Investing in a waterfront home is investing in an aspirational property and a defined way of life.
Living close to water prompts images of a calm and relaxing lifestyle, in a property that has views and unique aspects to its character that you cannot find in most big US cities. Whether you buy remote waterfront property for rural living or invest in marina real estate for a busier, but no less appealing lifestyle, you will not be disappointed living close to water.
However, there are some serious considerations you need to bear in mind when moving to waterfront property. Prior to buying, it is important to conduct due diligence and our article titled 12 Things to Consider When Buying a Lakefront Home will help guide you through that process. Even once you have purchased your home, you do need to be aware of potential problems with your new purchase.
To help you stay abreast of the issues you may face, we have put together a handy guide of common problems associated with buying a waterfront property.
So, you have bought your first waterfront property and you are keen to enjoy your purchase. You walk out to your waterfront and find other people wandering between your property and the water. Where did you go wrong?
There are several different elements to waterfront access and in wider developments; you may find that despite being situated on the water, there are rights of access between your property and the tranquility you intend to enjoy. A developer may have reserved access for all the houses in a neighborhood, even those not on the waterfront. Make sure you check access rights if you do not want to be sharing your space with others.
We live in a changeable climate, which means that the water levels in some bodies of water are susceptible to rising. Many cities in the US are prone to flooding when levels rise and in owning a waterfront property you will be putting yourself at risk. Indeed, Business Insider warns that several US cities could disappear altogether courtesy of rising tides, and the first properties to be affected would be those on the waterfront. If you live on a seafront, changeable tides and weather conditions could also see your home at risk. It is worth making sure you are covered for extreme weather conditions or damage caused by flooding, even if there is not a history of such events in the local area.
A waterfront property might be susceptible to flooding from the outside in, but like any home, you must also be aware of the potential for flooding from the inside out. Some waterfront properties may draw their water supply from the lake or river on which they are situated, but that does not mean you are not at risk from common plumbing problems from access points, such as a stopcock. In a HomeServe guide to fixing a leaking stopcock, they explain how it is situated where the mains water comes into your home. With a waterfront property, you may be drawing your water directly from a lake and therefore your setup may be different, but it does not mean you do not have to worry. Wherever your water supply comes into your home is at risk, even outside of the typical plumbing setup. Many waterfront owners might pay more attention to the problems posed by water outside the property, but to underestimate the potential from within would be a fallacy.
Finally, be sure to check your obligations when it comes to maintaining your piece of shoreline. It may be that expense incurred by falling debris, or the removal of collected flotsam, fall directly upon you. The Wall Street Journal explains how ships have been washing up on the Florida coast, and although it seems unlikely to happen to most homeowners, it is important to understand where you stand if such an occurrence takes place on your stretch of waterway. In a more remote property, it is likely you assume responsibility for general maintenance, but in communal areas on shared waterways, it could be ambiguous. Like any property purchase, conducting thorough and extensive due diligence will flag up any additional responsibilities you may have as a homeowner.
The city of Los Angeles is among the world’s most desirable and widely recognized locations. In spite of its overvalued real estate market, it continues to attract renters and homebuyers year after year. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if we said The City of Angels is a safe bet for real estate investors. Buying a home in LA is a dream-come-true for many people, but buying a water view home in LA is a special privilege. However, that privilege isn’t without its downsides. If you’re wondering whether you should invest in Los Angeles waterfront homes, this article will help you decide.
Waterfront homes are always in demand
Although LA is a big city, the number of homes for sale along the shoreline is not unlimited. That means the demand is always high. This is both a pro and a con. Beating the competition and buying a good waterfront property is not easy, but the demand will always be there when you decide to sell or rent. With the help of experienced waterfront property real estate agents, finding buyers and renters should not take long. Besides, buyers are willing to pay a premium for stunning views and proximity to a body of water. Rents can be significantly higher as well compared to non-waterfront homes, which means covering your holding costs and even turning a profit should not be an issue.
The investment will retain its value for years to come
The value of waterfront homes rarely declines thanks to the high demand and limited supply. Thus, you can expect a great resale value. You can spend years and years renting your home or living in it without worrying about the impact of future housing markets.
Living near the water is like an eternal vacation
If you decide to spend more time in your waterfront home, your life can be very exciting thanks to all the fun activities the water offers. Swimming, boating, kayaking, water skiing, and diving are just some of them. Few people can resist the relaxed vibe and vacation atmosphere in these neighborhoods. If you move here full-time, your life will be like a never-ending vacation. Just think about it – millions of people save money for months just to spend a few days close to the water. They pay to do all those things waterfront property owners can do practically for free. Investing in a Los Angeles waterfront home means investing in an extraordinary lifestyle. Owning a home in an area popular with visitors normally means having excellent amenities within easy reach. You’ll have access to great shops, bars, restaurants, sports and wellness facilities, among other things.
However, the other side of the coin is the lack of privacy. As you know, many LA waterfront areas attract too many visitors. After all, Los Angeles is one of the most visited cities in the US. Hence, you could see lots of strangers in your neighborhood on a daily basis.
Waterfront communities are very sociable
After buying a waterfront home and moving in, you will notice that the community you are moving into is not your average community. Waterfront communities are usually more tight-knit. They are known for organizing community celebrations and events and having many clubs and societies linked to water-based activities. Thanks to a strong sense of community, you’ll be able to meet your neighbors and get involved in their activities in no time. Waterfront communities are also great for families with young children. Parents who want to raise children in a fun, friendly environment and spend more quality time with them should definitely consider investing in Los Angeles waterfront homes.
When you invest in Los Angeles waterfront homes, you invest in your health
You can enjoy several physical and mental health benefits if you invest in Los Angeles waterfront homes. Did you know that water can be therapeutic? This home could be your personal stress-free zone. You can escape to your waterfront home whenever the hustle and bustle of big-city life overwhelm you. This property could be your weekend/vacation home, but you could also ask for assistance when moving in LA area and move here full-time. In addition to being relaxing, waterfront areas that are more secluded are also less polluted and less noisy in comparison to other areas. Furthermore, a large body of water usually offers the perfect setting for various water sports. The outdoor activities we mentioned earlier are not only fun but they’re also healthy for you, so why not take advantage of owning a property so close to the water?
Owning a waterfront home comes with higher expenses
Waterfront homes are more prone to damage caused by water and weather conditions compared to non-waterfront homes. Consequently, insurance for a waterfront home can be much more expensive. If the home you are interested in is in a flood zone or has been flooded, the insurance price will be higher. In addition to insurance, there are many other expenses you should take into consideration, the main ones being regular repairs and maintenance. Maintaining a waterfront home involves numerous expenses traditional home owners don’t need to worry about.
Some waterfront properties come with strict rules
Local rules and regulations are some of the things you should investigate before you invest in Los Angeles waterfront homes. You might face some restrictions if you wish to renovate your home or increase its size, especially if it’s a neighborhood designated as historic. And some of the things you look forward to may actually be forbidden in your area. For example, you may want to have a dock or a boat launch, but are you allowed to build one on your property? The same goes for use of motor boats, wakeboards or jet skis. No one wants to pay a fine for enjoying their favorite sports and hobbies, so make sure you do your research before you start your search.
When people say that water view real estate is different than other types of property, they’re definitely not wrong. If you ever buy a piece of waterfront property, you’ll quickly realize what they’re talking about. Namely, there’s really nothing like the unique feeling of having a body of water within view and reach – all on your own piece of land! However, compared to land-locked properties, this kind of real estate will likely turn out to be more complicated to inspect, purchase, and maintain. There are some factors that you need to take into consideration with this type of real estate, that you possibly haven’t thought about before. Luckily, we’re here to give you a quick rundown!
As you’ll soon see for yourself, waterfront homes require careful and thorough inspection before you decide to invest in one. Water can be pretty hard on buildings. A waterfront home may have structural issues or even water leaks in the basement. There could be corrosion on the outside of your home due to salt air if you’re near an ocean shore. On the other hand, a lakehouse might suffer from mold or mildew problems due to rising moisture. Naturally, all of these things can be avoided if you buy the right home; but you want to get an expert to inspect the premises first. You want to do tests on the nearby water quality, get some elevation certificates, as well as other surveys and inspections. With a waterfront property, all of this is incredibly important.
What Kind Of Water Would You Want?
It’s a pretty simple question when posed like this – but indeed, it is a key question: what kind of water do you want near your water view real estate? Trust us, waterfront home locations are an incredibly important factor when you’re choosing where you’ll move. After all, not all bodies of water are the same. If you’re someone who’s yearning for the smell of salt in their nostrils, you’ll obviously want to opt for a beach home. On the other hand, you may be a freshwater fisherman, looking to have some quiet time in a boat on a nearby lake. If that’s the case, you should look for a lakehouse.
