Floating home is NOT a boat,sez US Suprimes

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by FAST FRED, Jan 25, 2013.

    Joined: Oct 2002
    Posts: 4,519
    Likes: 109, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1009
    Location: Conn in summers , Ortona FL in winter , with big d

    FAST FRED Senior Member

    By: Associated Press/Jesse J. Holland

    WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruled Jan. 15 that a Florida man’s floating home is a house, not a boat -- and, thus, is not covered by maritime law. The case that could affect thousands of people around the country who make their home on floating structures that do not resemble traditional boats -- in marinas, bays and coves.

    The high court ruled 7-2 for Fane Lozman, who argued that the gray two-story floating home -- approximately 60 feet in length -- that he towed to a marina in Riviera Beach, Fla., should not have been affected by maritime law.

    Justice Stephen Breyer, who included a picture of Lozman’s craft in the opinion, said maritime law affects vessels that are “watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.” The key words, Breyer said, were “capable of being used,” and the court was concerned with practical possibilities, not merely the theoretical.

    “We believe that a reasonable observer, looking to the home’s physical characteristics and activities, would not consider it to be designed to any practical degree for carrying people or things on water,” Breyer said. “And we consequently conclude that the floating home is not a vessel.”

    According to the records, Lozman’s floating home had no self-propulsion, no independent electricity, not even a rudder. To move it on water, it had to be towed.

    Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Anthony Kennedy dissented, with Sotomayor saying Breyer’s opinion creates a new and unnecessary test.

    “An objective assessment of a watercraft’s purpose or function governs whether that structure is a vessel,” she said. “The court, however, creates a novel and unnecessary ‘reasonable observer’ reformulation of these principles and errs in its determination, under this new standard, that the craft before us is not a vessel.”

    Lozman bought the 60- by 12-foot floating home -- with French doors, a sitting room, a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchen and an office -- in 2002. In 2006, he had it towed to a marina in Riviera Beach, where he kept it docked.

    After several disputes with the city, and unsuccessful attempts to evict him, city officials used U.S. maritime law to impose a lien on Lozman’s property to cover dockage fees and damages for trespass.

    Lozman argued that his home was a house, not a vessel, which would have given it some protection from seizure under state law. But federal judges sided with the city, and the floating home was seized and destroyed.

    The city, however, was forced to post a $25,000 bond, which Lozman said he will pursue in District Court to reimburse him for the cost of his property, including the furniture and personal possessions that were destroyed after the impoundment of his property.

    The lower courts were too broad in their descriptions of vessels, Breyer said.

    “Not every floating structure is a vessel,” Breyer said. “To state the obvious, a wooden washtub, a plastic dishpan, a swimming platform on pontoons, a large fishing net, a door taken off its hinges or Pinocchio (when inside the whale) are not ‘vessels,’ even if they are ‘artificial contrivance(s)’ capable of floating, moving under tow and incidentally carrying even a fair-sized item or two when they do so.”

    A structure would not fall under the definition of vessel “unless a reasonable observer, looking to the home’s physical characteristics and activities, would consider it designed to a practical degree for carrying people or things over water,” he said.

    Two states with floating home populations -- Washington state and California -- have laws that are consistent with the justices’ opinion, Breyer said.

    “These states, we are told, treat structures that meet their ‘floating home’ definitions like ordinary land-based homes rather than like vessels,” Breyer said. “Consistency of interpretation of related state and federal laws is a virtue.”

    More than 5,000 Americans own floating homes, and there are more than 60 floating casinos in the United States.
  2. michael pierzga
    Joined: Dec 2008
    Posts: 4,862
    Likes: 115, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 1180
    Location: spain

    michael pierzga Senior Member


    Sounds like he got someone in high places angry


  3. El_Guero

    El_Guero Previous Member

    Strange days. Strange people. Stranger laws and lawyers.
  4. tom28571
    Joined: Dec 2001
    Posts: 2,474
    Likes: 116, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1728
    Location: Oriental, NC

    tom28571 Senior Member

    If a "floating home" is being towed on open water and damages a "vessel", what laws prevail if not maritime? If you buy a commercial barge and build a house on it, what is it? This is the court of the "Citizens United" corporations are people decision. Got some real weirdos up there.
  5. hoytedow
    Joined: Sep 2009
    Posts: 5,658
    Likes: 277, Points: 93, Legacy Rep: 2489
    Location: North of Cuba

    hoytedow Bananas

    This country is in grave danger from the supremes, and I don't mean the singers.
  6. troy2000
    Joined: Nov 2009
    Posts: 1,743
    Likes: 170, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 2078
    Location: California

    troy2000 Senior Member

    Those are questions with simple answers. Maritime law has plenty of precedent for making the towing vessel the responsible vessel in case of a collision.

