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Who owns the dock built on our privately owned submerged land?

Sarasota, FL |

We bought some privately owned submerged lands in a tax deed auction. Upon this land is a dock, truly within the metes and bounds of the water (submerged lands) which we purchased. This dock is attached to an upscale hotel. We put our boat on the dock, accessing it from a public right of way. The hotel now says we are trespassing and threatens to sue us. Who owns that dock now? Who can use it? This is in Florida."

I forgot to mention that we actually own two parcels of adjacent submerged land, one in a tax deed, the other a quit claim deed from a previous owner. This particular deed also has a TFI, or a state disclaimer from 1947. It is also not the hotel who says we are trespassing, it's the condominium association who is next to the hotel and rents a portion of the land to the hotel. The dock has been there for ages, before either the condo or the hotel was built. They should have bought the water when they created the condo association, but they didn't. The water is completely missing from their deed, including the dock. The property appraiser shows us as the owner of the water with the dock on it. Our professional survey of our land also has the dock on the picture. Of course, everyone upland of us is fuming.

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

If you truly own the land, then the dock is yours. You mention a document from TFI. If you are referring to the Florida Internal Improvement Trust than a Deed from them would certainly give you rights to the submerged lands of that particular parcel. As to the other parcel, you would need to trace back the private ownership to make sure that it is fact private and not owned by the State of Florida. Upland or Downstream is irrelevant as to the ownership. What you are looking for is for the submerged land boundaries of the dock area to be included in the deed and a traceable exception to the rule that submerged lands belong to the State of Florida.


You need to have an attorney review the title of this property to see why the hotel is making the claim. Your question would be impossible to answer with these facts.


Title to land underwater is a "murky" issue (pun intended). Here in the Northeast, I have researched title to lands underwater that go back to pre-revolutionary war era grants from the English monarch. Depending on where the grant is located, it may involve federal, state, county or municipal riparian grants or claims.

If you have a deed conveying an ownership interest in land underwater, and Florida permits such transfers, then the hotel is bluffing. On the facts presented, there is no way to tell.

You will need a local real estate attorney to review your documents and advise you on the issue.

I am not a FL attorney, laws vary from state to state, therefore you should always consult a local attorney.

If this answer was helpful, please mark it as helpful or as a best answer. This answer is for general education purposes only. It neither creates an attorney-client relationship nor provides legal guidance or advice. The answer is based on the limited information provided and the answer might be different had additional information been provided. You should consult an attorney.

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