Take A Walk Around
If you’ve decided to buy a specific piece of water view real estate, there’s something you’ll need to do first – take a long walk. And no, we don’t just mean it to clear your head. You need to have a walk around the property itself and see if the water and the adjacent property are really as good as you’ve been led to believe.
There could be all kinds of hidden issues with waterfront real estate; for example, the house might require repairs due to leakage. Or you could be faced with a beautiful view, but not accompanied with proper access to the lake. Plus, the lake itself may seem gorgeous from afar, but could actually be choking in debris and weeds when you get up close. All of this could be a deal-breaker if you’re buying a water view home. After all, if you don’t like the backyard of a land-locked house you’ve bought – you just do some landscaping and change it. But if you’re buying a waterfront home, you’ll be hard-pressed to change the lake itself.
Watch Out For Hidden Expenses
When it comes to water view real estate, you could be looking at some hidden expenses that you, as a buyer, might not be aware of right from the get-go. For example, sewer and water utility expenses will probably be higher than with an inland home; that’s something to take into account over the long term. Plus, if you’ve got a boat, think about the lift and dock fees. And depending on the infrastructure, the upkeep for your well and septic tank if you’re thinking of buying in a more remote locale.
Find A Deal
Naturally, buying your very own waterfront property can really be a dream come true. But there are many people who grow disillusioned with owning water view real estate or have debts that they need to resolve. The point here is, even with lucrative waterfront spots, you may be able to find a good deal. So shop around once you choose your area and don’t settle for the first thing you see. And don’t worry about home amenities too much, if you find a spacious home. Stuff like your home library, entertainment setup, or your home gym can be easily relocated.
Devise A Strategy
You need to ask yourself if you’re going to live on this water view real estate full-time. This will largely determine your financial strategy for the purchase, going forward. For example, if you want to live there all the time, you’ll have to bear the brunt of the expenses for buying the house. But, if you only intend to use it as a vacation home, more opportunities arise. You can rent the house out while you’re not staying there and put a significant dent in the mortgage payments. Think Airbnb.
Find An Expert Agent
As you might have gathered – buying and owning water view real estate isn’t simple. From headaches like structural issues, sale complications, and potential title issues, the handling of such a property in a transaction requires close supervision by an expert real estate agent. Don’t even consider going into such a purchase without a specialized waterfront realtor by your side. USAWaterviews.com has many qualified water view experts on the Agents page.
So, if you want to buy a piece of water view real estate, find a good moving company through a place like Master Moving Guide – and start your shore life anew!
Having a winter home sure sounds nice. A quiet little place where you can head off during those cold winter months. Now, you can go to a place in the mountains where you can enjoy skiing and hiking. Or, you might even choose to retire to a nice waterfront home and enjoy a year-long vacation. There are many reasons why you might want to buy a winter home in the U.S, and many places where you can do so. The only question that remains is which place is the best for you.
Figuring out where to buy a winter home in the U.S. is not easy. There are some important factors that you need to take into account in order to make a wise decision. These factors, which include your budget, your lifestyle preferences, and where you live during the rest of the year, play a major role in figuring out the best place to get a winter home in the U.S. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do about those factors, as they vary wildly from person to person. What we can do is look at the winter living conditions and the price of real estate in different places around the U.S. And, to keep things nicely spread out, we will limit ourselves to one place per state. This should give you a starting point for where to look for a fabulous winter home to buy.
St. Petersburg in Florida
When talking about U.S. states that have the best winter weather, Florida is usually the first one that comes to mind. After all, it’s hard to beat the Sunshine state when it comes to mild winters. So, it should come as no surprise that one of the most popular places to buy a home in the U.S. is St. Petersburg.
A lot of people choose to retire in Florida since both the weather and the lifestyle are so calm and mild. Mind you, there are a lot of places in Florida where getting beach property is a good investment. But, we feel that St. Petersburg stands out due to its comfortable lifestyle and affordability.
Median home value: $154,800.
Mount Hood in Oregon
Mount Hood in Oregon is perfectly suited for people who actually like winter. If you’re a fan of
hiking through snow or going on adventurous camping trips, Mount Hood is the place to go.
The beautiful nature of Mount Hood will leave you breathless while you explore it. And, trust us,
with nearly 100 camping areas, there will be more than enough for you to explore for years to
come. Furthermore, if you are a fan of skiing, you will have a wonderful time in Mount Hood
Median home value: $288,900
South Lake Tahoe in California
South Lake Tahoe is a bit more pricey than the abovementioned places. But, we feel that it is
truly one of the best places to buy a winter home in the U.S., if not the whole world. The lake
itself is enormous. It has over 70 miles of coast which provides ample fun for its residents
throughout the year. During the winter you can enjoy skiing on its north end and hike all around the Lake.
Lake Tahoe is mesmerizingly beautiful, even during the winter months.
The nature surrounding South Lake Tahoe is well-preserved. This makes it ideal for any nature
lover who wants to escape the noise and the hassle of big cities during the winter months. So, if
by chance you are looking for a place to unwind, South Lake Tahoe is the place to go.
Median home value: $442,700 (we did warn you it’s going to be a bit expensive).
Beaufort in South Carolina
Winters in Beaufort, South Carolina are very mild. The temperature averages around 59°F
(15°C). This makes Beaufort ideal for anyone who wants to avoid standard winter weather.
There are plenty of things to do, including fishing, golfing, biking and visiting beaches so you are bound to find something to enjoy during those mild winter months. A lot of people even opt for getting a waterfront home as it can be quite nice to drink morning coffee with the sea air in your lungs. But, before you go shopping for waterfront homes, just know that you will probably have to invest a bit in fixing it up.
Ludlow in Vermont
The idyllic winter retreat is a warm place situated in a small town with the quiet snow falling while the sounds of nature surround you. Well, if this winter bliss sounds like something you will enjoy, then consider getting a winter home in Ludlow, Vermont. This little town has only about 2000 residents, which makes it ideal for anyone looking for a bit of peace and quiet. And, if you are up for a bit of adventure, you can head off to the popular Okemo Mountain Ski resort and enjoy some winter sports.
Median home value: $273,600
Keaau in Hawaii
If you are up for a bit of a change during your winter months, Keaau in Hawaii is the place to
go. Any person who enjoys warm weather will love it here since the average winter
temperature is around 77°F (25°C). Along with that, you will be able to explore flora and
fauna that you’ll never see in the continental US. We wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up
retiring here, as the place is quite calm with about 2700 residents and beautiful landscapes to
Median home value: $278,000
Reclaiming Your Backyard: Reviewing the Efficacy of 20 Popular Natural Mosquito Repellents
Mosquitoes can be a big problem for travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, and even homeowners. Once they get settled, they breed very quickly. Killing insects that only live for a week or two may feel like rearranging chairs on a sinking ship. However, mosquitoes are not just an annoyance. Their bites can cause significant short-term discomfort, and spread diseases that could turn into chronic conditions.
Adequate protection from mosquitoes is an important part of life during the summer in many areas, and year-round for people living in regions that do not dip below freezing. People can cut down on their exposure by wearing protective clothing and hats, but this can only be so practical in the heat. Most people turn to insect repellents as a way to enjoy the outdoors without all the bugs. Fortunately – since mosquitoes have been around for millions of years – humans have had a lot of time to test different options and see how well they work out.
Some plants have a long history as effective mosquito repellents. Sometimes it can be difficult to verify how useful they are and separate the myths from science. Looking at research helps homeowners to decide which natural repellents might be best for them. Many of the most popular known repellents feature in studies, particularly concerning the use of the essential oils. The results typically vary based on the concentration, and whether or not they are used with other oils. People who are starting to learn about essential oil benefits may want to start with tested products to ensure they achieve a safe/effective concentration and application. If you’ve just bought a waterfront home and want to find new and interesting ways to keep your backyard mosquito-free, the following plants and oils may help.
Note: Although essential oils are often marketed as totally natural and may seem to be perfectly safe, they are not appropriate for everyone. Applying undiluted oils directly to the skin can cause irritation, allergic reactions, or other significant effects. Some may choose to apply small amounts to see how their skin reacts before attempting a full application. Parents should consult with a doctor knowledgeable about these oils before using them on infants or children.
First Things First: DEET Has Its Place
Diethyltoluamide (DEET) is a manmade solution that has been used widely as an insecticide and repellent since the 1940s. It remains one of the most effective options people can use to protect themselves against mosquito exposure. Since its origin, people have wondered about the long-term effects of DEET exposure. This has led them to pursue natural repellents with variable results. At times, DEET may be the best option on the table. This is particularly true in areas where serious diseases run rampant and are quickly spread by mosquitoes. It may also be the best choice for older infants, children, and those who cannot use particular kinds of essential oils.
The most common side effect of DEET is skin irritation, not unlike many essential oils in higher concentrations. With prolonged or heavy exposure, DEET is associated with headaches, nausea, or dizziness. People may want to discuss the matter with their doctors to get relevant information based on their personal risk. For people who only need to minimize the annoyance of mosquitoes outside their homes for an hour or two at a time, natural repellents may be a viable alternative to try.
