New Private Beach Access Law Attempts to Clarify Possession of Real Property

One of the many perks of living in the Sunshine State is our beaches. Access to the ocean is often from a public park and has long been viewed as a public amenity and free natural resource for both residents and visitors.

By
Alessandra Stivelman
on
September 19, 2018
Section:
Advocacy
Region:

One of the many perks of living in the Sunshine State is our beaches. Access to the ocean is often from a public park and has long been viewed as a public amenity and free natural resource for both residents and visitors. Questions about the assumption of public access arise, however, when reaching the coastline involves crossing private property.

Earlier in 2018, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 631, a new law which went into effect July 1. The law was created to resolve disputes between owners of private oceanfront land and local governments by creating a streamlined standard to clarify possession of real property.

It is estimated that 60 percent of Florida’s beaches are privately owned. Florida lawmakers weighed the need to protect the public’s ability to enjoy its coastlines for recreational use against protecting the rights of private oceanfront property owners.

Some people were afraid the law would immediately cut off public access to beaches all over the state, but that is not the case. The intent was to establish a simple and equitable process by which a government entity may seek the judicial determination of recreational customary use of private beach property. That determination allows due process for the private property owners and notice and public hearings to all interested parties.

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