AVON, N.J. (WABC) -- Blind-sided and bewildered. That's what how one New Jersey homeowner says she's feeling after getting shocked with the news that she doesn't own the land her house has stood on for generations.
"It's horrible. It's absolutely horrible." Missy Peters is talking about the shocking news her mom got she doesn't own the land her family's house was built on.
For nearly half a century Margaret Codey's raised her family on this idyllic beach-front home. Now, this former realtor and current empty-nester wants to downsize and sell her homestead. But just days before closing, the buyer found New Jersey has claim to her land.
"The state is saying it owns 89 percent of the land," Codey said.
The map from the state shows she only owns a sliver of her property.
"Which piece is yours?" 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda asked.
"From the garage to about here," Codey said.
The reason? Nearly 100 years ago as seen in this aerial map water, at high tide, water used to flow from the Shark River onto the area where Margaret's house would once stand.
In the 30's the bulkheads were bult to hold back the tides and Margaret's home was built. Left behind was a bill for the tidelands, apparently never paid to the state.
"The money involved could be astronomical," said Missy, who is helping her mom resolve this issue.
That's because the state bases the land bill on current, appraised, fair market value.
"It could be in the hundreds of thousands?" Pineda asked.
"It could be correct," said Chris LaMonica, an attorney.
LaMonica specializes in tidelands claims, affecting all but three counties across the state. Even properties inland could owe the state when sold, a big surprise to condo owners in well populated places like Edgewater, Hoboken, and others.
"Jersey City. This affects a lot of people. It's extensive," said LaMonica.
LaMonica says the process to clear up claims takes up to a year and a half. The delay's already scuttled Margaret's sale. The unanswered question she has for the state.
"If the state says I own it, why was I never notified? How can this be?" Codey said.
7 On Your Side asked that very question, why doesn't the state notify homeowners. The state's regulatory agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, couldn't give us an answer.
The DEP rep said they haven't seen a big problem with homeowners on this issue. And they're simply enforcing the laws of the state. But there is something you can do about it, you can pay for a tidelands survey about $35, to see if you have a potential problem. It's better than waiting until you're selling.