Bureau
- Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
- Texas Wildlife Association 800-839-9453
- Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association 325-655-7388
- South Texans’ Property Rights Association or 361-348-3020
Another alternative to the signs is to include the language on the sign in a signed release form instead. It must be signed before the activity takes place by the participant or their legal guardian, and must be separate from any other agreements or forms provided, minimum of 10 pt bold type.
Have fun, enjoy your property, be safe!
As always, give us a call if you want some help finding a great place in Texas. Our team at Texas Land and Home knows and loves Texas – we know and live the lifestyle and are always ready to help you find the perfect place.