Attractive Nuisance: What It Is and Why You Should Care

Features on your property that entice children, like a trampoline or swimming pool, are attractive nuisances that can lead to a lawsuit if someone gets injured while using them.

Kevin Payne
Written byKevin Payne
Kevin Payne
Kevin Payne
  • 5+ years writing insurance, travel, and personal finance content

  • Founder of FamilyMoney Adventure blog

Kevin is a seasoned writer who leverages his love of budgeting and all things personal finance to create informative, thoroughly researched insurance and money content.

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Chris Schafer
Edited byChris Schafer
Chris Schafer
Chris SchaferSenior Editor
  • 15+ years in content creation

  • 7+ years in business and financial services content

Chris is a seasoned writer/editor with past experience across myriad industries, including insurance, SAS, finance, Medicare, logistics, marketing/advertising, and many more.

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Updated December 15, 2022 at 4:00 PM PST

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Attractive nuisances are features on your property that are enticing to children to use, with or without permission, that pose safety hazards. 

Examples of attractive nuisances include:

  • Swimming pools

  • Hot tubs

  • Fountains

  • Construction equipment

  • Non-working vehicles

  • Treehouses

  • Power tools

  • Weapons

  • Stairs

  • Wells

  • Ditches and trenches

  • Tunnels

  • Scaffolding and ladders

If you have an attractive nuisance on your property, you’re subject to legal action if a child is injured due to the attractive nuisance, whether they’re invited guests or trespassing on your property.[1] 

As a homeowner, you’re responsible for providing a safe environment and taking the necessary steps to prevent children from accessing attractive nuisances on your property.

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Common attractive nuisances

Attractive nuisances include everyday items common to many households. Common attractive nuisances include:[2] 

Swimming pools

Swimming pools and other water features, like hot tubs and wells, present serious hazards for children. Homeowners are liable for accidents if a child sneaks into their pool without permission and injures themselves or drowns.  

Construction sites and equipment

New home construction, additions, and other construction projects are dangerous to curious kids who wander onto your property. Construction sites include several hazards dangerous for children, including holes, nails and screws, stairs, and unprotected landings. Heavy construction equipment left unattended can also be a safety concern for children that trespass on your property. 

Learn More: How Much Home Insurance Do You Need?

Learn More: How Much Home Insurance Do You Need?

Playground equipment

Few home features draw kids' attention more than playground equipment. Examples of playground equipment that are considered attractive nuisances include: 

  • Jungle gyms

  • Trampolines

  • Zip lines

  • Treehouses

  • Skateboard ramps

  • Playhouses

Most home playground injuries involve swings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but any playground feature carries significant injury risk.[3]

Old appliances

Say you recently replaced your refrigerator or dishwasher and decided to store the old appliance outside until you can properly dispose of it. Old and abandoned appliances are a safety risk for children, who may be tempted to climb inside and could get trapped. 

Holes or piles of dirt

As a homeowner, you may receive a delivery of dirt or mulch for an upcoming landscaping project. Large holes in your yard or piles of dirt, sand, or mulch are considered attractive nuisances. A child could fall into a hole, ditch, or trench on your property and injure themselves. A child could also become trapped under a pile of dirt or sand if it shifts. 

Non-maintained attractive nuisances

Attractive nuisance laws typically only apply to unsafe conditions that are man-made or maintained through effort. Hills, ponds, and other natural features generally don't fall under this category, although they can be considered attractive nuisances in certain situations. 

Examples of such non-maintained nuisances include: 

  • Hills

  • Lakes

  • Ponds

  • Cliffs

  • Trees with low-hanging branches

  • Small choking hazards (acorns, pebbles)

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning (when a working detector was present)

  • Smoke inhalation (when a working smoke alarm was present)

Homeowners are not generally considered liable for accidents stemming from non-maintained attractive nuisances.

Apparent dangers

Some other potential dangers aren't considered attractive nuisances because they are apparent dangers. These are hazardous conditions considered to be obvious safety risks to the majority of individuals, including:

  • Poisonous chemicals that are clearly labeled

  • Fires

  • Sharp objects

  • Wild animals

However, younger children may not yet understand the associated danger, so you could still be found liable depending on the circumstances. 