    And if you buy a commercial barge and build a house on it, you now have a floating house instead of a barge. How hard is that?:)
    No danger in this decision, and I'm not sure why anyone would think there is. You'll notice the article points out that California and Oregon already have laws treating floating homes differently from vessels. That hasn't caused any problems I've heard of...

    Makes sense to me. Just like a mobile home being towed to a homesite by a motor vehicle isn't a motor vehicle, a floating home being towed to its slip by a vessel isn't a vessel.
  7. tom28571
    Joined: Dec 2001
    Posts: 2,474
    Likes: 116, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1728
    Location: Oriental, NC

    tom28571 Senior Member

    Its clear that I am not a lawyer. Don't really have much problem with the decision as long as it doesn't create more problems than it solves and existing laws cover the eventualities. Marina operators may need to take a look at their potential problems though. Not so the Citizens United decision.
  8. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    It's in tow so it is part of the tug, literally.
  9. troy2000
    Joined: Nov 2009
    Posts: 1,743
    Likes: 170, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 2078
    Location: California

    troy2000 Senior Member

    Yeah... the Citizens United decision is a whole different can of worms.
  10. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 2,936
    Likes: 140, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1593
    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    This is actually a good decision, it clarified what can be called a boat or not. It seems to me the marina officials failed to notice that maritime law had the statement "used...as a means of transportation". That problem of having floating homes in the marina is easily solved btw, they just pass a law that only vessels that can be used as means of transportation can use the marina. they pulled the trigger and executed on a non-existent law, now the tax payers get to pay the price for it. If they did not want a floating home in their marina, they should have lobbied to have that law changed.

    Also, when you are towing at sea or on land, the tow vehicle is the one that needs to insure what you are towing. Consider when tugs tow large rafts of logs to the lumber mill, you can not argue that the logs are a "vessel", same issue be it a house or a log.
  11. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    That is correct Petros, see post #8.
  12. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
    Posts: 3,076
    Likes: 246, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1279
    Location: Lakeland Fl USA

    messabout Senior Member

    Riviera Beach is Florida town on the lower east coast. It appears that they have some officials that are shamefully less than brilliant. They have cost the taxpayers several times more than the damned floating house was worth. The cat fight is not over either.

    The citizens of Tenn, N.C., and elsewhere have a couple of cute names for Floridia visitors to their states. The names are; Florons and or Floridiots. I used to resent that a little bit...........but now I know that those derisive names may be closer to the truth than I had wanted to admit.
  13. El_Guero

    El_Guero Previous Member

    Well whether they won or lost, he got over big time.

    His 'house' was falling apart and in need of repair. His refusal to fix things and pay his debt seemed to have been the root of the problem.

    And the real problem here is that people can claim they are living somewhere to prevent eviction .....

    Wait till someone puts up a tent in the middle of an interstate ....
  14. philSweet
    Joined: May 2008
    Posts: 2,339
    Likes: 201, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1082
    Location: Beaufort, SC and H'ville, NC

    philSweet Senior Member

    Maybe, Maybe not. They would have to have jurisdiction. That's a bit tricky.
    If the marina just has a lease on the bottom, it may not be from the city and probably isn't. Cities are finding it very hard to gain control of the local watery viewshed. A few have succeeded after many many years of trying. But it seems to be beyond the capability of most city counsels. In the case of floating homes, you usually have an address and city utility connection in the city, but the structure lies outside. Similar to a house that sits in one county with a driveway and address in a different one.

    At any rate, the poor slob whose house got, um, ill advisedly removed by the city can claim grandfather rights and move back in. I sure as hell would. ( edit. I guess that's assuming he was paid up, which is a dubious assumption in light of the lien)

  15. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
    Posts: 2,936
    Likes: 140, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 1593
    Location: Arlington, WA-USA

    Petros Senior Member

    that is not true, if you are living without permission on someone else's property, including an interstate, you are trespassing.

    I presume in the subject case that he was paying his marina fees, or he would have no right to stand on regardless if the floating home was a vessel or a home. You can not trespass and claim that is your home so you have a right to it. there are some idiot homeless advocates who make such claims, but that does not entitle anyone to squat on private or public property.

    forcing someone to maintain their home is another interesting question, many municipalities will have requirements to maintain their home and yards or get fined, there are more than a few places around here that have "lawn police". If the marina requires vessel owners to maintain their property, than they can threaten fines or eviction. It would be questionable if the rules were rather vague about that. One man's castle is another man's eyesore.
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.