The U.S. Supreme Court sided Tuesday with a Florida man, ruling that his floating home was a house and that the city where he docked it could not seize it under federal maritime law.
Reporting the story, NPR said the case could affect thousands of houseboat owners nationwide.
Fane Lozman bought the 60-by-12-foot floating home for $17,000 and remodeled it to look and feel like a house on water. It had French doors on three sides, a sitting room, bedroom, closet, bathroom and kitchen, along with a stairway leading to a second-level office, where Lozman worked as a commodities trader. The structure had no self-propulsion, no independent electricity, not even a rudder. To move it on water, it has to be towed.
In 2006, after Hurricane Wilma destroyed the marina where Lozman kept his floating home, he had it towed to a marina in Riviera Beach about 80 miles north of Miami.
Lozman soon became something of a gadfly in Riviera Beach, challenging the city's plans to build a $2.4 billion luxury development in the marina. As a result of his efforts, Lozman says, the development project fell apart and the city tried to evict him, contending — erroneously, he says — that he owed docking fees and that his 10-pound dachshund was a public danger.
"The city of Riviera Beach went to the auction, outbid the public that attended, purchased my home, and then the next day immediately started destroying it, along with my furniture, at taxpayer's expense," Lozman says.