Florida Waterfront Law

Florida Waterfront Law David M. Levin is a shareholder with the law firm of Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg, Mr.

Levin has been involved in environmental rule making and administrative rule challenges, and has represented both public and private clients in environmental litigation before federal, state, and administrative tribunals. Levin has authored several published articles on environmental law topics and is a frequent lecturer on the subject. Levin has represented both private and public clients in envi

ronmental permitting and enforcement matters including, but not limited to:

Federal, state & local dredge & fill permitting

Coastal Construction

Dock, seawall and marina permitting

Mangrove alteration

Stormwater discharges

Wastewater collection and treatment

Landfill permitting and operation

Groundwater contamination

Environmental Audits

State submerged lands

Real property transactions


On September 5, 2017 the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued Emergency Final Order No. 17-0989 covering the following topics of particular relevance to the owners of waterfront and near waterfront properties: Environmental Resource; Dredge and Fill, and Surface Water Management Activities (excludes activities seaward of State’s Coastal Construction Control Line); Coastal Construction Control Line Activities; Activities Requiring Local Authorization; Authorization to Use State Owned Submerged Lands. The emergency demolition, repair, rebuilding, etc. of structures in or near the water is likely to be regulated/authorized by the provisions of the Emergency Final Order. A detailed summary of Emergency Final Order No. 17-0989 and a full copy thereof can be found on my website, FLwaterfront.com


News video from Houston clearly shows how devastating and life-threatening several feet of flood waters can be to the ground floor of residences in harms way. Now consider the fact that in Charlotte, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, we have hundreds, if not thousands of residences within FEMA “A” and “V” Flood Zones with illegally created ground floor living space. The contents of such unpermitted non-conforming space are not insurable, but more importantly, such space is dangerous. Do buyers of such residences know this? Not unless sellers with knowledge make full disclosure, or buyers have an attorney with experience in such matters conduct a thorough due diligence review on behalf of the buyer as part of the title work and closing. Closings conducted by someone without the expertise to perform a thorough review of the status of the residence for FEMA compliance may cause the buyer more than simply a loss of property, it may cost the buyer his/her life, or the lives of their family. What happened in Houston will happen here.


President Trump Issues Executive Order Repealing President Obama’s Executive Order Raising Flood Insurance Rates. Will Hurricane Harvey Cause President Trump To Reverse Course?
Overshadowed by the tragic events in Charlottesville, NC a couple of weeks ago, on August 15 President Trump issued an Executive Order which may result in significant beneficial impacts upon waterfront and near waterfront property owners. President Trump’s Executive Order repealed an Executive Order issued in 2015 which had the immediate effect of increasing flood insurance premiums for many existing policy holders, and raising the cost of all new policies.
President Obama’s Executive Order also provided funding to FEMA to update its Flood Insurance Rate Maps (“FIRM’s”) which, in many cases increased minimum required Base Flood Elevations, causing millions of heretofore conforming residential structures to become “non-conforming”, and thus subject to the “FEMA 50% Rule”, limiting the opportunity for additions and remodeling.
One of the primary purposes of President Obama’s Executive Order was to remove what was perceived to be artificially low, taxpayer subsidized federal flood insurance premiums. Instead of perpetuating what was considered to be “politically based” flood insurance rates, the Obama Executive Order directed FEMA to develop “risk based” rates. It had been found that the “politically based” rates were for many years resulting in a shortfall of federal funds needed to pay the claims of property owners whose structures were damaged by covered storm events. The mandated “risk based” rates would have required property owners in FEMA “A” and “V” Zones to pay flood insurance premiums commensurate with the potential for damage due to the elevation of their structure in relation to the potential source of flooding.
President Trump’s repeal of the Obama Executive Order appears to be intended to halt further efforts by FEMA to develop “risk based” flood insurance rates. This could allow for a maintenance of the lower “politically based” flood insurance rates. As a result of President Trump’s Executive Order, it may also be expected that the next round of FIRM updates, intended to update FEMA’s flood zone maps along the Gulf of Mexico, will be delayed indefinitely. This will maintain the status quo for the minimum flood elevation for existing residences, thereby avoiding their classification as “non-conforming”.
It will remain to be seen how the unprecedented flooding in Texas from Hurricane Harvey will affect President Trump’s recent action. The massive number of flood damage claims sure to result from the hurricane will bring renewed attention to the fact that FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program remains underfunded, and will remain so without “risk based” flood insurance rates. The recent hurricane will also likely spur calls for funding to update FEMA’s flood zone maps based upon the latest data, to ensure new construction to be elevated above predicted storm surge and flooding.
Stay tuned.

Timeline Photos

Timeline Photos

House flipping Waterfront Property Style

House flipping Waterfront Property Style


Code Violations do follow to the new home buyer thus due diligence is essential.

