Riparian Rights

Back again now with our special “Get Outside”…all about you, your home, and this beautiful weather that much of the country is now enjoying.

I’d like to end up this hour of the show with the look a discussion about something every REALTOR® knows about… But which many members of the general public might not.

It’s called riparian rights. And no it’s not about the civil liberties of the people who live in a country called Riparea!


Instead riparian rights refer to what you own, what you don’t, what you can do, and what you can’t, if you have waterfront property.

It’s a really big part of real estate law. Because when you live on a street, you pretty much know where your property begins, and ends.

But if you have waterfront property, it’s less clear. Does your property extend way out into the body of water? Or does it end at the waterline? And if it does – do you have legal access that may extend beyond the waterline?

That’s what riparian rights are all about. Riparian rights look at your property, the body of water it faces, and all the rules, and permissions.

Now riparian rights vary from one state to another, and they also vary from one body of water to another. Your REALTOR® will know all about them, in your area. Because if they sell waterfront property? They’ll need to be really well acquainted with riparian rights in that area.

Sometimes you may have property on the banks of a lake, a river, or a bay, and your property line in fact ends where the water begins. But in most areas like that, riparian rights give you permission to build structures like a dock, out into the body of water.

Usually that permission comes with rules, about the construction of the dock, the width of the dock, and how far it can actually extend out into the water. But if you follow the rules, you’re okay.

Other areas might allow you to build that dock, and also to go way beyond it, by putting a swim platform out in the deep water. Or, in areas where larger boats are common, they might allow you to install a mooring post way out in the deep water, where your sailboat can swing in the wind, when you’re not using it.

Now in some areas, riparian rights are somewhat different. Because you actually do own say a hundred feet out into the water. It all depends on where you are, and what the rules are in that local market. So it’s really important to talk to your REALTOR® about what you own and what you don’t if you buy Waterfront.

So if you’re looking to buy waterfront property this summer, make sure you ask your agent about riparian rights. Where you can put a dock. How big it can be. And whether you own property that extends well into the body of water, or whether you’re legal ownership ends at the waterline. Those are things you need to know. So ask your REALTOR®.

Oh and by the way, if you are planning to buy waterfront property? Well done. That’s a great move. One you’ll appreciate more than ever every time you “Get Outside.”

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