Miami Beach

A city seized his houseboat. He won in court. Now he’s back and legal

Fane Lozman, at his house boat in North Bay Village, in 2011. He has now moved his home to Riviera Beach.
Fane Lozman, at his house boat in North Bay Village, in 2011. He has now moved his home to Riviera Beach. C.W. GRIFFIN/MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Fane Lozman fought for years for the right to live on his houseboat. His case went from zoning officers to City Hall, and all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

He won his case a few years ago, and was waiting for the right time to move his home to Palm Beach County.

The time has come.

On Sunday, his floating home — all three bedrooms and bathrooms — arrived in Riviera Beach and made quite the splashy entrance.

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A giant banner — Fane Lozman returns, Thank you... U.S. Supreme Court — festooned the motorless houseboat as it arrived after an 18-hour journey by tow.

“I want to make a statement,” he said. “I want people to see who I am and then they can look up the case to find out more.”

Lozman’s troubles began when Riviera Beach “arrested” his houseboat in April 2009 and later destroyed it. Lozman, a former Marine Corps officer, argued that the city couldn’t regulate his home as a maritime vessel.

His houseboat had been moored at the Riviera Beach marina after Hurricane Wilma destroyed his former marina in North Bay Village in 2005. The structure did not have an engine and was equipped to be connected to sewer lines on dry land.

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In 2013, the Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, overturned an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, deciding that Riviera Beach didn’t have the jurisdiction to have his boat seized. He said he still hasn’t recovered his financial losses — including the cost of the boat — from the city, and hopes he will soon.

The city says that Lozman has continued to fight in court because he was awarded “zero dollars” by the Supreme Court, Riviera Beach City Attorney Pamala Ryan said in an email to the Miami Herald. She said the city still considers it an open case.

The scenario is different this time around. Lozman returned to Riviera Beach in a different houseboat and he now owns 25 acres of submerged land in Singer Island. He hopes to create The Renegade, an upscale houseboat community where people can buy a home on the water.

Ryan said Lozman has not yet submitted plans and “residents have recently written emails to the city’s elected officials with their concerns about the marine life, etc., that would be in jeopardy should a community of floating homes be allowed in the subject area as well as raising objections to giving him an address at the location.”

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But Lozman, who says houseboats are just about extinct in Miami, is thrilled to resurface.

“People have the right to live on the water.”