When people look for natural mosquito protection, citronella is one of the most common choices. Citronella is a combination of oils from different types of grasses. It can repel insects in a few ways. Most typically, its strong scent masks the location of certain foods pests might seek out. Unlike many components of insecticides, it does not kill mosquitoes.
As a popular part of insect prevention, citronella comes in a variety of products. These may include:
- lotions (often containing sunscreen)
- products for pets
Some homeowners grow citronella grasses in the yard (typically more successful in warmer climates). People should keep in mind that proximity is key for citronella’s use. Burning a candle or placing pellets nearby might be effective in areas with low insect activity, but less so in regions with heavy insect involvement.
The length of time citronella lasts depends on its application. In some cases, people can buy a natural repellent spray with a concentration of oil of citronella that they can apply directly to the skin. Studies suggest that putting a small amount of citronella oil on human skin can be highly effective for about 1-2 hours. It is important to follow manufacturer guidance on application. Sprays may not be appropriate for infants, young children, or other vulnerable populations.
Cloves come from a tree that is often grown in Indonesia. The flower buds give off a scent that repels certain types of mosquitoes. Although the living plant has benefits as a natural repellent, it cannot thrive outside in any area that drops below freezing. Homeowners in moderate areas may be able to sustain it in a pot that can be brought inside for colder weather. Otherwise, the dried buds, known as whole cloves, and an oil made from them are widely available.
Clove oil is very strongly scented. Most of the time, people suspend clove oil in olive oil or coconut oil before putting it on their skin. Efficacy depends greatly on the concentration. Research suggests that clove oil is most effective as a 100 percent essential oil applied directly to the skin. This practice may act as a repellant for up to four hours. It is still highly useful at a concentration of around 50 percent, with the other half being geranium or thyme oil. One study showed that this combination lasted as long as 2.5 hours. However, people should take care of using clove oil at this level. They may find that concentrations above 25 percent could irritate the skin.
Lemongrass is an herb that many homeowners like to grow in their gardens. It can only be grown as an annual in most regions of the United States. As a plant or oil, lemongrass may be a functional way to distract mosquitoes. Lemongrass and citronella oils are closely related, coming from the same family of grasses known as Cymbopogon.
Most research covering the efficacy of lemongrass relies on oil, not the whole plant. Specifically, people typically need to place the oil on their skin in some form to receive the benefit. One study noted that lemongrass in coconut oil was effective at preventing mosquito bites for up to two hours. There is evidence to suggest that combining lemongrass oil with other essential oils known for their repellent qualities may provide the best overall protection.
As with citronella, proximity, and quantity makes a significant difference. Many homeowners in the southeastern U.S. could grow lemongrass in their yards. When planted directly into the ground, it can reach a full height of 3-6 feet and offer a natural hedge against insects in the area. Generally, experts believe that the living plant is more appropriate for culinary use than mosquito prevention.
Lavender is an herb that has lots of possible uses, among them fragrant, culinary, and medical. Lavender may also be an effective insect repellent. Similar to other herbs, it can grow a few feet tall. When planted heavily and strategically, lavender can provide natural protection for homeowners’ yards and patios. The plant can be grown in almost any part of the U.S., but most varieties thrive best in a low humidity environment. This means that people who live in regions with high humidity may want to keep the lavender in a pot indoors or use lavender oil instead.
As a way to block mosquitoes specifically, people might consider a combination of oils in a spray or other direct application. Lavender oil is extracted from the pale purple flowers and is widely available at a variety of concentrations. The right concentration creates a notable difference in efficacy. Some research indicates that lavender oil with a low concentration (i.e. 5-10 percent) may not be effective against mosquitoes at all. At a 100 percent concentration level, however, it could repel certain types of mosquitoes for more than an hour.
People should remember that a widely-accepted and natural ingredient of many foods and health treatments may not always be safe. Lavender oil is generally regarded as safe diluted in another oil but can be a skin irritant at high concentrations. Consumption of lavender oil could be poisonous.
Thyme is another herb popular in cuisine that has certain properties to repel insects. People often plant thyme in the garden as a way to prevent specific types of insects (e.g. cabbage worms) from infesting their vegetable gardens. The thyme emits a toxic aroma that deters pests. For humans, thyme oil at a higher concentration can be very effective at repelling various species of mosquitoes.
Thyme is most useful as an oil applied to the skin. Specifically, 100 percent essential thyme oil garners the greatest benefit. Protection at this concentration could last up to four hours, depending on the type of mosquito. Homeowners might want to research the most common varieties near their homes, as this difference varies from 105-225 minutes. Using oil at less than 50 percent may not be particularly effective unless it is part of a combination of other natural repellents. Burning thyme can also provide a degree of protection nearly equal to oil, but only lasts up to 90 minutes.
Fresh thyme can be somewhat difficult to grow, especially from seeds. Homeowners may prefer to buy a plant to put in their gardens. The small shrubs can reach a maximum height of one foot. The soil temperature needs to be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the thyme to thrive, making it a seasonal or temperate climate plant.
A member of the mint family, catnip has multiple uses for humans and pets. People may be familiar with catnip as a way to attract cats. Its strong scent can also work to repel mosquitoes and cockroaches. Some research indicates that catnip can be exceptionally effective at blocking mosquitoes. However, it is more useful as a spatial repellent than a contact repellent. Evidence suggests that catnip may outpace DEET with this approach. This means that catnip may be better for homeowners to grow and use as a proximity-based repellent in their yards.
Catnip oil is widely available for people to buy. However, researchers struggle to find ways to make the oil useful as a contact repellent. The natural chemical, nepetalactone, is very good at repelling mosquitoes. In a controlled environment, the plant may minimize mosquito bites for up to eight hours. Once converted into an oil applied directly to the skin, efficacy only lasts 1-2 hours. One study noted that catnip oil could be a practical topical repellent, but only in a specific combination with other oils.
As a highly-invasive species, catnip is relatively easy to grow but can be difficult to maintain. Planting in pots may help homeowners control its growth. Catnip naturally attracts cats, so people should factor this into the placement of the plant.
Lemon eucalyptus has a reputation for repelling mosquitoes, but in a way people might not expect. The plant itself, though technically an herb, can grow up to 60 feet tall. This growth is ideal in its native Australia. The fresh scent makes the leaf and the oil a mainstay in many cosmetic and cleaning products. Homeowners can grow it outside if they live in the southern half of the United States, or otherwise keep it as an annual. The plant can serve as an effective spatial repellent, but the byproduct of the essential oil distillation is much more useful.
People may be aware that lemon eucalyptus oil is not known as a particularly ideal preventive for mosquito bites. This is because the oil only lasts for about an hour. However, researchers discovered that the leftovers from the oil’s manufacturing were far more effective. In fact, at a 50 percent concentration, PMD (the acronym for the byproduct) can provide 100 percent protection for 6-7 hours for one type of mosquito. For other species, a topical application could last 11 hours.
Keeping the plant in the yard gives up to 75 percent protection, particularly from occasional burning of the leaves. Homeowners who want to use PMD will likely notice a greater effect. They should confirm that they are applying the byproduct and not the oil itself, which has a much lower efficacy.
Like catnip, peppermint oil seems to be more effective as a spatial repellent than a topical one. As a moderately invasive species, peppermint can thrive almost anywhere. Homeowners should take care in placing it as it can take over other plants and herbs in the same area. Some people prefer to plant it using a wood mulch to minimize its growth or put it into a pot. When planted in full sun, the living peppermint retains most of its repellent qualities.
Although peppermint oil is widely available, it is not particularly useful on its own to block mosquito bites. Part of the problem is that peppermint as a contact repellent appears to be most effective at 100 percent concentration, but most people cannot tolerate it at that strength. When applied directly to the skin at this level, the oil can cause skin irritation. In addition, peppermint only prevents mosquito contact for about 45 minutes.
Peppermint oil does pose some interesting ideas for people who want to inhibit the spread of mosquitoes where they live. Mosquitoes naturally thrive near areas with standing water. This is the spot larvae grow into adult insects. Placing a small amount of peppermint essential oil into this standing water may prevent the larvae from hatching, and stop many adult mosquitoes from breeding in the area.
Oil from the neem tree can be particularly viable as a mosquito repellent and insecticide, but it may not be as available for planting. Neem grows naturally in India and reaches an average height of about 45-60 feet. The oil comes from the seeds and is quite bitter with a heavy scent of garlic.
Studies performed in India indicate that a low concentration of neem oil burned in a kerosene lamp can repel many types of insects. As an oil applied to the skin, it may be less effective but could last as long as four hours. Neem remains a questionable choice due to the lack of concrete evidence. People have been using neem for centuries as a natural repellent, but it has been more difficult for researchers to establish precisely how effective it is. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows 100 percent cold-pressed neem oil for food uses, due to its generally low toxicity. However, application to the skin in undiluted form may cause contact dermatitis.