Timeline Photos

Timeline Photos


Siesta Key Beach Voted # 1 Beach once again!


Fast Fact: Female sea turtles often appear to be weeping as they nest; the main purpose for these tears is to remove any salt from the turle's body.

Due Diligence Checklist - FLWaterfront.com
Due Diligence Checklist - FLWaterfront.com

Due Diligence Checklist - FLWaterfront.com

To avoid frustration, delays and undue expenses, buyers of Waterfront Property should obtain the answers to these questions from a qualified source or professional prior to closing.


One of the most valuable benefits of waterfront property ownership is a “bundle of rights” commonly referred to as “Riparian Rights”. These rights are so important, the Courts universally hold that such rights are considered as “property” that cannot be taken by government without just compensation. To be entitled to the benefits of riparian rights, the upland owner must hold title to the water. If the upland owner’s boundary does not touch the water, but is separated by a strip of land, or a road, or a seawall, for example, that is not owned by the upland owner, the upland owner does not have the benefit of riparian rights.

American Shore and Beach Preservation Association
American Shore and Beach Preservation Association

American Shore and Beach Preservation Association

Pleased to see Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Headquarters form agreement on Managing Offshore Sand Resources.


Longboat Real Estate - Roger Pettingell, PA

Longboat Real Estate - Roger Pettingell, PA

Two referendums to affect density will be on the ballot next week for Longboat Key voters to decide, read my REALTALKplus™ article today https://goo.gl/Km4tYP


WATERFRONT PROPERTY OWNERS AND BUYERS BEWARE. Sarasota County's adoption of a new mangrove trimming and protection code may have eliminated valuable property rights of view and access to the water.

Florida Waterfront Law
Florida Waterfront Law

Florida Waterfront Law

I'm available to present seminars for real estate agents at meetings, large or small, and will tailor the presentation to the amount of available time, including a question and answer period.

Coastal Construction - FL Waterfront
Coastal Construction - FL Waterfront

Coastal Construction - FL Waterfront

Coastal Construction is regulated by a variety of jurisdictions. The State of Florida has established Coastal Construction Control Lines (CCCL) on a county-by-county basis to define that portion of the beach-dune system which is subject to severe fluctuations following major storm events. The purpos...

All Waterfront Property owners and prospective owners should investigate and be aware of the answers to the following qu...
Due Diligence Checklist - FLWaterfront.com

All Waterfront Property owners and prospective owners should investigate and be aware of the answers to the following questions on this Due Diligence Checklist.

To avoid frustration, delays and undue expenses, buyers of Waterfront Property should obtain the answers to these questions from a qualified source or professional prior to closing.


It is a widely believed that all waterfront property owners have a right to build a boat dock to access their property. It is presumed that any owner of property that is adjacent to any water is entitled to “riparian rights”, which, it is believed by many, include the right to an unobstructed view of the water and the right to build a boat dock.

For the purposes of this post, suffice it to say that neither of such beliefs are true. For example, riparian rights apply only to waters that are navigable in their natural condition. No riparian rights attach to artificially created waters, such as canals and boat basins, nor to natural waters that were made navigable by man. Even with respect to naturally navigable waters, the exercise of riparian rights are significantly modified by federal, state, and local regulations.

The construction of docks in public waters has long been regulated, but it was not until the environmental movement of the early to mid 1980's that governments did much to enforce existing regulations. For a number of reasons, the year 1985 is a good reference point when trying to ascertain the legal status of an existing dock. Typically, docks constructed prior to that date have been considered “grandfathered”, whether or not constructed pursuant to any permitting requirements that existed prior to that year. Docks constructed after that year without required permits are generally considered illegal. Only if the unpermitted post-1985 dock meets current regulations may an “after-the-fact” permit be issued. Otherwise, the dock will need to be brought into compliance with current regulations, which in some cases may require the removal of the dock.

Therefore, buyers of waterfront property need to realize that if having a dock at their property is important, during their due diligence inspection period it is necessary to ascertain whether any existing dock is legal or illegal, and if no dock presently exists, can one be constructed to meet both the buyer’s requirements as well as those of all regulatory agencies. The fact that docks may exist in the vicinity of the property of interest should not be relied upon to determine whether a suitable dock may be constructed at the property under contract.

The status of existing or prospective docks is just one of the matters I routinely review as part of any waterfront property due diligence on behalf of buyers of waterfront property.


I am asked this question often. Can I build a dock on my vacant lot in Sarasota County?

Sarasota County's Code permits a dock or pier on a residential lot or parcel that is vacant so long as specific criteria are met. Docks or piers are NOT permitted on a commercial lot or parcel that is vacant.


2033 Main Street, Suite 500 & 600
Sarasota, FL

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Wednesday 9am - 5pm
Thursday 9am - 5pm
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(941) 366-8100


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