Reviewed by Stefan Tirschler
Updated May 30, 2023
prem·is·es | ˈpre-məs
Definition: A piece of land and the buildings upon it.
She told her insurance provider there was a detached workshop on the premises.
A premises is a piece of land, plus all the buildings and permanent structures attached to that land.
It’s not just any piece of land, though. A premises is a piece of land that’s recognized in some official capacity and has specific boundaries. Think of a piece of real estate, like a house sitting on a city lot. That lot, including the building on it, is the premises.
Anything else that’s fixed to the property, like outbuildings, gazebos, or pools, would be considered part of the premises as well. Moveable stuff, like furniture or people, would be on the premises, but not part of it.
Property that doesn’t have land attached can be a premises too. In the case of condos, each unit could be a single premises, especially in the context of the owner’s condo insurance policy. But, when looking at the condo building’s master policy, the entire building might be called the premises, too.
Insurance policies (and other contracts) will feature their specific definition for premises if necessary.
Note that “premises” is both the singular and plural version of the word. A single home is still a premises, not a premise.
When you buy a home insurance policy, it’s for a specific address, whether that’s a house, townhouse, condo, or apartment. Everything within the property lines (or within the unit) of that address is the premises.
The concept of premises matters in home insurance for more than one reason.
First, it’s important because home insurance policies cover a home at one specific address. The policy will define the premises, and which things on that premises are covered.
In addition to covering the main building on the premises (the house), most home insurance policies also cover detached structures on the premises—or at least let customers choose to add such coverage. Sheds, patios, gazebos, and all sorts of other structures can be covered if they’re part of the premises. But, if you built a dock over at your favourite fishing lake, your home insurance policy wouldn’t cover it.
Moveable property, on the other hand, is normally covered even while it’s off-premises. There is one condition, however: It needs to be temporarily off-premises, like when you take some of your things with you on vacation. If it’s been permanently removed from the premises that coverage would no longer apply. For example, if you store some things up at your cottage, they’d be considered “permanently removed” and likely wouldn’t have coverage under your main policy—though they might have coverage under the cottage’s policy as they’re on that premises, instead.
The other important premises-related home insurance thing?
Home insurance policies include liability coverage, which generally breaks down into two forms: personal and premises.
Personal liability coverage helps protect you when you’re liable for damages due to your actions. But premises liability is different; it protects you when you’re liable because of your home.
Basically, as a homeowner or renter, you’re responsible for making your home reasonably safe for visitors. That means taking basic precautions like salting icy steps or replacing wobbly railings. Not doing so can be considered negligence.
If someone slips and falls at your home, you could be held liable for their injuries even if you didn’t actually do anything. Failing to act reasonably—like not clearing away toys and laundry before the carpet cleaner arrives—can still result in injuries and potential litigation. Premises liability helps defend you in any resulting lawsuits, and cover compensatory damages awarded against you.
Looking for another insurance definition? Look it up in The Insurance Glossary, home to dozens of easy-to-follow definitions for the most common insurance terms. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.
About the expert: Stefan Tirschler
Stefan is responsible for underwriting leadership, market expansion, and product research and development for Square One's operations. Stefan has earned his Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional designation, and maintains a level 2 general insurance license in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Stefan is also an Education Committee member and CIP/GIE instructor for the Insurance Institute of Canada.
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