If homeowners can locate the seeds, they may be able to grow neem trees inside or outside. Neem oil is also available for purchase. Neem trees prefer a warmer climate that does not drop below freezing for extended periods of time. It grows best in regions with moderate humidity and regular watering and can be grown indoors.
Basil is an American staple herb, with a variety of subspecies that look, smell, taste, and function differently from one another. The essential oil of several different kinds of basil can provide adequate or even ideal protection as a spatial or contact repellent to mosquitoes and other pests. Both the plant and the oil are reasonably accessible.
Using basil oil offers the best protection against mosquitoes. Some studies suggest that 100 percent basil oil used with vanillin can provide several hours of mosquito repellent. In other studies, a lower concentration of oil seems to block mosquitoes for 1.5-2.5 hours. People might want to consider purchasing a natural repellent product to minimize health effects from the undiluted oil. Basil oil may contain natural carcinogens that could be harmful in excess quantities.
Basil is relatively easy to grow almost anywhere in the U.S. Although it prefers a warmer climate to thrive outdoors, homeowners often can grow it indoors with a great deal of success. The fully-grown herb can reach about 24” in height, depending on the type. It needs plenty of sun and well-drained soil. In certain areas, it may regrow from one year to the next. Otherwise, people can grow it readily from seeds or cuttings.
Evidence to establish the repellent ability of litsea is somewhat scant. As part of a combination of other oils, it may be helpful as a spatial or topical repellent. Drawn from the leaves and flowers of the litsea plant, litsea oil is widely available by itself or with other essential oils.
Research showing litsea’s effectiveness often relies on several oils, which may make it harder to discern its individual efficacy. One study noted that oil of litsea used with other oils provided 100 percent protection for up to eight hours, but was difficult to apply to the skin. Another claimed that low or moderate concentrations of litsea oil could serve as a very effective repellent placed near people.
Litsea oil comes from a shrub that can grow to be about 23’ tall. This shrub is found almost exclusively in East Asia. There is evidence to suggest that homeowners in mild climates with a sandy or loamy soil that is properly watered and drains could possibly grow litsea in their yards. It is not particular to the amount of sun required and could thrive in both full sun or part shade.
Geraniums are a lovely flowering plant that many homeowners like to keep in their yards. Geranium oil has noted abilities to repel several different kinds of mosquitoes. In most cases, it is the oil that can block mosquito bites, not the plant itself. However, there are many types of geraniums. Certain kinds, such as the lemon-scented geranium, give off a citronella scent that might serve as a minimal spatial repellent.
One problem that a lot of essential oils have for repellency is how quickly they evaporate off the skin. At high concentrations, geranium oil has some staying power. One study reflected two-hour protection for geranium oil at 75 percent concentration. When combined with clove oil, other research indicates that geranium oil at 50 percent concentration could act as a repellent for 1.25-2.5 hours. Geranium oil can irritate the skin in higher quantities, but possibly less so than other oils like clove or peppermint.
Although geraniums function largely as an annual in many growing zones of the U.S., people could bring them indoors in the fall and replant outside in the spring. This is likely to serve more of a design function than as part of a broader plan to prevent insects from invading the space.
Anyone who is familiar with the strong scent of tea tree oil can appreciate the benefits of a close relative, the cajeput tree. Cajeput trees are natives to Australia and come from the Meleleuca genus. The essential oil is made from the twigs and leaves of the tree and is known to have numerous health properties. Cajeput oil is similar to niaouli oil because they come from the same genus, but they are not the same. People looking to buy these oils should confirm that they understand the difference between tea tree, cajeput, and niaouli oils.
Many mosquitoes are simply a nuisance, but others carry diseases that could harm or even kill humans. One study considered different oil combinations’ ability to repel mosquitoes carrying yellow fever, malaria, and encephalitis. Cajeput oil was one of the most effective and could last about eight hours if properly placed on the skin.
Although the oil may be useful for preventing mosquitoes from establishing a home in the yard or biting humans, evidence of the tree’s use as a spatial repellent is limited. Those who live in dry, desert conditions could possibly grow the cajeput tree. It features a spongy bark that comes off in sheets and may be considered an invasive species in parts of the U.S. Cajeput reaches an adult height of 20’-40’ and will grow quickly in almost any kind of soil.
Niaouli (Paper Bark Tea Tree)
Many people who were irritated when using tea tree oil to treat a sore or insect bite might want to try its gentler cousin, niaouli. Niaouli oil comes from the paperbark tea tree, from the Meleleuca genus that also includes tea trees and cajeput trees. This oil is fairly easily accessible and has some promising effects in the prevention of mosquito bites.
Since oils from Meleleuca trees are so closely related, studies often look at them together for efficacy. One study showed that niaouli oil ranked one of the highest in long-term mosquito repellent. Another compared a variety of related oils at a lower concentration, around 5-10 percent. When first applied or used as a spatial repellent, the oils were almost 100 percent effective. However, the benefits wore off rapidly after the first hour, as the oils evaporated. This may indicate that the method of topical application makes a significant difference in its overall usefulness. Since Meleleuca is a common allergen, people may want to test their reaction to it before planting it or using the oil regularly.
Originally found in Australia, the paperbark tea tree also grows very well in Florida. There, it is considered an invasive species. The paperbark tea tree can thrive in many parts of the southern U.S. It grows best in moist regions where homeowners can achieve a good balance of watering. Planted in full sun, it can grow over 40 feet.
Essential oil derived from the violet flowering plant may be a useful mosquito repellent, but the plant itself might not. Some evidence suggests that the plant acts as a ground cover providing necessary protection for mosquitoes to thrive. As such, homeowners may want to take care when planting violets outside in large quantities.
Violet oil is easy to locate and buy in the U.S., but its repellent qualities have not been studied very heavily. A 2006 study showed that violet oil was one of the most effective essential oils used as a contact repellent, providing 100 percent efficacy for about eight hours. The oil may offer adequate protection, particularly when used in conjunction with other oils. This use may require a higher concentration, which could irritate the skin. Homeowners may want to seek out a skilled aromatherapist or ask their doctor about violet oil.
There are dozens of varieties of violets, and some may be more attractive to mosquitoes than others. Homeowners often like to grow violets indoors, largely because they need warm soil in which to thrive. Violets prefer lower or indirect lighting, making them ideal for an indoor or shady area.
When people think of patchouli, they may already have a memory of its unique scent. For centuries, cultures have used patchouli as incense, perfume, and an effective insect repellent. The strong, earthy smell is unlike any other and goes a long way. Using patchouli oil may be the most practical application, but the plant is also known to discourage mosquitoes from lingering.
Undiluted, patchouli oil alone may provide up to two hours of mosquito protection when applied to the skin. When compared to lower concentrations such as 10 percent or 50 percent, the 100 percent concentration lasted much longer. One study yielded a result longer than five hours for patchouli mixed with turmeric and Zanthoxylum limonella oils. However, patchouli even in very small quantities can be overwhelming. People should take care when putting it on, as the scent will carry some distance.
Fortunately, patchouli as a flowering herb can also function partly as a spatial insect repellent. Native to East Asia, it can grow to 2-3 feet with fuzzy leaves and violet-colored flowers. A member of the mint family, it needs plenty of space to spread out. It can thrive in a pot or anywhere in the garden that receives partial sun exposure.
The technical classification of palmarosa is Cymbopogon martinii, making it a close relative of lemongrass and citronella. As such, it may not be surprising that palmarosa is useful as a mosquito repellent like its cousins. Its sweet, rosy scent makes it an ideal perfume or spray. The oil from the plant offers the best protection against mosquitoes.
Research is beginning to show that palmarosa can be effective against mosquitoes for hours longer than most oils or oil blends. One study resulted in 100 percent protection for up to 12 hours, far exceeding many other options. The efficacy seems to rely on a 100 percent concentration. This situates the lemon grasses as the most complete and longest-running protection that homeowners can use as an oil or spray. Some research indicates that palmarosa may be safer for human use at a higher concentration than other grass oils, and most essential oils in general.
Growing palmarosa at home may not be much more difficult than growing other types of lemongrass. It needs a mild, humid climate, but can thrive in a variety of soil types. Homeowners might like to grow palmarosa along with other grasses to act as a privacy screen or protection against insect infestation.
Zanthoxylum Limonella (Makaen)
Zanthoxylum limonella, more commonly known as makaen, is a tree that grows in various parts of Southeast Asia. Trees from this genus have many uses, among them spices and oils. Essential oil from the makaen tree could provide useful protection against certain kinds of mosquitoes for moderate periods of time.
Studies show that Zanthoxylum limonella oil can block mosquitoes for a variable amount of time, depending on its concentration and combination with other oils. For example, one study indicated that the undiluted oil provided 100 percent protection for almost three hours. Another study established complete protection at 20 percent concentration for about an hour and a half. When combined with turmeric and patchouli oils, it lasted more than five hours.
