Docks on Smacks Bayou may not belong to homeowners who use them

Homeowners in a quiet St. Petersburg neighborhood are learning someone else could own a piece of their property.

The issue affects more than 100 homeowners in Smacks Bayou in St. Petersburg.

The debate is over who owns docks that back up to property on the water.

People who live in the bayou assumed it was the homeowner's, but neighborhood association president Scott Willis said that may not be the case.

"Right now we don't know what we can do. It's kind of up in the air," Willis said.

Just about every house on Smacks Bayou backs up to water, many of those houses have docks.

But Willis says the homeowners who have build, remolded or simply used those docks may have been doing so on someone else's property.

"They thought that they owned a house and they had the rights to use the dock and whatever is on the water in front of their house. No one knew that submerged land was owned by somebody else," Willis said.

That was until listings popped up on real estate web sites like Zillow that say the dock and submerged land around it is for sale and independent of the property it's adjacent to.

That same lot is listed on Homefinder.com for $7,800 by Perlman Realty.

We're still trying to get in contact with Joseph Perlman on the listing.

We also reached out to Coldwell Banker, which placed a sign in front of a house on 37th Avenue Northeast and on the dock but so far we have not heard back.

Willis said he's been getting phone calls from people who live on the bayou and while he's pushing to make sure they maintain ownership of property they thought was theirs he has also warned them.

"It doesn't look bright at this point because it does look like ownership is someplace else," Willis said.

Willis hopes to have more answers to a number of questions at a meeting next month.

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