Although the following could apply anywhere along our open bays, marshlands and/or estuaries, we'll pretend it actually occurred along the Metedeconk.
The house and land were picturesque, material suitable for a New Jersey Shore vacation postcard. The property was purchased in the late 1960's for cash. The owners, now empty nesters, decided to sell and accordingly listed it with a local Realtor. Soon thereafter an offer, sizeable in amount, was tendered and much to the delight of the sales agent involved it was accepted. The closing process was expedited to accommodate the anxiousness of all parties involved especially the buyer who constantly had visions of parking his power boat next to the 16 foot dock extending into the Metedeconk.
And then the bad news arrived!
It came in the form of an exception to title insurance coverage as identified in the title binder issued by a local title company. Specifically, and in painful detail, a State Tideland's claim was identified affecting the dock, bulkhead and much of the adjoining land heretofore thought to belong to the current property owner. A cloud on title resulted and a quick closing did not.
Needless to say all parties involved, including the sales agent, were devastated.
Unfortunately, this scenario, although not too common, is not an isolated case. Many waterfront properties have part or all of their land claimed by the State, many times without the knowledge of their owners.
During recent decades the question of ownership and rights in property adjoining waterways, rivers, bays, oceans and marshland have become an extremely controversial subject. The State of New Jersey, relying on the well established Public Trust Doctrine, has filed it's claim for lands now or formerly flowed by the mean high water. In a process of analyzing topographical features, vegetation, historical background, and U.S. Coast and Geodetic Surveys the State has produced a series of maps (aerial photographs) which identify those areas it is claiming, subject of course to any previously issued riparian grants.
A waterfront property owner and/or real estate agent should take care in determining if their property is in fact claimed and whether a corresponding riparian grant has ever been obtained. Whenever evaluating a waterfront property it is a good idea to ask to see a copy of the current owner's title report. Special attention should be given to tidelands claims and/or riparian grants. A property owner or agent can also obtain a copy of the survey and look for a mean high water line depicted thereon.
If an owner or agent is unsure of a tidelands claim, they can order a tidelands search from Lafayette Title by calling our office at 732-341-1090.
The time to resolve a claim is prior to (not after) the sale.