It is difficult to prove the effectiveness of the makaen tree’s efficacy as an insect repellent. However, it is a pleasing shrub that is relatively simple to grow inside or outside in a mild climate. Many people keep it indoors as a small shrub. The essential oil comes from the seeds. The berries can be dried and crushed to create the popular Sichuan pepper spice.
It makes sense that vanillin is a major component of vanilla extract. It is only one component and can be somewhat difficult to derive from the vanilla bean. When used as a conveyance for essential oils known to function as a mosquito repellent, vanillin can make the effects last hours longer.
The major problem with a lot of essential oils that repel insects is that they do not tend to last very long. Once applied to the skin, they evaporate relatively quickly, leaving the wearer unprotected. In addition, undiluted essential oils pose a host of potential health risks, especially for people who are not very skilled or knowledgeable about safe applications. Vanillin can provide a viable solution. The size of the vanillin molecules requires longer to break down, allowing the solution to release the potent oils over a longer period of time. Depending on the oil used, vanillin can increase an oil’s efficacy from less than two hours to more than eight hours.
The availability and price of products containing vanillin tend to wax and wane based on demand for the vanilla bean. Vanilla beans are difficult to harvest and take years to cultivate. Recent shortages have driven vanilla prices up, affecting vanillin as well. As such, homeowners may not have a difficult time locating natural mosquito repellents using vanillin as a carrier, but they may have to pay more for it.
Coffee can act a little like a sneak attack for mosquitoes. The brownish water looks somewhat like a leaf infusion, which can attract female mosquitoes looking to lay eggs. However, in strong quantities, coffee extract in water could actually repel mosquitoes or make the larvae less likely to develop. Burning coffee grounds could also work as a simple spatial insect repellent.
One study looked at coffee’s effects on mosquitoes that often carry dengue fever. Water sources that contained higher concentrations of coffee were less attractive to the female mosquitoes, and they were less likely to lay eggs there. Since coffee generates a significant amount of waste, this might pose possible solutions for people living in regions where mosquito breeding could spread serious or fatal diseases.
Homeowners looking for a way to discourage mosquitoes or other insects from building homes in the yard might consider placing coffee grounds around the garden. Coffee grounds are a natural byproduct of the coffee-making process, so they are usually easy to obtain for those who drink it. Using the grounds as a topping for the garden is safe for many plants. It creates a strong scent that discourages mosquitoes, ants, and slugs. Burning the coffee grounds should be done with care, but may also be effective. The smoke acts as its own repellent to mosquitoes, flies, and wasps. Burning increases the strength and the duration of the scent, which may keep insects at bay while people are enjoying time outside.
Other Helpful Tips for Reducing Mosquito Populations Around the Home
Dealing with mosquitoes is a common problem for many homeowners, especially during the warmer months of the year. It may be less of an issue for some condo owners, but – even then – this knowledge can come in handy at some point in the future. Many mosquitoes are little more than a nuisance, but it is difficult to tell the difference between a mosquito carrying nothing and one carrying Zika or malaria. A few extra precautions can make a big improvement.
Homeowners should know that mosquitoes breed in standing water. Standing water means water that is not moving or filtered in some way. This means that people should try to avoid leaving standing water on their properties, especially in the summer. Standing water might include:
- ponds without an effective filtration system
- puddles after a rainstorm
- wading pools and children’s water toys
- open rain barrels
- buckets used for watering or washing
Residents may not be able to eliminate these sources entirely, but they can minimize them. People can tightly seal water containers that they need to use on a regular basis.
Once the mosquitoes have established themselves in an area, homeowners might have to work a little harder to get rid of them. Most insect repellents operate by discouraging mosquitoes from coming near. Few natural options also function as an insecticide. Cinnamon oil may hold some promise to kill mosquito larvae before they hatch, but can be toxic at a high concentration. Products marketed as insecticides often contain artificial ingredients and poisons that could be harmful to humans as well as insects. People should take care when handling and applying them, especially around surfaces they use regularly.
Keeping mosquitoes outside mostly calls for attention to the home’s openings. Making sure there are no air gaps around doors and windows makes it harder for insects to sneak inside. Closing doors and windows allow the home’s cooling system to work more effectively. When windows and doors must be kept open for a time, homeowners can reduce their exposure by confirming that screens are in good condition.
As people explore the vast quantities of research out there about natural insect repellents, they may discover many more options not included on this list. Some claims may be harder to substantiate, even if certain cultures have been using them to prevent mosquitoes for thousands of years. As such, homeowners should take care to do their own research before assuming that any suggestions are either safe or particularly useful. Some of the most popular options to use as natural repellents, such as clove oil, require a concentration high enough that they could cause problems if applied incorrectly.
Products on the market can make it seem easy to use undiluted essential oils for a variety of purposes. However, people need to be wary of the way they use oils. Some options that are safe for humans may repel pets as well as insects. Others are only appropriate for uses that do not require direct contact with human skin. By gaining necessary information about the various oils’ efficacy and benefits, homeowners can find multiple possible routes they can take to cut down on mosquito bites and keep the pests off their properties.
The news is out: waterfront property isn’t as expensive as it used to be, according to a market analysis by Forbes. That means now may be the time to start looking and thinking about making that big purchase. And once you’ve completed the exciting task of finding and purchasing a waterfront home, there’s another difficult process: decorating. The commanding views and dynamic lighting of a waterfront property can make interior design even more intimidating and demanding than with a landlocked home. There are, however, many well used methods for setting up your new dwelling in a way that harmonizes the beauty of both the interior and exterior – a good idea for anyone interested in living well.
The centerpiece of a beach house will of course always be the water itself, so care should be taken so that each room complements and responds to the view. Nowhere is this more important than in the living/dining room; the rooms that you and your guests will undoubtedly spend the most time. One of the most important design concerns is how light will play out in the room. Think about where and when the light will be best in the house, and how it will move over time. Can you place the dining room table in a space where you won’t be blinded every dinner? Can you set up a nice space for cocktails where the view can be appreciated in the early evening? Use the windows as centerpieces and design out from there. Mirrors can help make spaces feel bigger, brighter, and more open, without distracting from windows. Try to space furniture so that eyes of guests are drawn naturally to the view.
Both personal and guest bedrooms provide a space to be a little bit more playful with decor, and to develop a theme for the home (just don’t go overboard). Bedrooms can be arranged around windows, but since they are smaller less care needs to be taken when placing furniture. It’s better to focus on picking colors and small objects that complement and highlight the exterior view than to distract with large decorative pieces. Try to treat each bedroom as a subtle response to it’s exterior. A guest bedroom (or street facing living room away from the water) can be a great place for a nice entertainment center incorporating a large screen and state-of-the-art speaker system. Or if you want to have a few spaces that are quirky, guest bedrooms are a natural place for this too.
The kitchen is perfect for working on thematic decor, as well as developing more interior focused design. Because there aren’t usually large furniture pieces in a kitchen, small decorative decisions can have an outsize impact here. The kitchen is also a good space to make unique; a room that says a little about the homeowners. It’s important to keep in mind both functional and aesthetic goals here, as this will be one of the rooms that gets the most use.
Tying it all together
Once you’ve got a theme picked and the furniture arranged just so comes the most exciting part: enjoying the view and fine tuning the details. After the big decisions have been made, setting up a home can be a much less involved, and more fun process of small tweaks and trial periods. All it takes is a bit of work, trial and error, and conscious decision making to find yourself comfortable and relaxed in a new waterfront home.
by Lucy Hudson
For many Floridians, there’s only one way to spend the Fourth of July – at the beach. Each year, thousands commemorate our nation’s freedom by flocking to the roughly 600 beaches of coastal Florida. As fireworks paint the sky shades of red, white, and blue, friends and strangers sit shoulder to shoulder on the shores below – a fitting celebration of the hard-earned rights, majestic natural lands, and solidarity shared by fellow Americans. And Floridians have long taken public beach access as a right.
Cape Coral: the largest 4th of July fireworks display in Southern Florida.
On Independence Day this year, however, those in the Sunshine State will have a bit less liberty to celebrate – and a lot less beach on which to do so.
A newly passed state law allows Florida’s waterfront property owners to restrict public access to the sandy shores that fall within their property lines. Signed a few weeks ago by Governor Rick Scott – despite the impassioned opposition of thousands of activists and beachgoers from throughout the state – House Bill 631 effectively strips the people of Florida of their right, which has been protected since the state’s inception, to recreational access to the state’s coastal lands.
Public Access to Florida Beaches: A Brief History
The relationship between public beach access and private property rights is a sticky, often complicated issue that has been the subject of countless legal disputes between private owners and municipal or state governments.