Attractive nuisance doctrine

You may face legal action if a child injures themselves on your property from an attractive nuisance. Whether you’re liable is up to the courts and falls under the attractive nuisance doctrine. Tort law puts the responsibility on homeowners to treat trespassing children like invited guests and take responsibility for providing a safe environment, eliminating potential hazards, and displaying adequate warnings.[1]  

Several conditions must be met for homeowners to be liable and for home features to be considered an attractive nuisance: 

  • A potentially dangerous condition exists on the property.

  • The landowner created or maintained the potential danger.

  • The landowner should have known the condition would attract children.

  • The landowner should have known the condition could harm children.

Every case is different, and each state may interpret attractive nuisances doctrine differently. 

How can you protect yourself from liability?

Attractive nuisances are generally covered under your homeowners insurance policy's liability coverage — up to your policy limits. As a homeowner, your insurer may require you to take steps to reduce the risks of hazards on your property. 

The following tips can help you protect yourself from liability if an attractive nuisance is present on your property.

  • Surround the pool. Install a fence (at least four feet tall) around your pool. The fence should include a locking gate. Pool alarm systems exist that detect when someone enters the pool. If you use chemicals to treat your pool, keep them safely stored out of the reach of children. 

  • Add a net for the trampoline. If your trampoline isn't equipped with a safety net, install one. Choose a level space in your yard for your trampoline, free from other hazards.

  • Choose your treehouse location carefully. Build your treehouse away from dangers, like electrical wires. Create a safe climbing system, such as a permanent, wood ladder. 

  • Protect other water features. Keep hot tubs covered when not in use. Add a lock or alarm system for added protection. Inform guests of any hazards on your property, like wells or tunnels. You can also consider blocking these features from entry to prevent potential hazards. 

  • Store heavy equipment and power tools. Put away power tools and heavy equipment in an enclosed garage or locked shed when not in use. 

  • Monitor playground equipment. Supervise children when they’re using playground equipment. You can also consider installing a fence with a lock or alarm around your yard or the playground.

  • Implement warning signs. Adding warning and trespassing signs won't absolve you from liability but can help provide a safer environment. 

  • Conduct regular inspections. Routinely inspect your property, looking for potential hazards. Inspect fences, gates, latches, locks, and other safety devices to ensure they work.

  • Inform everyone. Let guests on your property know of any potential dangers present and provide supervision to ensure children don’t access or use home features in an unsafe manner. 

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Attractive nuisance FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about attractive nuisances.

  • Is there an age limit under the attractive nuisance doctrine?

    Attractive nuisance laws vary by state and case. Generally, attractive nuisance doctrine applies to children 12 years of age and younger but may include teenagers depending on the circumstances. Texas, however, has no age limit. 

  • How does an attractive nuisance affect your homeowner’s insurance premiums?

    Attractive nuisances generally fall under your home's liability coverage. But you may want to purchase additional liability insurance to ensure you're covered, especially if you add water features or other attractive nuisances to your property. Home insurance premiums often increase after adding a swimming pool or other high-risk features. Some insurance providers may refuse coverage completely.  

  • Will signs protect you from an attractive nuisance lawsuit?

    Posting warning or trespassing signs on your property doesn't reduce your liability if someone is injured due to an attractive nuisance on your property. 

Sources

  1. Cornell Law. "Attractive nuisance doctrine." Accessed December 16, 2022
  2. NOLO. "Attractive Nuisance Doctrine Definition." Accessed December 16, 2022
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Playground Injuries: Fact Sheet." Accessed December 16, 2022
Kevin Payne
Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne is a freelance writer and family travel and budget enthusiast behind FamilyMoneyAdventure.com. His work has been featured in Forbes Advisor, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, SlickDeals, Finance Buzz, The Ascent, Student Loan Planner, and more. Kevin lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and four teenagers.

Chris Schafer
Edited byChris SchaferSenior Editor
Chris Schafer
Chris SchaferSenior Editor
  • 15+ years in content creation

  • 7+ years in business and financial services content

Chris is a seasoned writer/editor with past experience across myriad industries, including insurance, SAS, finance, Medicare, logistics, marketing/advertising, and many more.

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