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Riparian Shmarian – Why Those Water Rights Might Matter

Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Water rights, you know those old western films where ranchers argued over how much water they could use? For midwesterners and many others the term seems like something out of the past or old west or for someone else. All those issues were settled a long time ago, right? Not so fast cowboy.
Do you own a place next to a golf course water hazzard and see a little bank erosion and want to fix the water hazzard so it does not compromise your building foundation?  What about those pesky fisherman (I am one!) who walk along the water’s edge – aren’t they on your land? Or the beach folks walking along your back yard are they allowed to just hang out there? Has that lake behind you dried up a bit and vegetation is growing on the once wet land  blocking your view and you want to run your lawn mower over it? Want to build a dock as an extension to your land and you have the approval of your homeowner’s association – think you are good to go? Water rights are going to decide your rights and the rules are sometimes as murky as the water surrounding you.
Water rights affect many condo and single family residences in Florida – not just out west ranchers. Although it is not quite like a John Wayne wild west movie at times arguing your point with associations or courts may feel that way.  Historically such terms as “high water mark” and other concepts were ambiguous and led to confusion.  Today, the State of Florida is trying to clear up some of the confusion and we applaud their efforts.
Yesterday Florida Realtor reported on a story from News Service of Florida, by David  Royse stating “A measure moving in the Florida House seeks to clarify … where the state’s waterways end and where abutting private property starts.” The article goes on to raise some great points – “how much property they pay taxes on, for example, depends on where their property stops. But it’s also important to boaters, hunters and fishermen who fear losing access to swamps – prime habitat for many of the things they’re looking for.”

Look for more news coming on this new measure termed HB 1103 – it is a long way from becoming law but hopefully we clear up some of the confusion.”
Ok, how in the world are we supposed to keep this straight?  Our first advice is make sure you seek legal counsel on these matters if you have any questions regarding your rights regarding water on, or next to, or near your property.  You should also insist on a current survey when purchasing property and READ it (a lot of people still overlook this), and obtain title insurance.  In addition look at those HOA (Homeowner Association) By Laws and Rules – even it you are within your federal and state rights the HOA might have something to say.
Enjoy the water but be sure you understand your rights when buying property and seek legal counsel.

No legal or investment advice or suggestions are being given in this Blog. Actual real estate price and sales results are subject to market forces and are not completely predictable. Please consult a lawyer or investment advisor for such legal and investment advice. The writings of this Blog are intended for the sole use of our clients.

Mark Goebel, PA is a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker on 5th avenue in Naples, Florida with 35+ years of visiting and living in Naples. After 25 years at Accenture, Mark retired as a managing director and spends his time helping non profits and building a Naples real estate team with his wife Nan. Talk to Mark and Nan about life in Naples and why they chose this place to live full-time over all others and enjoy Naples real estate.

Mark Goebel, PA
Mobile: 239.595.3921
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