Public trust doctrine – the ancient legal principle that governments may protect certain natural resources for public use – has long maintained the common law right of state governments to hold in trust all beaches for public use. Today, each individual state is responsible for articulating, interpreting, and enforcing the particular guidelines that determine which beach land may be designated as public.
In Florida, coastal land below the “mean high water line” – all parts of the shore that become awash during high tide – have been arduously defended by municipal governments as open to the public, irrespective of private property lines. Wet sand has always been treated as belonging to the public domain, and while many beachfront property owners have fought to restrict public encroachment on their land, public trust doctrine has routinely been used to maintain the right to public access.
Local governments have often adopted “customary use ordinances” to preserve these rights, by identifying the state’s long and storied tradition of public use. In a landmark ruling in 1974 – City of Daytona Beach v. Tona-Rama, Inc. – the court enforced the public’s right to access a privately owned stretch of Daytona Beach by citing the deep, long-established connection between Florida’s coastal lands and its inhabitants: “No part of Florida is more exclusively hers, nor more properly utilized by her people,” the ruling proclaimed, “than her beaches. And the right of the public of access to, and enjoyment of, Florida’s oceans and beaches has long been recognized by this Court.”
The case also established a legal precedent that would yield enormous influence in similar disputes in the decades that followed. “If the recreational use of the sandy area adjacent to mean high tide has been ancient, reasonable, without interruption and free from dispute,” the court reasoned, “such use, as a matter of custom, should not be interfered with by the owner.” The case of Trepanier v. County of Volusia, in 2007, helped establish a means by which customary use could be systematically proven, through “eyewitness testimony, expert testimony, and aerial photographs of the general are of the beach.” Often, just a longtime local’s testimony, together with old family photographs of a trip to the shore, would be enough to establish customary use, and public beach access, within a contested beach region.
But those days are over. With the passage of HB 631, it is no longer in the hands of municipal governments to proclaim customary use; now, that capacity belongs solely to judges. Under the new law, customary use can only be proven in court, on a case-by-case basis, using ample and convincing evidence. Local governments no longer have the legal right to enforce public beach access to private beaches by passing customary use ordinances; the process has been moved to the judicial realm.
While private property owners previously had to build their case, the onus is now on members of the public to obtain judicial affirmation of customary use. To put it another way: for years, Florida’s coast was regarded as public until proven private, but now, it is private until proven public. Beachfront owners are now legally allowed to prohibit the public from walking along the sands above the high-tide line, whether by roping off parts of their beach property, constructing fences, or putting up signs.
Opponents of the new law assert that it benefits a few at the expense of many. Public beaches, they argue, are the heart of Floridian culture, extending all the way back beyond the state’s beginnings. Others warn that the ruling will cripple Florida’s tourism industry – the lifeblood of the state economy.
It is no coincidence that we celebrate our nation’s freedom and solidarity all along our coastal lands. In commemorating our nation’s independence, we celebrate the rights afforded to us as a result of our freedom – the hard-fought liberties it is our obligation to preserve. Chief among them is our right to enjoy the beautiful shores of our nation’s coasts.
As thousands of Americans descend upon the shores of the Sunshine State this Fourth of July – just three days after HB 631 officially goes into effect – we may do well to remember what it is we are celebrating. We may do well to remember the words to an old folk tune we know so well – a Woody Guthrie song that has been hailed, appropriately, as a national anthem in its own right – and which has become, to many Americans, synonymous with Independence Day celebrations:
“This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York island
From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me”
And we may do well to remember an earlier version of the song, with a lesser known but particularly timely verse:
“There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.”
Of the hundreds of homes lining the waterfront in Riviera Beach, Florida, Fane Lozman’s was a bit…unique. A 60-by-12-foot plywood structure plopped atop empty bilge space that kept it afloat, the floating home contained no engine, no rudder, no bow, and no sails; unlike neighboring houseboats, it had no means of self-propulsion, and could only travel when towed. Land based utilities, in the form of an extension cord and garden hose, provided the home with its energy and running water, and sewer lines connected it to the septic system of its dock.
That isn’t to say that Lozman’s home lacked for charm; French doors on three of its sides opened up to views of the Atlantic, and its water system, if a bit crude, allowed for a full-use bathroom and kitchen. A sitting room, private bedroom, and closet space rounded out the first floor, and a stairway led to a quaint second story office space.
In the latest of a string of legal disputes concerning the peculiar floating home, owner Fane Lozman is suing the city of Riviera Beach for $365,000 in restitution for seizing and destroying the structure, as a result of two court rulings that were later overturned by the United States Supreme Court.
The story begins in 2006, when the city of Riviera Beach made public their plans to seize 2,200 homes via eminent domain, along with the public marina, to sell to a private developer. Lozman was among the many Riviera Beach residents who rallied against the governmental seizure, which was ultimately prevented from happening.
In what can perhaps best be described as an act of petty retaliation for his outspoken opposition to their development aspirations a few years earlier, the city made several unsuccessful attempts to evict Lozman from the marina. In 2009, with the help of a federal admiralty lawsuit alleging that Lozman’s home was in violation of federal maritime law, Riviera Beach was finally able to seize Lozman’s home.
In district court, the city argued that Lozman’s home was in fact a vessel, since it was capable of transportation on water, and Lozman should therefore have been paying dockage fees for the three years that it had been moored in the city’s marina. The court ruled in the city’s favor, on the basis that the structure’s capacity for transportation qualified it as a vessel, rather than a home. Since vessels fall under what is known as admiral jurisdiction, placing them in the legal domain of federal maritime authorities, Lozman’s home was found to be in violation of admiral law since it had avoided federal inspection, dockage fees, and other regulations to which all waterborne ships are subject. As a result, a lien was placed on the home, and Lozman was evicted.
Lozman filed an appeal in the Court of Appeals shortly thereafter, asserting that his floating home was in fact a home, and not a ship, and therefore subject to the same regulations and protections as ordinary, land-based homes. The Court of Appeals confirmed and upheld the district court’s ruling, however, echoing the lower court’s contention that the home’s capacity for transportation on water effectively classified it as a vessel.
The Court of Appeals decision was based on a passage from the United States Code of Law, which defined a ‘vessel’ as any watercraft “used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.” First established in 1873, and re-codified in the Rules of Construction Act of 1947, this definition has remained virtually unchanged in the nearly 150 years since its inception and has served as the deciding factor in a number of similar cases.
Deemed a vessel, and not a home, the structure fell under the jurisdiction of federal maritime law, rather than state-tenant law, with which Lozman had been complying.
As punishment for failure to pay three years’ worth of dockage fees and for violating maritime law, Lozman’s structure was ordered sold at auction, whereupon the city of Riviera Beach purchased it and had it promptly destroyed.
Lozman was incensed, understandably, by the ruling; his home was incapable of self-propulsion, and could only be used as a means of transportation when towed by another vessel. Other than being towed by another boat to the Riviera Beach marina three years prior, the home had never been moved, and it had been used explicitly for residential purposes ever since. Anyone with two eyes and a shred of sense could see, he insisted, that it was a home, seldom used for transportation. How could a vague and antiquated legal definition – the primary function of which was to ensure that commercial and other vessels operated safely and responsibly – overlook the obvious fact that this floating home was just that – a home – and not a ship?
Ignoring the fact that it was too late to salvage his home, Lozman decided to take the fight to the Supreme Court. In the outside chance that his case would be picked up, he reasoned, a victory would at the very least afford him financial restitution – and a sense of justice – for the destruction of his house.
Against all odds, Lozman’s case was selected for review by the Supreme Court, and against even greater odds, the rulings from both previous proceedings were overturned. In January of 2013 – four years after Lozman’s floating home was seized from him, and three years after it was destroyed – the United States Supreme Court determined in a 7-2 majority ruling that a waterborne structure’s capacity for transportation is not sufficient to qualify it as a vessel.
In explaining their decision, the Justices asserted that the definition of “transportation” – the conveyance of people or things from one place to another – must be applied in a practical, rather than literal, way. In other words, floating homes capable of being towed across water, presumably transporting household items along with them and nothing more, are not necessarily ‘vessels’ for transport, and should not be classified as such.
Accordingly, the ruling established an important legal precedent concerning homes and other structures that float on water, whereby federal maritime law cannot be applied in disputes involving structures whose functions and legal designations are ambiguous; instead, these structures must instead be governed by state law.
The decision marks a significant victory for the owners of the estimated 10,000 floating homes throughout the country. Federal maritime law tends to be inflexible and unfriendly to the interests of owners, relying on an outmoded legal definition that ignores the ways in which the disputed structures are actually used. Under admiralty jurisdiction, floating homes are often mischaracterized as vessels, making them liable for dockage fees, U.S. Coast Guard inspections, and a number of other undue restrictions.
Under the jurisdiction of state law, however, floating homes are much more likely to be recognized as residences, and afforded the same rights and protections – homestead exemptions, for example – of land-based homes.
This ruling was reached in 2013. Why are we talking about it now?
