Littoral land is a piece of land on the side of a static water body. The land next to the ocean, sea, or lake is known as littoral land. Littoral land or property is commonly called seaside, beachfront, or lakefront property.
Riparian land, as compared to littoral land is the land next to a flowing water body such as a stream or river. Littoral and riparian lands are bought by investors to build tourist spots, beach houses, restaurants, and hotels.
Littoral land offers a beautiful view, as well as rights to own the water body that it is situated next to. Land along water bodies is scarce and it is one of the reasons that the prices of littoral and riparian land go up every year.
Littoral rights are the rights of the owners of land abut water bodies. These laws differ based on whether the water body is navigable or non-navigable. If the littoral land is on the side of a water body such as the ocean or a large lake that is a commercially used navigable waterway, then the landowners can own property up to the median high-water mark.
If the water body is smaller or non-navigable, then the owner of the littoral land can own property till the low water mark. The littoral laws differ in all states and if you are planning to buy a littoral property, you should check your state’s local laws beforehand. Littoral rights can also differ depending on the water tides.
Littoral Rights History
The littoral rights that currently apply to landowners of the littoral property date back to the 1500s British Common Law. Under these laws, the public has access to the land between the high tide and low tide marks. But these laws are unenforceable in Great Lake states because there is only one tide or water level in Great lakes.
This gives rise to the question of how much land is private property and whether the public is allowed on the shores of private beaches or not. In 2019, a private home development agency filed a lawsuit against the state to keep public trespassers away from the privately owned beachfront of Lake Michigan. The court ruled that the public has the right to walk along the shoreline even if they are privately owned.
Littoral Rights Example
As an example, to understand the littoral rights, let’s look at the littoral rights of property owners in Florida.
In Florida, the owners of the littoral property have the right to:
- Have access to the water
- Reasonably use water
- Accretion and reliction
- Have an unobstructed view of the water
This means that the owner of a littoral property has special rights to enjoy a beautiful view of the water, use the water reasonably and even build a dock to access the waterway. But before building a dock you’ll have to obtain a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or the State Water Management District.
This means that the littoral property owners do not own the water but have the right to fairly use it and have access to it. Navigable waterways are like roads, owned by the government but the public can use it.
As a littoral property owner, you’ll have special rights to use the land between the median high-water mark (or the point from which your property begins) and your property. This land will be like your driveway which people can walk along but no one else can use it or block it.