Monday, October 24, 2016

Florida Waterfront Property Buyers and Sellers Need a Real Estate Lawyer

Florida Waterfront Property Buyers and Sellers
Waterfront Property issues?
Buying and selling waterfront properties can be a confusing path to navigate.  If you are thinking of buying or selling property that borders a body of water, you must understand the purchase and sale of waterfront property involves more complex issues than purchasing property which is not waterfront.  The added complexity of waterfront property normally centers around the location of the waterline and riparian rights.   An attorney with experience in riparian rights and waterfront real estate can provide you with invaluable counsel regarding whether your land is really waterfront as advertised, whether others may have rights to use the land between your property and the water's edge or whether someone besides the State of Florida owns the submerged land you want to put your dock on.
          Significant issues to consider when buying or selling waterfront property include:
  1. Does the property really extend to the water's edge?  You might think this is a dumb question, but I cannot tell you how many people have been in my office with “waterfront property” that isn’t really waterfront property.  Your deed only conveys the property described in the legal description.  In many instances, we find filled lands in between the waterline and the platted or surveyed lot lines.  Or, in less frequent instances, we find old easements, dedications, walkways etc.  If the property being conveyed does not extend to the waterline for any of these reasons, you may not have “waterfront property”.
  2. Does someone other than the State own the submerged land adjacent to your waterfront property?  The State of Florida owns the vast majority of the submerged lands throughout Florida.  However, it is not uncommon to find instances where a third party owns the bottom land immediately adjacent to waterfront property.  Depending on the particular circumstances, third party ownership could create a significant problem locating your dock, or worse yet, how about if the submerged land owner tries building a dock on his submerged property?  
  3. Are there existing or potential riparian rights issues with the neighboring properties? The main reason most people purchase waterfront property is for riparian rights.  These rights include the right to ingress and egress by boat, the right to build a dock, the right to fish, and the right to view the water to name a few.  Is your neighbor’s existing dock blocking your view of the water? Is your neighbor’s dock located such that when he wants to add a boat lift, your ingress and egress will be blocked? Does the location of your neighbors dock impact how you will have to construct your new dock?
  4.  Are your neighbors using your land?  Is there a path or walkway across the lot that extends to the water?  Does someone other than the seller maintain a dock or moor boats on or adjacent to the property?  If so, further investigation is required before you buy, to determine what legal rights, if any, such users might possess.
  5. Are there pre-existing issues with neighbors or the association?  Buyers always need to talk to the homeowner's association.  Many waterfront areas have homeowner's associations that may have valuable information regarding issues that have confronted riparian owners.  Are there current disputes, past issues, that may remain unresolved or understandings regarding rights to use waterfront areas?  Owners of adjacent lots may have similarly valuable information
  6. Will erosion or accretion be an issue for the property?  Erosion and to a lesser degree accretion, are big concerns for waterfront property owners. Over time, you can actually lose property (erosion) or gain property (accretion) if the shoreline has not been appropriately protected and buffered. If a sea wall or bulkhead of some type already exists, then you should invest in an inspection to determine if it’s sufficient, has been properly maintained, etc.
  7. What questionable documents are contained in the title search or commitment.  If there are covenants, restrictions, declarations or similar encumbrances to which the land is subject, they must reviewed and analyzed.  Does you deed properly convey riparian rights?  Have they been severed by a previous owner?
  8. What about the waterbody and future permitting? How deep is the water adjacent to your property?  That will directly affect your ability to build a dock and/or determine how long your dock will need to be.  Are there any water quality issues?  Are the existing in water structures properly permitted?  What is the likelihood you can add a slip, or a roof to a boathouse or bring in a larger boat?  Local permitting knowledge is essential and all these questions need to be addressed before you buy waterfront property.
  9. Do any local ordinances restrict or otherwise control the use of the waterfront?  Some municipalities have enacted ordinances to regulate docks and the mooring of boats.  Some areas have significant building setback requirements on the upland.  Some areas don’t allow new seawalls.  Aside from regulating in water structures, most areas have specific engineering requirements for waterfront property. 
  10. What will insurance cost?  Check out insurance carefully, as there are different types of policies and coverage that are important when purchasing waterfront property. Flood insurance and hazard policies address different things and can be complicated. Be sure to investigate wind damage to see if additional riders are required. 
There is no substitute for expert advice and specific information when it comes to buying waterfront property.  Due diligence is the key, don’t let yourself down.  If you think you are buying waterfront property confirm that fact by investigating BEFORE you buy.  Equipped with the right expertise, guidance and knowledge, you’ll be ready to turn to your waterfront dream into a reality. Call Guy Yudin & Foster, LLP. at 772.286.7372 for help with your waterfront property transaction.

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