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How Beach Access Conflicts with the Rights of Coastal Rhode Island Property Owners

Beachfront property can be some of the most valuable and desirable real estate in Rhode Island. However, beachfront property owners often face difficulties in exercising their property rights and maintaining privacy when members of the public seek to use beaches abutting a property owners’ home. These conflicts impact not only beach-lovers, but also property owners and real estate developers.

Under Rhode Island law, the public is guaranteed access to all beaches in the state, at least up to the high tide water line. This public access is guaranteed through an easement that a state or municipal organization has on any privately owned property, which includes shoreline. It is not always clear whether public rights to beach access extend above the high tide line. These uncertainties can result in disputes between members of the public and shore front property owners, along with conflicts between nearby property owners seeking to access a beach from their own homes.

Although well-established laws guarantee the rights of the public to access and traverse beaches on private property, some property owners have decided to construct sea walls or beachfront patios that restrict access to the beach, sometimes creating the appearance of a private beach in violation of state law. Although these beaches are not, in fact, private, the existence of obstructions below the high tide water line function to deter beach goers from using the beaches adjoining private property. While members of the public or state and municipal organizations can challenge such construction in state court and seek to have obstacles removed, property owners often get away with restricting beach access for extended periods.

In addition to beach access concerns along the waterline, many conflicts occur between property owners and others over beach access routes from public roads and parking. Some trails and walkways accessing the beach are subject to public easements for access even though they may appear to be private. Property owners can be tempted to place signage along a public beach access to discourage beach goers from using the trail. Public parking along beaches also becomes a problem during peak tourist season, as the limited parking available is often not enough to satisfy the public demand for beach access, resulting in excess illegal parking on public and private land. Rhode Island property owners may have a legal right to restrict open access to the beaches adjacent to their property, but the laws can be complicated and ambiguous, and a Rhode Island real estate attorney can be able to help decide on the best options to protect owners’ property rights.

Are You Concerned by Public Use of a Beach on Your Private Property?

If you are a beachfront property owner and concerned about possible illegal use of your property, which is diminishing your ability to enjoy your own real estate, you may have a legal right to restrict trespassing on your property. Although the public has some right to use beaches for recreation and fishing, specific uses or access points may not be subject to a public easement. The Rhode Island real estate attorneys with Bilodeau Capalbo have specific knowledge of the issues facing beachfront property owners in our state, and we can help you find a solution to your problems that ensures your property rights are protected and remain so. Call our offices at 401-300-4055 to enlist the help of a dedicated Rhode Island real estate attorney at Bilodeau Capalbo today.

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