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Marinas: Housing and Hospitality for the Future

Hospitality for the Future

Floating Homes can (and do) populate marinas around the globe today. These floating craft are designed for comfort and livability. They offer a unique residential experience, often found within specialized facilities known as floating home marinas. Mixed-use marinas are becoming more popular.

Floating home projects are generally regulated state by state and by local jurisdictions (e.g., city country and port lake, and tidelands political subdivisions). As with manufactured home communities (mobile home parks), these projects tend to be heavily regulated with numerous regulatory agencies and jurisdictions providing the legal framework for both construction and operation.

In California for example, (where I am licensed to practice law), a floating home marina is defined as an area where five or more berths for floating homes are either rented or available for rent. These marinas, tailored for floating homes, provide moorings equipped with amenities such as water, electricity, waste disposal, and sometimes onshore facilities like laundry and recreational areas. They are often adjacent to or affiliated with mobile home parks, RV parks, or hospitality-oriented housing. In California, owners must register their floating homes with the Department of Motor Vehicles, maintaining documentation of ownership. In addition, mooring locations are subject to local regulations, including zoning ordinances dictating permissible areas and distances from shorelines and structures. Compliance with building codes and safety standards is mandatory, covering structural integrity, electrical systems, sanitation facilities, and fire safety, with regular inspections advised for upkeep. Federal law also impacts the industry; everything from ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), FHA (Fair Housing Act), NEPA and other environmental statutory schemes. Your marina lawyer should have a working knowledge of the interaction of these various laws and requirements as applied to your project.

Regarding environmental regulations, floating home occupants as well as project sponsors, operators and developers should be conscientious about their influence on nearby ecosystems. It is crucial for owners to remain knowledgeable about any environmental regulations pertinent to their mooring area, including those concerning protected habitats and water quality standards. Floating homeowners enjoy rights and responsibilities similar to land-based property owners, including privacy rights, maintenance duties, and liability for damages. Many floating home communities are effectively owned by the residents under a “co-op” arrangement, providing predictability and control over occupancy costs and proper maintenance of the project. There are many distinct rules and regulations, administrative regulations, and state and federal laws impacting the ownership and operation of floating home communities. Understanding the legal framework respecting floating home marinas ensures a seamless and peaceful existence on the water. Your “floating home marina” lawyer should not only understand this legal framework and the requirements within it but should also know the staff at the various administrative agencies having jurisdiction over such facilities, as well as the history of the law and “one the water” operational challenges. The industry is experiencing rapid growth currently, and thus the laws and regulations, particularly in California are rapidly evolving. Bottom Line: floating home marinas offers both housing and hospitality solutions to coastal as well as inland water-based communities.