Major changes are coming to a Florida beach near you this summer, and I’m not talking about the annual snowbird migration to the North once the summer sun returns. Beginning on July 1, 2018, Florida beach-goers may need to reconsider the routes they take for their daily beach strolls, or even the way they have always accessed their favorite beach spot. Governor Scott recently signed into law the “Possession of Real Property Bill” (the “Bill”), that will, among other things, allow some beachfront property owners to restrict public access to the segment of the beach which they own. The Bill also prohibits local governments from enacting any rules or ordinances that will force private beach owners to allow public access or use in certain instances. The Bill alters what is commonly referred to as the “customary use” rule, which Floridians and visitors have come to understand as allowing the public unrestricted access to all of Florida’s beaches for any use that is customary for that particular beach.
The Bill will result in significant changes to the way beach-goers access their favorite beach spots, but there are also important considerations to keep in mind when it comes to buying, selling, and owning beachfront property in both our area and the entire state of Florida, such as:
- Public access may not be restricted for beach areas that fall below the “mean high-water line,” defined as the “intersection of the tidal plane of mean high water with the shore.” Essentially, if the beach appears wet, it is likely not an area where the property owner can restrict public access. Additionally, local governments may enact and keep in effect rules and ordinances pertaining to public access of beach areas below the mean high-water line, even if those areas are privately owned.
- Owning beach front property does not necessarily mean the property owner also owns any segment of the beach abutting their property. The recorded instrument vesting title in the property will determine what segment of the beach, if any, is owned by the property owner.
- The Bill will likely result in a noticeable increase of property listings describing amenities such as “PRIVATE BEACH!!!” or “MUST SEE SECLUDED BEACH OASIS!!!” However, all parties to a listing and potential transaction should first verify ownership of the segment of beach being described before including it in a listing or relying on it when making a purchase.
- The Bill is highly contentious and is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Thus, property owners and prospective buyers would be wise to wait to see how the new rules play out before making any significant decisions based on their understanding of the Bill.
The Bill will result in significant impacts not only on Florida beach-goers, but also on property owners and prospective buyers throughout the state. Before making the consequential decision to buy or sell a beachfront property, or if you would like to know your rights as a beachfront homeowner, we strongly encourage you to consult with a competent real estate attorney.
Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC
Article Authored by Andrew Conaboy, Esq. firstname.lastname@example.org
This communication is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship, and to the extent anything contained herein could be construed as legal advice or guidance, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your own attorney before relying upon any information contained herein.
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