Property litigators Richard Eaton and Laura Tanguay have enjoyed recent success in helping a client to obtain registered title to a previously unregistered section of river bed in reliance on adverse possession by the mooring of a boat.
The mooring in question was part of a tidal river in East Anglia, and had been used by the owner for 12 or more years as the mooring for his private yacht.
Whilst there has been recognition that houseboats sitting on the mud for most of the time can be considered to be in adverse possession of the river bed on which they sit, the position of a yacht in tidal water is not clear cut. A key factor which will be relevant is the extent to which the boat has any contact with the mud or foreshore below and for what duration. If, as was this case in this instance, the boat rests on the exposed foreshore during low tides for several hours either side of low water, twice each day, then it is more likely that adverse possession can be established. It was also relevant to consider that when the boat was away from the mooring at high tide, the owner left a tender (small dinghy) and his own mooring lines on the mooring, and gave evidence that adjoining boat owners would ensure that the berth was kept free for the exclusive use of the yacht.
Some may consider that the application was fortunate and that, properly assessed, it might only be the mooring "tackle" that is in possession of the river bed on floating moorings. As with many legal issues, it is a matter of fact and degree. It is suspected that an overhaul of the law in this area may be on the horizon as a leading authority that is currently favourable to boat owners is heading to the Court of Appeal. Should a houseboat owner wish to explore the possibility of acquiring registered title to the river bed on which they are moored, it is recommended that they take advice sooner rather than later.
The content of this article is for general information only. For further information please contact Laura Tanguay. Law covered as at April 2015.