Rhode Island Shoreline Access

Protecting Public Shoreline Access: New Law Mandates Disclosure for Oceanfront Property Sales

A newly enacted law, championed by Senator Victoria Gu and Representative Terri Cortvriend, aims to improve transparency regarding shoreline access rights and related conditions during the sale of oceanfront properties in Rhode Island.

“This legislation builds on the historic shoreline access law that we passed last year,” stated Senator Gu (D-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown). “Many Rhode Islanders are now aware of the new law, but incoming buyers from other states might not be. This measure ensures that those purchasing oceanfront real estate understand the public’s right to access the shoreline, providing essential consumer protection and education.”

Representative Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) emphasized the practical benefits of the law, saying, “As we have seen in the news recently, sometimes permits aren’t passed on to buyers, and rights of way are forgotten, which can lead to unexpected issues for new owners and threaten public access to our shores. This legislation ensures that permits remain with the property, preventing surprises and protecting public shoreline access.”

The legislation (2024-S 2185A, 2024-H 7376A), signed into law on Monday after passing the General Assembly on June 6, updates the sale disclosure form for shoreline properties. It mandates that sellers disclose the public’s rights and privileges up to 10 feet above the recognizable high tide line, any known rights of way, and provide any Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) permits in their possession to the buyer. Additionally, the disclosure form will advise buyers to contact CRMC to verify any public rights of way or permits associated with the property.

A recent dispute over public access to a seawall highlighted the current deficiencies in disclosure practices.

“Ensuring that new coastal property owners are made aware of the public’s shoreline access rights should go a long way towards avoiding future disputes,” said Jed Thorp, Rhode Island Director of Clean Water Action. “We commend Senator Gu and Representative Cortvriend for introducing this legislation.”

Mike Woods, chair of the New England Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, added, “Transaction by transaction, we have an educational opportunity to make sure homeowners, whether new to the state or relocating within Rhode Island, understand their entitlements and obligations when purchasing shoreline property.”




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