News and Publications

Where a river runs through it – what to consider when buying a riverside property

Posted: 13/10/2023

If you are thinking of purchasing a riverside property, there are a few points to bear in mind.

First, the type of river, and whether it is a tidal or non-tidal river, has a bearing on the presumption of ownership of the riverbed. The legal presumption is that, if a river flows into the sea and the tide affects it, the riverbed is owned by the Crown, unless it can be proved otherwise. A river not affected by the tide is presumed to be owned by the landowner.

If the property directly abuts a river, you may be classed as a riparian owner (riparian means ‘relating to the bank of a watercourse’). This gives you certain responsibilities for the stretch of the watercourse that forms the boundary of the property, including an obligation to: 

  • allow the water to flow naturally, cutting back trees or foliage;  
  • prevent invasive species from spreading onto neighbouring land;
  • stop pollutants entering the water;
  • maintain the bed and banks of the watercourse;
  • clear any litter from the river channels and banks; and
  • obtain permission from the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to carry out any works (you might also need additional planning consents).

Sometimes a property owner has to contribute to the cost of work to the river or riverbed, such as dredging or remediation. It is worth asking the RMA whether this applies to the property before purchase.

Second, access should be confirmed. Check if the land you are purchasing has river mooring rights or whether you need to obtain a licence. Some properties may not have vehicular access to the riverside property and can only be accessed on foot.

Third, consider the nature of riverside property. Before purchase, you should appoint a surveyor familiar with such property and the construction methods used. They will be able to advise you on common issues such as erosion and prevention measures, damp, or wet rot. Insurance premiums may also be higher than average, and the availability of insurance should be confirmed.

Finally, living in a riverside property or on an island can be a different way of life. You may be part of a close community and it would be a good idea to speak with neighbours to gain additional information. You could ask about seasonality, for example – what are the differences and pros/cons of waterside living during the different seasons?

A riverside property can be a great investment and provide a calm place to escape to. Just ensure that you research carefully before committing.

Arrow GIFReturn to news headlines

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP