Littoral Rights Guide

By PropertyClub Team
Sep 8th 2023
Property rights aren’t exclusive to just land. They can also include rights to adjacent features, such as a body of water. These are called littoral rights and are essential for any beachfront property owner to understand. Here is a look at the concept of littoral rights and what property owners need to know.  

hash-markTable of Contents

What Are Littoral Rights?
Littoral Rights Example
Littoral Rights & Littoral Land
Littoral Rights vs Riparian Rights
Littoral Rights Bottom Line

hash-markWhat Are Littoral Rights?

Littoral rights are legal rights concerned with the use of bodies of water that border a landowner’s property. More specifically, littoral rights refer to the use of any pooled or standing body of water, such as an ocean, sea, lake, or pond. Littoral rights are important as they give landowners the right to use bodies of water that border their property. 

For example, if you were to purchase oceanfront property with littoral rights, you would have the right to use the beach that borders the water and unrestricted access to the body of water. You would also have exclusive rights to use the beachfront up until the median high water mark. 

Developers often purchase littoral rights when building vacation homes, hotels, and other tourist attractions. Without these rights, homeowners or visitors would not be allowed to freely access the beach bordering the body of water, which significantly diminishes the appeal. So, littoral rights can greatly increase the value of a property because they offer an additional feature that makes it more attractive to buyers or customers.

hash-markLittoral Rights Example

Another common example of littoral rights would be the right to build a private dock or pier on a body of water that borders your property. However, it's important to understand that littoral access rights are not unlimited, so you would not be able to construct a massive dock of any size. Littoral rights ensure you can enjoy the body of water, so any structure you build should be appropriately sized to support your private use and enjoyment. 

hash-markLittoral Rights & Littoral Land

Littoral land refers to the land adjacent to a body of water, whereas littoral rights refer to the right to use that land. Littoral rights typically include unrestricted access to the adjoining water but only property ownership up until the high watermark. Without these rights, the property owner has no claim to use the littoral land freely. 

Say, for example, your home borders a private beach. Without the littoral rights to access the land, you would still need permission from the owner to access the beach freely. Littoral rights give you free access to use the land however you see fit, which is a significant attraction to many buyers.

hash-markLittoral Rights vs Riparian Rights

Littoral rights are often confused with another similar concept called riparian rights, which are related yet slightly different. Riparian rights refer to the right to land bordering a flowing body of water, such as a river, creek, or stream. Littoral rights apply to land bordering a standing or pooled body of water such as an ocean, sea, or lake. 

The basic idea remains the same – whoever holds these rights is entitled to use the water and adjacent land however they see fit. But the difference is whether or not the water is flowing or still. Littoral land is often referred to as “oceanfront” or “beachfront” property, whereas riparian land is often referred to as “riverfront” property.  

hash-markLittoral Rights Bottom Line 

Littoral rights are a major perk for prospective homebuyers of properties that border bodies of water. Access to a public or private beach is a huge draw, especially for those looking for a vacation home or investment property. So, if you’re in the market for a beachfront estate, make sure that the home includes littoral rights. Otherwise, you won’t have direct access to the beach, even if it borders your property.