Well, four years after the Supreme Court overturned the rulings that saw his home seized, auctioned off, and demolished, Lozman has yet to receive a penny of reimbursement. He has already returned to court – the same district and appeals courts whose rulings were later reversed by the Supreme Court – in order to fight for restitution. Again, both courts have ruled against him.
Lozman asserts that the city of Riviera Beach owes him $165,000 for the destruction – later deemed unwarranted by the Supreme Court – of his floating home. He is also demanding compensation for his legal fees, to the tune of $200,000. “When the Supreme Court says something,” he contends, “it’s not for the lower courts to blow off their mandate.”
While the initial Supreme Court ruling sets an important precedent for future disputes involving waterborne structures such as Lozman’s, it does not carry with it an explicit mandate requiring the city of Riviera Beach to retroactively make good, so to speak, on their seizure and destruction of Lozman’s home. Neither the district nor the appeals courts have found the city responsible for compensating Lozman. The city’s main defense is that they had been acting in accordance with the law at the time; the Supreme Court decision, they maintain, has no bearing on actions that preceded it, only on those that follow after.
As improbable as it was that Lozman’s first case would be selected for review by the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s even more unlikely that his new filings will reach the Court. While Lozman may be a hero to the thousands of floating homeowners across the nation, whose rights were protected and expanded by the precedent established by his case, it’s unlikely that Lozman himself will be able to cash in. He may have to settle for the role of martyr.
With over 150 major rivers and streams from six different states flowing into it, Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the lower 48 states. It plays a crucial role in both the ecology and the economy of Maryland and Virginia, the two states it spans, and has long been treasured for its pristine beauty and abundant, diverse wildlife.
Home to more than 300 species of fish and copious amounts of clams and oysters, Chesapeake Bay has supported one of the highest-grossing seafood industries in the United States. It has also proven wildly popular among tourists, lured in hordes to its gorgeous blue waters, scenic shores, and the ample opportunities for fishing, crabbing, boating, and sailing that it offers.
The Dawn of Decline
Beginning in the early 1970s, however, Chesapeake Bay began to be plagued by a number of troubles, many of which persist to this day. Its rivers and streams, once a glassy, shimmering blue, had become enveloped in toxic green sheaths that permeated the air with an acrid, putrefying odor.
Its shores, once teeming with wildlife, were experiencing dramatic reductions in aquatic vegetation and animal life. Entire populations of fish were being wiped out, their corpses floating to the surface, and washing up on the banks, in some cases by the thousands.
These problems, which seemed to crop up overnight, proved only the beginning of the sudden and steep decline that the bay would continue to experience. In less than a decade, Chesapeake Bay had become the poster child for human-induced environmental degradation, and all of its entailing devastation.
The Cause of Decline
What was the cause of all of this? How had one of the Eastern seaboard’s most prosperous biodiversities become its most polluted region, and in so short a time?
Intent on finding answers to these questions, Congress funded extensive scientific research of the Chesapeake Bay in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The findings of these series of investigations revealed that the problems plaguing Chesapeake Bay were largely the result of human activities. Construction, agriculture, and industry were found to be the primary contributors to the bay’s deteriorating health, because of the enormous amount of waste that each activity generates. These wastes, the studies showed, were being funneled directly into the bay by runoff, causing rampant growth of algae across the bay’s surface.
Algal blooms not only use up a great deal of oxygen that is present in the water, but they also block sunlight from penetrating below the surface. As algae proliferated across the surface of the bay, huge swaths of aquatic vegetation – unable to withstand the loss of oxygen and sunlight – were completely wiped out. Without vegetation, vast regions of the bay became uninhabitable, and the wildlife they had been supporting either dwindled or perished altogether.
Working Towards a Solution
In response to these findings, the governors of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, along with the mayor of Washington DC and the administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, signed the Chesapeake Bay Agreement of 1983. The agreement signified their collective dedication to restoring Chesapeake Bay to its former grace and outlined a number of measures by which they planned to do so. Each measure belonged to one or more of five basic categories: living resource management, vital habitat protection, community engagement, water quality, and sound land use.
Most of the legislation that proceeded from the agreement focused on the last of these categories: sound land use. Given that the leading agents behind Chesapeake Bay’s deteriorating health – construction, farming, and industry – were also those most responsible for altering the natural landscape, the Maryland and Virginia state governments recognized the need for stricter land use policies. A host of new laws aimed at protecting the bay from waste-filled runoff were soon implemented, with new regulations that specified which lands could be used for which purposes and which lands were off-limits altogether.
Critical Area Law
One of the most stringent of these measures, Maryland’s Critical Area law, came right on the heels of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement and represented a groundbreaking advance in environmental legislation. It was the strongest of several laws that comprised the Chesapeake Bay Initiative, which then-Governor Harry R. Hughes had hoped would return the estuary to its former glory. By restricting development within 1,000 feet of the shoreline and disallowing any disturbance to land or vegetation within 100 feet of the water, Critical Area law sought to improve Chesapeake Bay’s water quality and preserve its waterfront wildlife habitat by ensuring the preservation of 5,200 miles of Maryland shoreline.
Only under exceptional circumstances – in theory, at least – could a landowner become exempt from these restrictions, by applying for a variance and receiving approval from the county.
Critical Area law pioneered a nationwide surge in environmental legislation that placed restrictions on development. By prohibiting any and all construction on Maryland’s waterfront land, Critical Area law was expected to curtail further pollution of Chesapeake Bay, and thus ameliorate its diminished water quality, revivify its dwindling vegetation, restore its damaged habitats, and revitalize its waning wildlife.
So, did it succeed?
Unfortunately not. Today, Chesapeake Bay is just as contaminated, and in some areas far more so, than ever before. Several species of fish and shellfish in the bay have reached record lows, as have numerous species of aquatic plants. The two nutrients responsible for the algal blooms that continue to plague the bay, nitrogen, and phosphorus, remain present in far higher levels than what is healthy and normal. And the bay is still ridden with marine dead zones – areas so lacking in oxygen that they cannot support plant or animal life – that render the bay more and more uninhabitable.
Why did it fail?
A number of follow-up studies have been conducted in order to determine why it is that Chesapeake Bay’s deterioration has persisted in spite of the introduction of so much, and such aggressive, environmental legislation. One such study, published in 2008, investigated Critical Area law and the influence it has had on the health of the bay since its inception. The study’s findings indicate that while Critical Area law has proven effective in preventing large-scale development of Chesapeake Bay, poor enforcement of the law has more or less negated its impact on smaller-scale development. Lenient approval of variances and lax monitoring of compliance have seen the law tiptoed around – or ignored completely – by droves of waterfront landowners over the past three decades.
According to the study, variance requests by owners hoping to build on their waterfront property had been approved at a whopping 75% – a staggeringly high rate that far exceeds what the authors of the bill had envisioned in 1983.
Those without permission to build – either because their variance requests were denied or because they hadn’t bothered applying – went ahead and built anyway. Less than a decade after the new law went into effect, structures of every imaginable type – gazebos, pools, porches, full-size homes, even mansions, and lighthouses, to name a few – had sprung up across the Maryland shoreline, many of them well within 1,000 feet of Chesapeake Bay.
Though these structures reflect a brazen disregard for state law, the study found that the vast majority of these violators went unpunished. County agencies tasked with monitoring compliance were too understaffed and underfunded to supervise so many miles of coastline, let alone administer sanctions. For the most part, punitive action was only taken when waterfront property owners lodged formal complaints against neighbors whose illegal structures impeded their views or beach access. The fines these violators were assessed were laughably small, hardly enough to deter anyone from building illegally.
The study also showed that violators were rarely ordered to tear down their illegal structures. In one case, an enormous mansion on a small island in the Magothy River – replete with a lighthouse, pool, gazebo, and boat ramp – was built without a single approval, went unnoticed for four years, and, after finally being discovered, was permitted to stand (other than the pool and gazebo, which were ordered removed).
When caught, violators often applied for ‘retroactive variances’ which, for the most part, were just as easy to obtain as those requested prior to construction.
Has anything changed?
How has Critical Area law been more effective in the past decade? Did the findings from the 2008 study lead to stronger enforcement?
A study recently published by the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic reveals that enforcement of Critical Area law has become even more ineffectual in recent years. Among the six counties included in the study, data showed that variance requests between 2012 and 2014 had been granted from 89% to 100% of the time. Those applying for variances frequently cited the term “unwarranted hardship” to justify their need to build. Without explicit guidelines by which to evaluate these ‘hardships,’ however, counties were given far too much discretion in approving construction and proved far too accommodating.
In addition to woefully substandard oversight and lenient granting of variances, each of the six counties failed to keep adequate records of the few interventions they did make. Without proper records of each case they dealt with, they were unable to keep track of the waterfront properties they had monitored, and consequently, the variances they had denied and penalties they had assessed.
