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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    NY, NY
    Posts
    1

    Default Property line over water

    My girlfriend's parents live on the water in Washington State. They erected a small pier some 13 years ago (maybe not enough for the statutory period, I'm not sure). Their neighbors who have lived next door for 11 or 12 of those years is now saying the pier overhangs their property by a couple feet (it is a T shaped pier). The same neighbors used to let their kids play on the it!

    I have some questions:
    --Do the same property laws apply to water? Isn't water usually public? Or are property lines arbitrarily extended straight out into the water for some distance? Would a survey or plat somehow indicate the area of water ownership if some of the water is owned? Is that typical? (Sidenote: I believe the county came to inspect the pier and approved it according to county codes.)

    --If there was prior acknowlegement from the previous neighbor that the extension into the 'property' was OK with them, can this prevent the current landowner from having any issue? If the previous neighbor didn't inform the current neighbor of the 'encumberance', maybe it doesn't hold. But we don't know if that's the case or not. And I assume that any prior agreement would really need to be recorded in writing...

    --Is there a way to mediate the issue (short of moving the pier or chopping off a couple feet) without surveys and lawyers, given the fact that the neighbor is being a bit difficult about the situation (after 12 years!!!)? Granted, I'm sure a survey is warranted to at least have all the facts.

    Thanks in advance!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    28,906

    Default Re: Property line over water?

    Quote Quoting admanb
    Do the same property laws apply to water? Isn't water usually public? Or are property lines arbitrarily extended straight out into the water for some distance?
    Riparian rights, and the manner in which property lines extend into a body of water (if at all) depend upon the jurisdiction. Sometimes, the location of the natural shoreline is key to determining boundaries. Sometimes, a lake is carved up like a pie, with property lines extending to a center point.

    Quote Quoting admanb
    If there was prior acknowlegement from the previous neighbor that the extension into the 'property' was OK with them, can this prevent the current landowner from having any issue?
    While ordinarily a conveyance of real property must be in writing, that may change based upon the actual construction of the dock, depending upon the local law.

    Quote Quoting admanb
    Is there a way to mediate the issue (short of moving the pier or chopping off a couple feet) without surveys and lawyers, given the fact that the neighbor is being a bit difficult about the situation (after 12 years!!!)? Granted, I'm sure a survey is warranted to at least have all the facts.
    A survey may resolve the issue. Beyond that, if the neighbor won't listen to reason, you may have to litigate. You may wish to discuss this situation with an area real estate lawyer, such that you can determine what rights you have if a survey shows the dock to be encroaching on the neighbor's property, and what a court might order in such an event (e.g., will the court order payment of some amount of compensation for a "trespass", grant an easement, order the removal of the encroaching portion of the dock, or order some other form of relief?)

  3. #3

    Default Re: Property line over water

    Assuming the lakebed is not privately owned and there are no local ordinances governing its surface water use, basically you are only entitled riparian rights, meaning the right to use the water abutting your land for things such swimming, boating, navigation, etc. That also means that your right to use those rights should be shared with your neighbors rights and vice versa. You don't own the lakebed, your property line does not really extend into the lake. However, sometimes local cities adopt ordinances that create an area in the lake that you may place your dock, sometimes they use property line extensions, sometimes they use perpendicular to the shore extensions, but that still does not mean that is your land, it is there for you to use.

    If you want to try to work it out without legal intervention, you can use the “reasonable use” test. Reasonable use depends on a balance between one owners’ riparian rights with those rights of another, which varies from case to case. Other factors relevant to reasonable use is the extent of harm it causes another and the purpose of the use. Also factors such as how much lakeshore you have vs. them can come into play, shoreline natures and fluctuation, etc.. The goal is for each owner to be allowed an equal right to make reasonable use of the water.

    neutral@winthedispute.com

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