Supreme Court: It's a house, not a boat

A Florida resident whose floating home was destroyed by the city took his case to the nation's top court. The case had ramifications for casinos and other floating structures.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 15, 2013 1:58PM

Credit: Fane Lozman/APThe Supreme Court has spoken: A structure that does not ply the waters is not a boat. It is a house.


This is good news for Florida resident Fane Lozman, who took his dispute with the city of Riviera Beach, Fla., all the way to the country's highest court. He won’t get his floating home back, because the city destroyed it in 2009, but he should get the $25,000 bond the city put up in the case.


The case drew national attention because it had the potential of affecting floating casinos, hotels and other structures, such as the floating homes of Seattle. By further defining what constitutes a vessel, the case clarified and narrowed maritime law, which governs vessels but not floating homes.


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"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," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority. "And we consequently conclude that the floating home is not a vessel."

He added: "Not every floating structure is a 'vessel.' 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.'"

The case grew out of a dispute between Lozman and the city of Riviera Beach. Lozman objected to the city's plans to evict all the floating homes and vessels at the marina and to turn the city property over to a developer to build a $2.4 million project. During a multiyear battle, the city seized Lozman’s home, citing U.S. maritime law, and destroyed it.

The case will not directly affect the floating homes of Seattle because the court’s ruling aligns with state and local laws in Washington state and also in California. "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."

Jan 26, 2013 8:32PM

these NRA nuts are getting way too psycho

and after 20 children and 6 teachers and administrators were just recently slaughtered with a semi-auto assault weapon designed only for military use and only for the purpose of killing as many human beings as possible as quickly as possible

that assault weapon has no other valid use than for the military in war conditions and for the mass killing of human beings

shame on you NRA psycho nuts

the second amendment does not give you the right to own or possess such military weapons

what is next NRA psycho nuts?  do you also want the right to own and possess bazookas?  RPGs?  stinger missiles? operational tanks? operational fighter aircraft?  operational bombers?

where does this psycho NRA, crazy gun nut stuff end?

you do NOT have the right to possess military assault weapons

or large magazines



the NRA has crossed way over the line of reality and decency and sanity when they want to own and possess military semi-auto and automatic assault weapons meant and designed for no other purpose than to slaughter people in wartime

these are not deer hunting rifles

or shotguns or handguns for home protection

got it?


20 very young children slaughtered, wartime style with a military assault rifle

got it?



GOT IT????????????????????????????

Jan 26, 2013 2:57PM
We Americans don't own what we think is our property.  If you don't pay the taxes every year you won't even be deluded for long that it is yours, comrads!!!
Jan 26, 2013 2:44PM
The city and county should have to pay one billion dollars plus restoration of his home to its orignal location and pop the land developer for all of his company profits derived from the srounding area
Jan 26, 2013 11:16AM
they should do more of these kinds of homes in Florida.  when a hurricane is on the way, just "drive" your house somewhere else for a week and go back
Jan 26, 2013 10:01AM

I sure wouldn't want to have to find homeowners insurance.  Good hands?  Good neighbor?  Bom ba dom ba bom ba bom?  Liberty Mutual?  The only people that might be on your side are Lloyds of London. 


Personally, If I wanted something unique - and really durable - I'd take a look at one of those obsolete missile silos.

Jan 26, 2013 9:11AM
If the gov't tried to seize my house, I would be exercising my 2nd amendment right to shoo those mother effers in their puke effen face
Jan 26, 2013 8:11AM
As far as the video on the Seattle floating houses....I don't see the problem with them staying on the water as small homes, "AS LONG AS THEY FILTER THE WATER GOING INTO THE PUBLIC WATER WAYS!!!!"
Some said they couldn't afford it (??)  Afford what?  A simple screen over the drain is like $2 at Bed,bath and beyond!  A simple trap for debris or a water filter is affordable.  If they can afford a houseboat (even a small one) then they can afford a water filter system that's under $100.  It's irresponsible NOT to be filtering their water that's filthy and contaminated, going into the public waters.  How selfish!

