Portable Docks in New Hampshire: Real or Personal Property?

Portable Docks in New Hampshire

New Hampshire is state with many lakes and most modern docks are aluminum docks that regularly move in and out of the water or are wood docks that are hinged at a concrete base. There may be portable docks or pads floating in the middle of the lake. Whether a dock is considered “personal” property or “real” property can have significant legal ramifications. It is an uncertain as to whether they are treated as personal or real property, but evidence suggests that they are personal property.  

Under New Hampshire common law and statute, it is unsettled as to whether portable docks are personal or real property. However, there are clues in IRS documents, insurance forms, similar New Hampshire Laws, and other state courts that allow us to believe portable docks are likely personal property as opposed to real property. There is not a definite answer, which is a unique question for a state with nearly 1000 lakes.

In New Hampshire, a green house is considered personal property under RSA 72:12d. This might sound like a bad analogy, but generally both docks and greenhouses are attached to a concrete base and can be moved or removed in a very short amount of time. Furthermore, in 2007 the New Hampshire legislature attempted to make this argument to make this an official statewide policy.

The IRS recently determined that floating docks are real property for the purpose of qualifying as “real estate assets” held by a real estate investment trust.

In 2019 another jurisdiction, Pennsylvania, determined in the case ERIE-WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA PORT AUTHORITY and Commodore Perry Yacht Club v.ERIE COUNTY BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS and The School District of the City of Erie that floating docks are considered personal property. A Yacht Club constructed a marina on the property, which uses a floating dock system to provide boat slips to its members. Since the docks moved on a regular basis to accommodate boats of different sizes, they were not part of the property taxes the marina owns the town.

However, there are other data points which suggest that portable docks may be considered real property. For instance, several towns in New Hampshire include docks as part of their real estate tax assessment. Additionally, many homeowner’s insurance policies include these docks as part of the property.

Conclusion

Since docks are likely personal property, they can move on a whim. This might cause tensions with neighbors who rely on docks being at certain locations for boating purposes. However, since they personal property you can likely move and dispose docks as your please.

If you are having issues with your town or questions about installing a dock on your lake property, please reach out to an attorney from our firm to help you.

For more information on land use matters and issues please contact Joseph Conti or Thomas “Jay” Leonard at Welts, White & Fontaine PC.  Please contact us by clicking here or by calling (603) 883-0797. Welts, White & Fontaine is one of Nashua’s largest, multi-practice law firms and serves the legal needs of both individuals and businesses in towns such as Amherst, Milford, Hudson, Brookline, Windham, Hollis, Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford, Londonderry, Pelham, and, of course, Nashua.

Author: Joseph W. Conti, Esq.

This blog is intended for informational use only. The information contained herein should not be construed as offering legal advice or a legal opinion.

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