The canals next to Las Olas bridge.

Rent out your dock in Fort Lauderdale for liveaboards? Check out rules and regulations for boats, docks and waterways of the Venice of America

Renting out docks in residential neighborhoods has long been illegal in Fort Lauderdale, but the city often looks the other way. Under the laws of the Venice of America city, private rentals and other commercial ventures at residential docks continue to be illegal. The city’s primary concern is increasing evidence of commercial intrusion into residential neighborhoods, with people running mini-marinas in their back yards and boat repair facilities. Make sure you are following the rules on the boat dock that you plan to rent.

Residents often cite crewed yachts under high maintenance not located in marina but at private residence backyard docks. But I bet you didn’t know that it’s not legal to live on the boat due to it not having waste facilities and it’s illegal to rent out your dock space in front of your house in some neighborhoods. I personally have never seen pump out barge at vessels in the river here and I’m totally in tune with gray and black water concepts. Basically dumping their waste directly into the River.

Docks in Fort Lauderdale are not allowed to project more the 5 feet into any waterway beyond the property line along the waterway or the established bulkhead line. Mooring pilings are permitted, provided they do not project more that 33% of the width of the waterway, or 25 feet, which ever is less, as measured from the recorded property line. Also vessels docked at or moored to private docks or by mooring pilings shall not extent into a waterway more than 33% of the width of the waterway measured from the recorded property line.

Now, the definition of a live-aboard vessel does NOT include a vessel in navigation, should these vessels be allowed to tie up behind residences on the canals and stay aboard on a temporary basis?? Currently Broward County does not allow “liveaboards” but lots of them are actually qualify as vessels in navigation.

The many canals of the Venice of America seen from above.
The many canals of the Venice of America seen from above.

Some area’s you can live-aboard in Broward County. There are plenty of places on the Las Olas isles that have pumpout systems installed and it’s legal to live-aboard. There are other places it’s legal as well, however, most places you cannot in Broward County. There are very few area’s designated as an anchorage or mooring field in Broward County, the only ones I know of are Lake Sylvia, Lake Santa Barbara, the area with mooring balls next to the Las Olas bridge, inside of Hillsboro Inlet, etc…

Now, I don’t believe Fort Lauderdale cops are going to check and keep tabs on who is living aboard or staying on a boat docked behind a house… Most of these rules are there to prevent houseboats and semi derelicts. That is until a neighbor complaints because your aft deck is within 25′ of their swimming pool and they feel their privacy is invaded after all, when the developers cut the canals they didn’t do it just look pretty, it was for boats. As the world moves forward, bylaws can get left behind.

Back in the 80’s you could liveaboard behind a house anywhere in Broward County. Then the canals all became cesspools of sewage (remember most boats didn’t even have a holding tank back then, or if they did, didn’t use it) and area’s such as the Las Olas Isles had e-coli levels so high they weren’t safe to swim in. After many complaints from neighbors and home owners, most if not all cities enacted ordinances saying that you could not liveaboard behind a private home. Then with the advent of pumpouts, some area’s such as the Las Olas Isles, people installed pumpout stations behind their house or multi-family property and cities like Fort Lauderdale allow it in some area’s such as there… Or the docks were grandfathered in as long as they installed a pumpout station. I know that it is against city ordanance or code in many cities in Broward County.

No, the cities generally don’t investigate whether or not people are living aboard behind a house. BUT, in most all places, the neighbors will call the city and they’ll come out and fine you and tell you to move asap. To make sure you are complying with the rules and to know what to do with the boat dock that you plan to rent, check out this Municipal Code of Fort Lauderdale.

Max Francisco