One of the many advantages of living in Hawaii is the opportunity to live close to the ocean and for some of us, to even live on the Ocean. Living on boat is a dream for many Americans and further, the US Census has reported that it has increased in popularity over the past few years.
If you own a houseboat, you should know about Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Florida, a recent United States Supreme Court case. This case involved a man named Fane Lozman, who owned a floating home, which he parked at the Riviera Beach Marina in Florida. After repeated and unsuccessful attempts to evict him, the city under Federal Admiralty law sought a lien to recover the payment of Lozman’s debt. They claimed they had the right to do this because his floating home was actually a “vessel” under 1 U.S.C. § 3.
This case went all the way to the Supreme Court where in a 7-2 opinion written by Justice Breyer, the court held that a houseboat is not a “vessel” under the law. The Court ruled that aside from the fact that the home floated, it showed no other characteristics of a vessel. For example, the Court specifically noted that the home did not have propulsion and had no method of storing electricity.
What does this mean for you? The Court refined the law in a way that now limits the application of admiralty law and prevents the federal government from using more lenient lien rules in cases of floating homes.
At Cronin, Fried, Sekiya, Kekina & Fairbanks we have been handling admiralty and maritime cases since our founding in 1973. Our attorneys Paul F. Cronin, Patrick F. McTernan and Howard G. McPherson have over 60 combined years of experience in Hawaii admiralty cases. Contact us to schedule a free initial consultation for admiralty or maritime legal questions or accidents in Hawaii or elsewhere.