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Walton County Commission fights for customary use of beaches

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2019 | Real Estate Disputes

The panhandle of Florida is known for its pristine beaches and emerald coastline. Vacationers and property owners alike enjoy these beautiful beaches. Many pay a premium to stay at resorts along this coastline or own private property in the area.

What is changing? The Walton County Commission is pushing to make all the beaches in the county, including those along the emerald coast, open to the public. The move is in direct conflict with a law passed last year which prioritized coastal ownership rights. This was discussed in detail in a previous post, available here.  

Why the push for change? The Commission’s argument relies in part on the legal theory of customary use. This argument essentially entails the thought that the beach should be open to the public regardless of the language of a property deed. Property owners counter beach-goers are not always respectful of the beach they visit, sometimes getting loud and flagrant and leaving messes behind when they leave.

How are property owners responding to the push for customary use? Property owners are concerned the beach that extends beyond their property could be claimed through the legal theory of customary use. In response, some are filing for a quiet title on the land from their home to the mean high tide line. The most notable being former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

The former presidential candidate, along with his neighbor, filed with the court to obtain a “quiet title” for both properties. The request was granted.

The push against customary use extends beyond simple enjoyment of the beach. Property owners could find themselves not only dealing with the general public enjoying the beach in their backyard, but could also face potential liability if someone gets injured.

Anyone interested in purchasing property along the beach in Florida is wise to get a full understanding of what the purchase agreement covers. Is the beach included? Is customary use an issue for this parcel? An attorney experienced in these matters can review the purchase agreement and answer these questions.