Can a neighbor store their water toys or build a dock in front of my lake frontage?

Asked about 4 years ago - New York

I live on a private lake. Everyone's property around the lake ends at the water. The actual lake is the lake association's. Most property lines meet the water at roughly a perpendicular angle. A border between a neighbor and I meets the lake at an angle. They feel that this boundary line "projects" into the lake, such that they can build a dock or tie water toys inside the projected boundaries. This projected line extends in front of my shore. I feel that since all property lines end at the water, that everyone should be able to walk/swim/look perpendicularly from any point of their shore without others' docks or toys in the way. If the boundary angle was sharper, could I have a dock at all, and could they build a dock that would block my lake access? Whose water space is whose? Thanks!

Additional information

Currently there is just an inflatable 8 to 10 foot raft that I feel is partially in "my" space. There is a dock very close to our common property line, but it does not extend in front of my shore. There is nothing in the lake association bylaws that describes where you can put a dock or store water toys.
Thanks in advance for any help.

6/24: There is no mention of docks, or dock approval processes in the bylaws. There is only mention of distance from property lines where buildings can be placed - 5' from property lines, 20' from the road, and 50' from the lake.

Attorney answers (2)

  1. Richard J. Brickwedde

    Contributor Level 12

    Answered . The law with regard to water access and what can be done off shore is incredibly complex and often specific to the particular body of water. It sounds like the water body in question, if totally owned by the lake association, is privately owned, and possibly not subject to state "use" regulation. If there is a governing body of the lake association, that might be the first place to go, but it would require a lot of homework to fully understand what's the situation with regard to your lake. It sounds like you talked with your neighbor and got no where. If the lake association has never dealt with this issue before, would they, or someone else help mediate a resolution? Even if you're right, litigation would be very expensive. You need to talk to a lawyer familiar with water law. My practice is statewide. If you're interested give me a call.

  2. Cameron Royal Kelly

    Contributor Level 10

    Answered . Do the association documents indicate who makes decisions about docking, etc? In my experience there is typically a governing body that dictates where a dock can be put in, how many docks can be put in, how long the dock can be, and so forth. If it is not your local association, it could be your local government, or it may be that your state has a department dedicated to protecting and governing natural resources. Look to these rules to give guidance.

    The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of Minnesota. Responses are based solely on Minnesota law unless stated otherwise.

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