Tideland searches are an essential piece of the real estate settlement process. If you think that once you receive tideland search results you’re done – think again. Tidelands can be a very complex issue, especially if a tideland grant or other conveyance is present on the property in question. An article about the topic written by Joseph Grabas appeared recently in the Advocate, the publication of the New Jersey Land Title Association. 1
First, let’s talk about the basics. Tidelands are lands now or formerly flowed by tidal waters. Even property that is currently well inland can be subject to a tideland claim. The State of New Jersey has over 1600 maps which delineate areas to which the State claims ownership because the lands are presently or were formerly flowed by the tides or tidal streams. These lands are owned by the State and held in trust for the public. However, in some cases the State will allow an owner to buy, rent or lease the subject claimed property. The State will consider issuing a tideland grant, license or lease to an owner after an application is submitted to the Tidelands Resource Council. A grant is conveyed if the State agrees to sell the property. A license is a short-term rental arrangement that is usually two to five years long and involves temporary structures such as docks. A lease is a long-term rental arrangement that is usually 20 years and most times issued to homes over water or marinas. All of these conveyances require fees to be paid to the State. We refer to grants, licenses and leases as tideland “instruments.”
When we complete a tideland search, we will note any claimed areas for the property in question. We provide information about tideland instruments also. It is very important that information about tideland instruments be reviewed and understood. “Grants in particular can contain conditions, covenants and exceptions,” said Jim Johnson, Signature's Tidelands Specialist and formerly with the New Jersey Bureau of Tidelands Management. “No two properties are alike – every property is different, every grant is different.”
There have been cases where property was sold and while it was known that a tideland claim from the State was present, grant information was not thoroughly studied and understood. Why is that a problem? Because major surprises and problems can occur. Developers have been issued grants from the State for claimed property, and convey that grant to homebuyers who are unaware of the actual specifics of the grants. Perhaps a grant stipulates that the claimed property cannot be further developed or places restrictions on the type of improvements or development. If your client buys a property with dreams of installing a dock or wants to install a protective bulkhead, he or she may be out of luck. One case involved a developer who received a grant from the State for claimed areas, subdivided the property and sold the individual lots/homes. But the developer retained ownership of the grant area, which meant that the property buyers did not truly own all of their property – the developer still owned the grant area. While this scenario is similar to the State still owning the claimed area, would you want to have to pay rent to the former property owner, to use what you thought was your dock?
“When it comes to grants, it’s important to know who it applies to, how it applies and what conditions apply,” said Chris Blouch, Signature’s Supervisor of Tidelands. It is imperative that upon receipt of tidelands search results, any grant information is reviewed and carefully evaluated. At Signature, we often field questions from customers about search results and explain grant information. Tidelands can be a tricky area, so make sure you are using a trusted source that knows the nuances of the topic and is experienced. Have you had any issues dealing with tideland grants? Do you routinely study grant information on a property in question?
The information provided is for informative purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or a legal opinion. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.
Manager, Geographic Services