Skip to content

Is Your Neighbor’s Dock on Your Property?

April 24, 2017

In Michigan, one who owns land on an inland lake (a “riparian”) owns the adjacent riparian bottomlands to the center of the lake. Unlike upland areas, there are no legal descriptions to precisely identify those riparian bottomlands. Instead, a licensed surveyor, ideally one experienced with these issues, offers an opinion as to how riparian bottomlands should be apportioned. For more information on how riparian bottomlands are apportioned, see my previous post, Is your neighbor’s dock on your bottomlands? A problem I frequently encounter is that someone simply follows the angles of their upland property lines into the lake. The angle of those upland property lines is irrelevant to a riparian bottomland apportionment.

I’ve always envied accountants because their busy season ends when the weather starts to get nice. As a riparian rights attorney, I have the opposite problem. When lake season approaches and docks and lifts are installed, my professional life gets more hectic. Each year riparians seem to acquire new water toys. Because the lake has not gotten any bigger, conflicts often result as the near-shore space gets crowded.

While neighbors are understandably reluctant to confront one another, ignoring encroachment by a neighbor could ultimately result in a loss of property rights, affecting both the use and enjoyment of the property, as well as resale value. There are several legal doctrines which your neighbor may rely upon to claim title to, or permanent use of a portion of your property, including adverse possession, prescriptive rights, or acquiescence. For more information, see our page on boundary disputes. It may, therefore, be a costly mistake to simply ignore a neighbor’s encroachment onto your riparian bottomlands.

Sign up to be the first to access our leading legal insights.

The link you have selected will redirect you to a third-party website located on another server. We are offering the link for your convenience. Varnum has no responsibility for any external websites and makes no express or implied warranties about any external websites.

Please be aware that contacting us via e-mail does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm. Do not send confidential information to the firm until you have spoken with one of our attorneys and receive authorization to send such materials.