Jan 26, 2013 7:52AM

I say it's high time that the people in that city rid themselves of their corrupt government.  Heads need to roll, and they need a all NEW Mayor and Council.  The City of Rivera Beach will have to pay BIG BUCKS to the former owner because the Supreme Court said that they has NO RIGHT to do what they did to his property (P.S., Supreme Court decisions CAN NOT be appealed)!

Jan 26, 2013 5:09AM
it sounds Like the city just wanted the 2.4 Million dollar project and the revenue it would generate but they violated many common Laws to attempt to acquire all hindrances such as the house boats, so the greed currently present in our society is just disgusting that a group/council meant to represent the people would step all over one family in order to accomplish the higher aspirations of others !!!
 IE the Project originator in that very same group sad very sad, well I hope that city has to pay that family 10 times the cost they had to bare and the emotional distress they obviously had to contend with due to their cities greed and inconsideration ,

  as I said before sad very bloody sad. 
Jan 26, 2013 3:42AM

We are approaching a point where there are diminishing land resources for homes to be built.  Sure there is still plenty of available land but not close to the amenities of a community and not that is affordable.  Being able to live on the water is a reasonable alternative.  However having said that it must also behoove those who choose to do so to be ecologicallyl responsible with their waste and sewage products.


Unfortunately in some places they just dump it into the surrounding waters but in others they actually have sewer facilities available and pump their waste ashore into those sewers for final processing and disposal.  I had an acquaintance who ran a small bait, tackle, and grocery on a floating dock arrangement.  His waste went into a holding tank that was regularly pumped about 200 yards up onto the shore and dumped into a traditional septic system.  He was also very careful when dispensing oil and gasoline products to the boaters and tried to avoid dumping any contaminants into the lake.  As he put it that was his livelihood and if he ruined it his job would go away.   

Give us more information.  Do floating homes pay property taxes?  Are there proprietary boundaries to where they may float?
Jan 15, 2013 9:56PM
you mean the developer who donated tons of money to the city elected officials.  that developer or the other developers.  just like townhomes.  the bait is lower initial cost of the home because the city won't have to pave the inner streets.  the hook the developer gets more money, the city saves on paving, the townhome owners pay paving costs year after year and STILL pay full property tax without the benefit of paving their streets.   con developers and con city officials.
Jan 15, 2013 8:25PM
Leave it to FL to need the supreme court to define a vessel.
Jan 15, 2013 8:06PM

I live in a floating home, in Northfield, New Jersey. There are about 62 homes there. A few years ago, the marina owner raised the slip fee rent...from $450.00 to 1,165.00. Over a $700.00 dollar a month increase.

We applied for rent control in the town of Egg Harbor Township. The town sided with us and applied rent control status to the Houseboats~~~~ The marina's lawyers cited Admiralty law+Maritime law and took us to court, claiming that Maritime law over rides the towns law...hence the houseboats must bide by the Maritime laws and are to be treated as vessels. The judge sided with the marina and the rent increase was approved.

I suppose that now, the marina has to rescind that ridiculous increase, and refund the monies overpaid by the houseboat owners???


Jan 15, 2013 7:40PM
Riviera Beach has a long history of corruption. Developers have owned the politicians for years. Before Florida outlawed it, they siezed private property and gave it to developers. That's why this guy lost his home, the city wanted to give the public marina to a developer. Watch this to see for yourself  
Jan 15, 2013 6:41PM
When City small minded pretenders to politicians make rules they rarely are legal, but they usually are forced on the people. Money from contractor/developers is hard for the amateurs to turn down. We live with this in small towns all the time.
Jan 15, 2013 6:29PM
Yay for the little guy!!
I'm surprised that the city didn't just use their favorite tool to take what isn't theirs..Imminent Domain. You own it, they want it. They take it.
Jan 15, 2013 6:28PM
There we go again, government looking at the dollar signs from big business and forsaking the individual and abusing their rights. I hate seeing these stories of local government using things like eminent domain to confiscate individuals property and then destroying and selling it to developers, supposedly for the better good!
Jan 15, 2013 6:18PM
Did this guy pay taxes on a home or license fees for a boat?
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