What Is an “Attractive Nuisance” in Real Estate?

published Jun 12, 2021
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Review of above ground pool
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An attractive nuisance might sound like a trendy term for a cute kid or a pet begging for your attention. But it’s actually a real estate term, and as a homeowner, you should know what it means.

What Is an Attractive Nuisance?

An attractive nuisance is the name given to any object or structure on a property that can lure people — typically children and elderly adults — into unsafe or even deadly situations. 

A swimming pool is one of the most popular attractive nuisances known to homeowners. If a pool is not guarded by a gate, fence, or other type of enclosure, someone can wander over, fall in, and potentially drown.

Here’s a list of common attractive nuisances:

  • Trampolines
  • Jungle gyms
  • Swing sets 
  • Dangerous animals, including some dog breeds 
  • Decorative fountains
  • Koi ponds

That last one might give you pause, but remember that it is possible for someone, especially a small child or an adult with limited mobility, to drown in shallow water.

An Unattractive Liability for Homeowners

When you set up a homeowner’s insurance policy, you will likely be asked about whether you have some common attractive nuisances on your property. But don’t think you’re completely in the clear if your backyard doesn’t have a pool or your kids prefer to play on the swings at the park. 

Maria Esposito, owner of Norman Heil Insurance on Staten Island, says that it’s not about an object being attractive to the eye as much as it is about appealing to someone’s curiosity. And no one is more curious than a child, who can easily get into all sorts of trouble the moment an adult looks the other way.

“The owner of the property has to have it in mind that there may be a chance that a child can stumble onto that property,” Esposito says. She cites some examples that might not be shiny or pretty in the aesthetic sense, but they certainly can appeal to a young person’s curiosity. A few more examples:

  • An abandoned, rusted-out car that can cause injury 
  • Discarded appliances that can cause entrapment
  • A construction site with dangerous tools or deep ditches
  • A tractor or other piece of rideable equipment that could be deadly in the hands of the wrong driver

It’s important for homeowners to understand that young children don’t really understand what it means to trespass — all they want is to get close to whatever it is that has grabbed their attention.

Does Insurance Cover Attractive Nuisances?

In the case of a lawsuit stemming from an injury or death caused by an attractive nuisance, an insurance company will fight for the homeowner if precautions were in place. However, there is a burden of proof for the homeowner.

For example, if someone sued a property owner for an injury or death sustained in their pool, it wouldn’t be enough to prove the pool was fenced in; the homeowner would have to prove that the gate was closed and locked, which can be difficult. Even a “No Trespassing” sign on the property might not be of much help.

“A good lawyer is going to find liability,” says Esposito. “Nine times out of 10 [the property owner] is going to be found responsible.”

Protect Yourself and Others

Does this mean you have to give up on dreams of owning a home with an Olympic-sized pool with a diving board (that’s another attractive nuisance, by the way) or a water fountain that you can dance in like they did in “Friends”? Not exactly. But you do have to take measures to secure them all and make sure they are properly covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy so that you (and future buyers, possibly) can enjoy your attractive nuisances responsibly.