Florida’s Waterfront Property Land Grab [Part 1]
Florida waterfront property is among the most desirable in the world. That also makes it ripe for fraud and seizure attempts. What’s happening now, and who really owns it?
In this 3 part mini-series we tackle America’s new land grab, how some are having their waterfront property seized by the government, or swiped right from under their docks, and how to stay safe when buying and selling Florida property.
Sea levels, Storms, Scams & Seizure
Since the foreclosure crisis, and ensuing rebound governments have been more eager to seize land using eminent domain. Criminals have also been more motivated and enabled to take advantage of the chaos to make a quick buck.
We’ve seen some of the most prime waterfront real estate in the world be taken by the government in NY after superstorm Sandy. In South Florida more residents have complained about eminent domain being used to facilitate development that produces more tax revenues. In St. Petersburg, FL there is currently a huge dispute about who owns the land and rights to use land underneath the area’s boat docks.
If buyers, owners, and sellers are not careful they could end up in serious legal trouble, find they don’t own what they thought they did, or pay for something they don’t really get to own.
St. Pete’s Waterfront Fight
In 2013 the State of Florida announced a plan to grab back submerged waterfront land under boat docks in St. Petersburg, FL. A year later a land trust who had quietly bought up nearly all of this type of land in one part of St. Petersburg for just $1,250, put up the subdivided lots under people’s docks for as much as $7,800 each!
There may be legitimate reasons for government to seize some properties for public safety, and true higher and better use i.e. education and medical facilities. Hurricanes have proven to be deadly and costly, and a look at the 10,000 Islands in SW Florida shows how rising sea levels have submerged properties over time. Yet, with the extreme demand and high price of boat dockage and waterfront property, and the rents on it, these latest moves could simply be seen as money motivated by many.
The Big Question
The big issue facing Floridians and out of state buyers, investors, and boaters today is who really owns that land?
Who really owns the land? Who has the right to sell it? Who should rent really be paid to? What guarantees, if any are there that you’ll be able to retain ownership and usage of that property for any period of time?
These are critical questions for sellers, real estate agents, and buyers.
One of the best ways to find out is to contact your Florida title insurance company, and have a title search performed. If needed they can also refer you to a great real estate attorney to help battle any issues.
In part 2 and 3 of this series we’ll cover eminent domain, Realtor liability, and how title insurance can help…