R.A. from Lee County, Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
A condo has docks that are part of limited common area per the HOA documents and they are not deeded. If an owner has a boat lift installed: a) is the HOA, or the owner responsible for the permit application, b) since the lift occupies limited common area, who actually owns the pilings, c) who owns the lift machinery? As an aside, the slips are shared by two owners and none of the dock spaces (5) have ever actually been assigned.
Mister Condo replies:
R.A., boating is such a popular pastime in Florida, it is surprising to me how few communities have hard and fast rules about docks that are easy for the HOA members to understand and abide by. It would appear that your HOA is no different. The land abutting the dock is owned by the HOA. The HOA is governed by your governing documents which, if silent on the subject which so many seem to be, leave decisions such as this to the Board. The Board can, and should, create a set of rules that is fair to the community. Typically, they will grandfather the current arrangement and set up rules like a waiting list for future assignment of slips. They might also want to add the actual dock to the association property but that gets a little tricky because the dock itself is built on a public waterway. Still, Riparian rights likely give the dock to the landowner (the HOA, in this case). If the dock becomes a common element, the association then pays to maintain it. This is legal work and I would advise hiring an attorney to make sure the association gets it right. Permit applications are another story and really depend on the owner of the lift. All the best!