Law offers landowners relief against lease hunting liability

Whether it’s negotiating a deer or dove hunting lease or just getting access to a neighbor’s ranch, the issue of liability can sometimes be an obstacle. But it doesn’t have to be. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, those concerns may be based more in perception than reality. Current law actually provides some liability protection for landowners who lease land to others for recreational purposes, including hunting. However, a recent survey showed many Texas landowners are unaware of liability limits put in place by state lawmakers. The law considers anyone whom a landowner gives permission to use his property for recreation, including fee-paying hunters, school children, mountain bikers or bird watchers, as a recreational guest. Under this definition, landowners are not required to issue warnings about dangerous conditions on their property, inspect their property or make repairs to dangerous conditions. The law does not exempt landowners from all liability, but does provide a cap for any claim as long as the income derived from recreational use fees falls within a certain framework. A new amendment to the law, HB 408 passed by the 78th Texas Legislature, increases the allowable recreational use fee income from four times to 20 times the total ad valorem tax assessed on the premises during the previous year. Landowners are required to purchase liability insurance coverage equal to the caps and those premiums are often included in a lease fee. Landowners can also use waivers, or legal documents signed by guests, intended to release the landowner from liability. Waivers must meet certain criteria to be valid; before using a waiver, landowners should consult with an attorney.

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