Owners of waterfront property must be careful to determine if a tidelands claim has been made against their property. The State of New Jersey owns all lands now or formerly flowed by the mean high tide. They have always owned it and it affects all but 4 of the 21 counties. Unfortunately, many of the lands that were once flowed have long since been filled in so that it is impossible to determine if it ever existed simply by looking at it. Many unsuspecting property owners have purchased and built upon lands partially owned by the State.

Prior to 1982, no maps existed showing the location of the State’s claims. Today those maps do exist and are on file in the County Clerk’s Office and are available for anyone to review. All waterfront property owners would do well to inspect these maps to determine if their property is subject to a tidelands claim.

If they purchased their property after 1982 and have title insurance, most likely their title company has already looked at these maps on their behalf and reported if such a claim does exist. The title company will also report if a riparian grant has been previously obtained. The grant is a conveyance of the State’s interest in the land to the then upland owner. If done correctly, it will extinguish any claim the State had in and to the land.

If the property were purchased by the current owner prior to 1982, it is quite possible the purchaser had no constructive notice that a claim existed. It is quite possible neither did their title company. That being the case, the title policy would provide financial relief up to the amount of the coverage purchased.

It is a good idea when listing or selling a waterfront property to obtain a copy of the owner’s title policy to see what was or was not reported. If it becomes necessary to obtain a riparian grant, keep in mind the process is long and arduous. Currently it takes between two and four years and should be handled by a professional familiar with the process.

It is impossible to go into all aspects of tidelands in one short article. If you would like more information, please feel free to contact me: Linda J. Alpay at 908-770-5514.

Article written by: John C. Kemmerer