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Waterfront Property in Rhode Island

Lately, we have been fortunate enough to work with amazing waterfront properties in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. There are important elements to consider when purchasing waterfront property, and oftentimes, they can vary by location. They certainly vary from state to state when comparing Rhode Island waterfront real estate to Massachusetts waterfront real estate. Today, I’ll examine Rhode Island waterfront and some of the laws that affect a property owner’s rights to their waterfront.  

Rhode Island’s Public Trust Doctrine declares that the State of Rhode Island owns all land below “the high water mark” in any location. The “high water mark” was later clarified by the courts in Rhode Island and determined to be a mathematical average (“mean high water mark”) based on scientific evidence of the average high tide over a long period of time. This decision was made in an effort to strike a fair balance between the rights of private property owners and the rights of the general public.  

The land below the mean high water mark is for the benefit of the public and to preserve the rights of fishery, commerce, and navigation in these waters. There are certainly many instances when beach goers and the general public could be confused over who “owns” what, and what rights people have to walk along the shoreline, when there are private property owners’ rights that need to be considered, too.  

All of these factors are important to keep in mind as you consider waterfront property in Rhode Island. What you see and what appears to be “private property” may not always be that way, in actuality. It is important to understand that the mean high water mark and where the private property ends and the public property begins is rarely easy for people to determine on their own. Most often, a licensed land surveyor needs to make this determination.  

In addition to what you see and what you are told, it is always a good idea to take a look at the legal description for the deed to the property. That document should contain important language that can get you started down the right path. You’ll also want to learn about the different types of waters. What I have referenced here today is all related to tidal waters. The game plan changes entirely for other non-tidal bodies of water such as streams, rivers, and ponds.  

If you are considering buying or selling waterfront property and have questions related to this topic, we are always happy to chat. In addition to our own experience and knowledge base, we have a great team of professionals that we can engage on your behalf to understand properly what you are considering buying or what you have available to sell.  

About Chart House Realtors

Written by Matthew Antonio, Team Leader for Chart House Realtors in Barrington, RI.

Chart House Realtors combines the best aspects of size and scale. We are a small boutique firm with 8 full-time, local members. We operate out of our office in Barrington, RI conducting business throughout RI and MA. We are also affiliated with Keller Williams, which is the largest real estate brand in the world, with more agents, more sales and more reach than any other real estate company.  So, our clients get the best of both worlds!

Our small, local size gives us the ability to craft a unique personalized plan for each and every client. At the same time, the size and scale of Keller Williams allows us to reach buyers and sellers on a national and international level. Year-to-date, Chart House is ranked among the top 1% in sales across all agents in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

If you are considering buying or selling property anywhere in Southern New England, we would love to hear from you. 

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