A houseboat is a significant investment, so it pays to know the laws of owning one to answer important questions, such as, can you put a houseboat anywhere.
Owners are allowed to park their houseboat in most bodies of water in the US. However, the laws on parking them vary from state to state, which we shall get into in detail in a moment.
Houseboat living is a great way to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city, but you need to know the rules first.
As houseboat owners we have years of experience in owning and using houseboats of all sizes and in various cities and states so we can guide you on the process.
Living on a Houseboat
Because houseboats are transportable and on public land, the laws governing them differ from those governing normal land dwellings. State gun regulations differ, and it's possible that bringing a firearm on board without a permit is unlawful. Police officers may not require probable cause to board a watercraft in various states. To know more about whether or not you can dock a houseboat anywhere you need to first get familiar with the local laws.
It is important to note that in the US, submerged land is also considered as public land. The land up to the high water mark is also included. All submerged land inside a state's borders is held in trust for the people by the states. The rights to submerged land cannot be sold by the states. Everyone has the right to utilize the water for commerce, and leisure activities. While states cannot dedicate submerged property for private use, they do have the authority to regulate water use.
The legislature, for example, may decide on an appropriate location for a port or a public beach. It is in charge of settling any issues that may occur if members of the public differ on what the space should be used for. Allowing individuals to utilise a busy port for leisure purposes, for example, would be a safety danger.
The federal test of navigability is used by federal courts to evaluate whether a waterway is in the public or private domain. The date of statehood is used to assess navigability. The canal must be capable of or susceptible to being used as a roadway for people or goods transit. The waterway must be able to accommodate traditional modes of trade and travel on the water.
When identifying navigable waterways, the state may use additional criteria. A navigable waterway, for example, is defined as any stream with a width of 30 feet from mouth to mouth in the state of Texas. Any canal that may be used by a recreational watercraft is considered public domain in California.
While living on a houseboat in US waterways is permitted, living entirely aboard a houseboat without a legal permanent land address is difficult. That’s because Before granting a post office box, the USPS requires a current permanent address. In other words, to register a vessel, a person must have a physical address.
State registration regulations differ, but according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, every boat will almost certainly require a registration permit. That being said, some states, such as Mississippi, require all boat owners to register their vessels with the state. After 60 days, out-of-state registrations are no longer valid. Operating a houseboat without a proper registration number is unlawful in various states.
Each state enacts anchoring legislation that is tailored to the demands of a certain region. For example, the municipality of Hingham, Massachusetts, mandates that all vessels anchored for more than two weeks obtain a harbour permit, and that any vessel staying within the authority of the Hingham harbour master for more than 48 hours have the harbour master's authorization. Vessels may not anchor in any location that might hinder a passing vessel or other structure, according to Mississippi law.
To get an idea of what you can look for as a houseboat owner the state of Florida created precise standards that identify houseboat occupants in reaction to confrontations between boaters, landowners, and law enforcement. Live-aboards are not regulated by local governments. Any vessel that is utilised as a habitation rather than for navigation is referred to as a live-aboard vessel.
In certain locations, there are time limits stating that you cannot spend more than 7 days in one spot at a time, while in others, it may be 30 days. It is legal in certain other states, although it is not a well discussed subject. Many government offices and authorities are wary of houseboat living, as there are numerous tales and urban legends about the sort of clientele that live-aboard houseboaters allegedly attract. It raises a slew of contentious issues, including the impact on waterfront property on the surrounding areas and also the environment, to name a few.
If you use a houseboat as a private liveaboard, you just need to follow sanitary standards, local Marina laws, and USCG safety rules for your kind of vessel when underway, as well as navigational rules and state rules for safety. Certain lake marinas allow full-time liveaboards to be visible, even if their boats aren’t operative. While others outright ban liveaboards, without offering a clear explanation of what is and is not permitted.
The discharge of sewage, electrical danger, and other concerns already handled by legislation, rules, and other regulations - all of which can be readily enforced - even policed with the assistance of other houseboat owners. Not only are states and areas distinct, but they are also distinct. One set of rules governs salt water bays and marinas, while another governs rivers and estuaries. This is all about where you'll dock your houseboat.
Now, I'm not aware of any regulations prohibiting you from living aboard your yacht. Houseboats are not subject to any Coast Guard regulations. If you have it powered, the state needs you to licence it. There are no restrictions on the type of material you may utilize to construct with. All you need are holding / pump out tanks, or the type that converts sewage into potable water.
Licensing and Safety Courses
One of the questions that future houseboat owners usually have concerns the need for any safety courses or special llicensing for houseboat owners. This is one of the most crucial things to complete before purchasing your own houseboat, although it is not necessary in many areas of the United States if you are above a certain age. The criteria for these courses differ by state, so if you're in the United States, be sure to check what your state requires.
Every country has a variety of boating safety courses that are appropriate for all types of recreational boaters. These courses are recommended for boaters of all ages before purchasing or renting a houseboat, although they are not necessarily needed. While the bulk of the courses are funded by the government, others are offered by state boating authorities.
These courses cover every element of owning and operating a houseboat. These include things like learning about boating safety, how to correctly manage boats, how to forecast weather conditions, how to flawlessly handle and master electronic navigation abilities, and more. Because there are so many courses to choose from, it is typically recommended that you take ones that seek to cover as many areas of boating as possible. As a result, we've put together a list of courses that you may choose from based on your needs.
Houseboats are usually permitted to be operated on any lake or river as long as they are properly titled. If you're putting a houseboat on a smaller lake, you'll want to be sure the water is deep enough to support the boat and that you have a decent area to dock or beach it.
The foregoing is true in most parts of the United States, but it may be different in your state or nation, so if you have a lake and are unaware of the exact rules in your area, contact your local legislators and ask any questions that you may have.
Mooring vs. Short Term Anchoring
Mooring a houseboat is when it is left while you aren't using it, and it entails attaching it to a fixed object in the water. It might be a group of pilings or other structures, or a cable tied to a big weight on the seabed or a screw into the seafloor.
Anchoring a boat means securing it with your own ground tackle (anchor and rode). Because you won't be leaving the boat unattended for lengthy periods of time, it's safer to utilise a less permanent method of fastening it. It is also important to note that commercial or private moorings are available, and have different rules and laws that need to be followed by houseboat owners.
Commercial moorings can be rented by marinas and municipalities, however full-time rentals may be more difficult to come by than transitory rentals for a short visit. On the other hand, a private mooring is one that is owned or leased by a single person. Knowing the distinction between these two is critical for obvious reasons. If you don't know who owns a mooring, don't take it. You never know when the owner will return or what size yacht the mooring can accommodate.
About THE AUTHOR
I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.Read More About Brian Samson