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Florida neighbors battling over dock, water rights

Many Florida homeowners have their own docks and other structures leading out to the water. These can become the subject of legal disputes between neighbors. One such case in Holmes Beach has garnered some media attention.

A woman in the Manatee County town claims that her neighbor didn't obtain the appropriate permits for her dock. She also alleges that the neighbor's Jet Ski and boat lifts are an encroachment on her riparian rights. Commonly known as "water rights," these apply to people who own land on flowing bodies of water. Property owners are not allowed to use the water in a way that negatively impacts people living upstream or downstream from them.

The complaining neighbor says the dock and lifts violate the city code that requires a permit for docks, piers, wharves and "other structures extending into or over waterways." Although the other homeowner was granted a permit from the city for the dock last November, her neighbor says a marine consultant told her that additional permits should have been obtained from other agencies. In an email to the city's mayor, she questioned whether the city planner who approved the construction knew enough about riparian rights to do so.

The mayor has noted that the city only has jurisdiction up to the seawall and that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) should have authority over the area in question since it is in state waters. She said, "My thought is, why are we issuing the permit for Florida outstanding waterways?"

Waterfront property owners in Florida have some unique challenges. When considering new construction along one of our many waterways, it's essential to make sure that the appropriate state and/or local authorities are involved and that all of the proper permits are obtained. That can be a confusing and complicated process. An experienced Florida real estate attorney can provide valuable assistance to help prevent problems later.

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