Another contributing factor to the rampant development of Maryland waterfront along the bay is the fact that most counties in the state do not have an inspector whose primary task is to examine properties for their Critical Area law compliance. That duty belongs to any number of field staff, whose primary focus is on other matters, such as construction grading and stormwater management. Additionally, many counties do not have their own boat, which severely limits the amount of oversight they are able to exercise. Anne Arundel County, for instance – one of the 6 counties studied – contains over 500 miles of shoreline, containing thousands of waterfront properties that couldn’t possibly be monitored adequately without a boat.
The future of Chesapeake Bay – what does it look like?
It’s hard to say. A number of factors do not bode well for its eventual restoration, not least of which is the fact that an estimated 100,000 new residents move into areas around the bay each year. Additionally, many of the surrounding counties remain underfunded and incapable of policing waterfront construction.
Fines for violators remain low, often less than $1,000, and homeowners continue to build as they please. Approval of variances remains high, and Maryland’s tradition of local control means that any law that would grant the state the authority to permit variances would never pass.
It is unlikely that the federal government will intervene either, as President Trump just signed an executive order repealing one of former President Obama’s major environmental regulations, which aimed to protect American waterways. The regulation was initially issued as part of the 1972 Clean Water Act, which was inspired by the contamination of Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River, and Puget Sound. Completed by the Obama administration in 2015, the rule was intended to restore federal authority to limit pollution in the nation’s major waterways, as well as the streams and wetlands flowing into them. President Trump’s move to repeal the regulation precludes Chesapeake Bay from receiving federal assistance.
But there is also a reason for hope. In 2010, the ecosystem health of Chesapeake Bay was given a rating of 31, which, although dismal, is three points higher than it scored in 2008 – a significant increase.
Additionally, recent polls have revealed that Americans are becoming increasingly wary of the threat posed by climate change. As more and more people across the nation accept the reality of climate change and the need to combat it, Americans are becoming increasingly receptive to a policy aimed at mitigating our collective impact on the environment. Though perhaps no cause for celebration, the upward trend in national concern for climate change is certainly a cause for optimism. And as for restoring Chesapeake Bay to the state of prosperity from which it only so recently fell, it may be our only hope.
A number of legal battles concerning the relationship between public access laws and private property rights for waterfront homes are unfolding across the country, four of which are being closely followed due to the broader implications of their rulings and the precedents they will set — particularly as they affect waterfront homes for sale.
Each dispute pertains to waterfront land that is privately owned yet falls under the protection of public trust doctrine – the legal principle that permits governments to designate certain natural resources for public use. Belonging to the public and private realm simultaneously, this type of land is frequently the subject of lengthy legal proceedings in which the right of landowners to exclusive use of their property is weighed against the right of the government to retain shoreline, bodies of water, and other natural resources for public use. Litigation is often necessary to provide case-specific interpretation of the rights and limits of each involved party.
Two of these legal battles continue to be waged in court, but rulings have recently been reached in the other two. In both cases, the panel upheld the public’s right to use land that is privately owned yet also designated, under public trust doctrine, for public use.
WISCONSIN WATER RIGHTS BATTLE
The first of these cases concerns the right of a waterfront property owner in Wisconsin to construct a dock on flowage waters that border her property, but which also flow over submerged land – the riverbed – that belongs to her neighbor.
Claiming that his ownership of the waterbed beneath the flowage gave him the right to exclusive use of the water flowing above it, David Lobermeier sued his neighbor Gail Movrich – who also happens to be his sister – for installing a dock over the flowage.
Citing the Wisconsin Constitution, which holds navigable waters in trust for public navigation and recreation, the panel ruled against Lobermeier on the grounds that the state’s public trust doctrine grants Movrich, as a member of the public, unrestricted access to the flowage waters, and consequently, the freedom to build a pier as “a natural extension of the navigational and recreational activities” that she is guaranteed.
The case is significant because it set the precedent for disputes involving the right to access a water body that abuts one’s property, yet also happens to flow atop a riverbed owned by someone else. The unique designation of the water body as a “flowage” – a body of water formed by overflowing – also factored into the panel’s decision, as did the fact that Lobermeier owned only a fraction of the flowage waterbed. Had it been a lake, for instance, and the entire waterbed owned by Lobermeier, the panel reasoned, the Wisconsin Constitution would have allowed Movrich to access the water, but not to build a dock atop it.
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WHO OWNS THE DRY SAND IN NORTH CAROLINA?
In the second case, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled against a retired couple’s claim that an ordinance prohibiting them from building within a 20-foot wide stretch of beach behind their North Carolina home was a violation of their right to exclusive use of their property.
But reasoning that the North Carolina public trust doctrine guarantees public access to all of the state’s beaches – not, as in the couple’s home state of New Jersey, just the wet-sand sections – the Court preserved a long-standing North Carolina common law which holds the entirety of the state’s beach land in trust for the use and enjoyment of the public.
Had the Court decided differently, the repercussions would have been so dire, and so far-reaching, that a host of other coastal towns throughout North Carolina contributed money and support to Emerald Isle’s defense efforts.
For instance, important public services including emergency response, beach patrol, trash collection, and environmental conservation groups are all reliant on full public access to the state’s beach and would have had to drastically modify or even suspend their services had the Court defended the right of private owners to exclusive use of public beach within their property lines.
Another consequence of such a ruling would have been the fencing off of privately owned beach properties from the public portions of the beach, which would have proven disastrous as far as the appeal of these beachfront communities for visitors, and dealt a blow to coastal businesses that rely on revenue generated by tourism.
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HALF MOON BAY FIGHTS BACK
In Northern California’s Half Moon Bay, desire for public access to a beach that has been closed to the public since 2010 is so widespread and fervent that the community has mobilized the California State Lands Commission in hopes of seizing the beach from its owner through eminent domain.
Though the cost of doing so could reach up to tens of millions of dollars – a sum that is highly unlikely to be raised, even in the affluent town of Half Moon Bay – state Senator Jerry Hill introduced a bill which would appropriate money from the general fund and allocate it toward the cause.
The California State Lands Commission is unlikely to act until the three pending cases involving the property are settled, the most recent of which is a lawsuit filed by the owner against the Commission and two other government agencies he alleges to have violated his 14th Amendment rights by denying him exclusive use of his own property.
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ZUCKERBERG vs. KAUAI
In Kauai, a public uproar has been caused by the island’s newest inhabitant – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – whose disregard for the state’s public access laws and indifference to the rights and desires of native residents is rubbing many the wrong way.
Zuckerberg’s new home – a 700-acre estate he purchased for $100 million – contains within its boundaries a number of public beach access points, a popular coastal pathway, and a trail believed by many to be the Ala Loa – a legendary ancient footpath protected for public use under the Highways Act of 1892.
Historians, activists, advisors to the Department of Land and Natural Resources on Native Hawaiian Cultural Matters, and many others have been pleading with Zuckerberg to allow public access to the trail – which is in fact guaranteed to the public under the state’s public access laws – but Zuckerberg refuses to respond. Additionally, several community members have reported being accosted and threatened by Zuckerberg’s security guards for using the coastal pathway that runs through his estate. In June, a 6-foot tall rock wall constructed around the property was interpreted by many as an expression of the Facebook mogul’s indifference to their rights and wishes, as well as his blatant disregard for public access law.
Zuckerberg has been urged to at least create easements that make it easier for the public to utilize the beach access points on his property, which lead to two of Kauai’s most legendary and beloved beaches – Ka’aka’anui and Pilaa – but he shows no intention of doing so. According to public access law in Hawaii, the public is afforded unrestricted access to all of the state’s beaches, as well as the right to safe passage along the entire coast, even if safe passage requires people to traverse private property.
Despite the ongoing tension between Zuckerberg and so many of his new neighbors, lawsuits have thus far been avoided. If the Facebook CEO continues to deny them access to these public resources, however, expect the dispute to be settled in the courthouse. Public trust doctrine, the Highways Act of 1892, and common decency each hold that the residents of Kauai are entitled to enjoy any public resources that fall within Zuckerberg’s 700 acres.
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For hundreds of years, open access to oceans, shores, and other natural resources has been maintained and enforced as an inalienable human right. A host of factors – overdevelopment of waterfront houses for sale chief among them – have led to a colossal decline in universal enjoyment of this liberty over the past century, however, as the privatization of land continues to sequester more and more of our planet’s offerings for the sole enjoyment of a privileged few.
As beaches and shores continue to vanish underneath steadily rising seas, causing rapidly receding coasts to encroach ever more on the privately-owned waterfront, the problematic relationship between private property rights and public access laws will not only persist but intensify. One can only hope that waterfront landowners, their governing bodies, and the general public can learn to find a compromise; one that acknowledges proprietary entitlements and allows for waterfront homes, yet adheres to the idea that our planet’s natural resources are the rightful domain of all living beings and not merely the few who purchase and inherit them. True democracy demands, and perhaps begins with, the democratization of land.