Public or Private Beach

(WSVN) - One of the greatest treasures in South Florida are the beaches where people love to come swim, sunbathe and relax, but one woman was on Miami Beach when she was told she had to move. The hotel owns this beach; it’s private. Is that true? It’s why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Far too often, too many South Floridians take it for the granted: the breeze, the soothing waves, the miles and miles of sunny beaches.

Madelaine Tamayo, told beach is private: “I love the water, the beach, the ocean, the atmosphere, warm! I used to live in New York City.”

Madelaine Tamayo walks down to Miami Beach from her condo nearly every day to sit, read and relax.

Madelaine Tamayo: “Usually, we sit around here. The last 10 years we’ve been doing that.”

Madelaine of course has to share the beach with tourists staying in nearby hotels, and one hotel has a lot of guests on the beach.

Madelaine Tamayo

Madelaine Tamayo: “In the past year or past six to seven months, the chairs have moved closer to the shore, and it’s very crowded, and they’ve taken over what I thought was public area.”

So many chairs on the beach in front of the hotel, they nearly reach the water.

Madelaine Tamayo: “So, it’s hard for people to go walk to the beach to have to get wet.”

That didn’t affect Madelaine because she had her chair beside the hotel guests. And then…

Madelaine Tamayo: “Last time we were here, the lounge chairs came out to here. That’s when they asked me to move. I said, ‘Why? You have room over there.’ He says, ‘No, this is private property.'”

That seemed strange to Madelaine, because on her walk to the beach every day, she passes a sign that reads “public beach,” and that’s where she sits.

She explained that to the employee, who was telling her their beach was private. His reply?

Madelaine Tamayo: “‘You see that building over there? That is private property.’ I go, ‘I didn’t realize this beach was private.'”

Rather than kick up a fuss, Madelaine went home and wrote the hotel a letter.

Madelaine Tamayo: “I asked them, ‘Am I right? Am I wrong? Are you telling your customers this is a private beach? Because I thought this was a public beach.'”

The hotel never responded, and Madelaine is now told she can’t to sit on the beach where she has for years.

Madelaine Tamayo: “I was upset they asked me to move, and I was upset they are just taking over this area.”

Well Howard, can a hotel or their concessionaire block you from going on the beach?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “The simple answer: no. The overwhelming majority of the beaches in Florida are public beaches, meaning you can go anywhere on that beach you want. And if it’s in front of a hotel, they cannot stop you from putting a chair down and reading a book on that beach.”

After hearing the claim this section of the beach is private, Miami Beach moved quickly.

A spokesperson wrote, “All the beaches along Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue are public … A concessionaire cannot demand that beachgoers move.”

Miami Beach told us they were sending out an employee to make sure the hotel’s concessionaire complied with the law.

They added, “If this happens to you on Miami Beach, get the name of the employee trying to force you to move, or a picture, and contact the city.”

The concessionaire who has the contract for the beach chairs told us they were in the wrong and they had let the employee know it.

Howard Finkelstein: “There are a few private beaches in Florida. Golden Beach is one, Hillsboro is another. You cannot sit on those beaches, but you can walk along the water’s edge to get from that beach to another beach.”

Madelaine Tamayo: “It all turned out fine faster than I expected.”

Madeline is happy, back at her favorite spot on sunny Miami Beach.

Madelaine Tamayo: “So right now, everything looks great. They very very cooperative, very concerned and very happy with it.”

Glad we could clear that up. Now as a rule of thumb, a hotel or their concessionaire cannot put chairs past the lifeguard stand. And if someone tells you to get off a public beach, not only do you get their name. Call the police. Let them straighten them out.

Wave after wave of troubles burning you? Ready for a ray of sunshine? Relax and call us. Howard didn’t soak up all the legal knowledge he should have in school, but enough for us to make a little splash.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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