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Riparian Rights in Florida: What You Should Know

What Are Riparian Rights?

The vast majority of our state is surrounded by water: coastlines, rivers, streams, lakes, and waterways. Often, owners of waterfront property end up in disputes over what are called riparian rights. Riparian rights are simply those rights for which a waterfront property owner owns upload property that extends to the normal high-water line on navigable waters. This is a landowner’s right to utilize the water that touches his land. Under Florida law, a riparian owner must own to the line of the ordinary high-water mark on navigable waters. Often, these rights are described as “qualified rights” since the State of Florida is the owner of the submerged land and the property owner does not actually “own” the water.

Florida’s Riparian Rights Laws

Section 253.141, Florida Statutes, defines riparian rights as those incident to land bordering upon navigable waters. They are rights of ingress, egress, boating, bathing, fishing, and others as may be or have been defined by law. Such rights are not of a proprietary nature. They are rights inuring to the owner of the riparian land but are not owned by him or her. They are appurtenant to and are inseparable from the riparian land. The land to which the owner holds title must extend to the ordinary high watermark of the navigable water in order that riparian rights may attach. Conveyance of title to or lease of the riparian land entitles the grantee to the riparian rights running therewith whether or not mentioned in the deed or lease of the upland.

Right to View and Right to Ingress and Egress

Riparian rights include rights to an unobstructed view and the right of ingress to and egress from the water. However, there is a great deal of case law and literature on the issue. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is also involved in a lot of these issues; naturally.

Riparian Lines

If you would think that establishing riparian lines is a simple concept – you would be mistaken.

Riparian lines do not necessarily extend into the waters according to upland boundaries nor do such rights under all conditions extend at right angles to the shoreline. A court must give due consideration to the lay-out of the upland shoreline, the direction of a channel, and the co-relative rights of adjoining upland owners.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection has published recommendations for surveyors and practitioners regarding the channel geometry on the allocation of riparian rights. As you can imagine, shorelines are often curved or angled. This can be the basis for conflicts that still exist today in how the riparian lines are established. These issues often arise from the proposed construction or the construction of docks.


The issue of riparian rights and lines is complex. It involves a plethora of case law, literature, and guidelines and recommendations published by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Our office has ample experience handling issues regarding riparian rights – whether they involved a neighbor or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. If you seek guidance on how to handle an issue that involves riparian rights in Florida, then please do not hesitate to send us a message or give us a call at 321-341-4964.



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