Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – February 20th, 2013 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate is a weekly update on real estate law, with legal principles illustrated and explained by lawsuits from around the country. The topics are wide-ranging for appeal to a broad spectrum of readers including lawyers, homeowners, investors and the general public. Andrea Lee Negroni, a Washington DC attorney and legal writer with 25 years of experience in financial services and mortgage law, contributes the case summaries.

Followers of Real Cases in Real Estate will learn and be entertained by lawsuits involving nuisance, trespass, zoning violations, deed restrictions, title insurance, public utilities, mechanics liens, construction defects, adverse possession, foreclosure and eviction, divorce and marital property rights, tenants' rights, and more. Real Cases in Real Estate uncovers the unpredictable, amusing, and sometimes outrageous disputes between next-door neighbors, contractors and homeowners, condo boards and residents, real estate brokers and homebuyers, and zoning administrators and developers.

Each fully cited case summary highlights the essential law of the case and explains the principal legal theories and concepts relevant to the outcome. Plain language treatment makes Real Cases in Real Estate accessible to lawyers and laymen alike.

Whether you follow real estate law professionally or as a hobby, you'll find something new and useful every week in Real Cases in Real Estate.


Updates for the Week of February 20th, 2013

Lakefront Homeowners Win Damages Based on Boat Owner's Interference with Littoral Rights.

John and Deborah Zeppa owned waterfront property in the Town of Coventry, Connecticut, part of which was undeveloped and part of which was improved with a single family home with a dock. Mark Lonabaugh, another resident of Coventry, owned property that was not lakefront property. Lonabaugh placed a mooring in the area "waterward" of the Zeppas' property without the Zeppas' permission. (The word "waterward" means "in the direction of the water.)

The Zeppas complained to Lonabaugh, who ignored their complaints. Lonabaugh kept his motorboat berthed to the mooring for four summers.

The dispute between the Zeppas and Lonabaugh involved littoral rights, which are the rights concerning properties abutting oceans, seas and lakes. (Contrast littoral rights with riparian rights, which refer to rights concerning properties abutting streams and rivers.) The Zeppas said Lonabaugh's mooring interfered with their property and littoral rights by: interfering with the casting-off line on their dock and making it difficult for them to waterski from the shore to avoid Lonabaugh's boat and people who might be swimming from the boat. They also complained the mooring had drifted, causing Lonabaugh's boat to drift toward their dock.

The Connecticut court observed the well-established rule that "an owner of waterfront property, which is bounded by a body of water, implicitly has littoral rights to the land under the water..." The scope of the Zeppas' littoral rights were established by an expert surveyor who had performed hundreds of lakefront surveys, including surveys of littoral rights.

The surveyor determined the Zeppas' littoral rights extended 561 feet from the northernmost shore line of the property and the "thread," with the thread being a point halfway between an island and the shoreline of the Zeppas' property.  The court concluded that Lonabaugh's mooring of his boats near the Zeppas' dock was an unwarranted interference with their littoral rights, as it interfered with the Zeppas' right to enjoy fishing, swimming and boating. Lonabaugh was ordered to pay the Zeppas $600 for each of the four summers he moored his boat near their property. The court also found Lonabaugh created a private nuisance and committed intentional trespass on the Zeppa property.

Zeppa v. Lonabaugh, 2010 Conn. Super LEXIS 1164 (May 20, 2010) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers].

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