FLOATING ON-WATER RESIDENCE

Definition (per Seattle Municpal Code 23.60A.912)

Floating on-water residence” means any floating structure, other than a floating home, that is designed or used primarily as a residence, has detachable utilities, and is the subject of a lease or sublease at a marina, or whose owner or predecessor in interest had an ownership interest in a marina, as of July 1, 2014. See RCW 90.58.270. For the purpose of this definition, a structure will be considered “designed primarily as a residence” if it contains a dwelling unit.

FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions)

Floating On-WaterQ: Are Floating On-Water Residences ‘Houseboats?’

A: Yes. Floating On-Water Residences are frequently referred to and commonly thought of as “houseboats.” The term “houseboat” has been used to describe many different types of floating residences including Floating Homes, House Barges, and Vessels with Dwelling Units. Neither the State nor City definition defines the appearance of a Floating On-Water Residence, but rather describes them in terms of use. With the practical application of the Seattle verification process, houseboats are the most common form of verification given.

Q: What is the difference between a Floating On-Water Residence and a Floating Home?

A: Simply put, it is how your utilities are connected. A Floating On-Water Residence must be connected with “Quick-Disconnect” utilities while a Floating Home is permanently connected to utilities.  If you unscrew a hose for your water, unscrew the electrical, and untie ropes, then you are a Floating On-Water Residence. If you need to call an electrician/plumber to disconnect, then you are likely a Floating Home. (Other requirements apply in both cases).

Q: Do Seattle Houseboats (aka Floating On-Water Residences) have to be verified?

A: Yes. The City of Seattle requires that all Floating On-Water Residences apply for verification and submit a fee ($95). With a completed verification, Seattle is issuing a plaque that must be displayed on the houseboat. The verification process consists of submitting an application along with photographs and sketches (More detail is available in the FOWR Application).

Plaque 700Q: Does My Floating On-Water Residence need a Plaque and how do I display it?

A: Yes. Once your Floating Residence has been verified, you will need to display a Plaque on your houseboat. This can be the City Issued version, or your own design as long as the numerals are at lease 3 inches high. If you are behind a locked gate, you need to display the plaque on the water side of the houseboat, or a place that is visible from the water. If you are not behind a locked gate, display the plaque on the dock side of the houseboat.

Q: Does my Houseboat (Floating On-Water Residence) need to have engines?

A: No. Seattle Houseboats are NOT required to have steering, navigation, propulsion, navigation lights, or other common marine requirements. If your Houseboat is also a licensed vessel, then state and federal regulations will require that your vessel to be properly equipped with navigational requirements.

Q: Can I Build a New Floating On-Water Residence?

A: No! At least not in Seattle Waters (unless replacing an existing, verified Floating On-Water Residence).  In order to qualify as a Floating On-Water Residence, your structure must have been used as a residence in Seattle Waters prior to July 1, 2014.  It is legal to build new houseboats, but they would not qualify in Seattle Waters.

Q: Can I Expand My Existing On-Water Residence?

A: Yes, however, no increase in over-water coverage is allowed and if the expansion over the life of the Structure (or its replacement) exceeds 120 square feet, then gray-water containment or a waste-water hookup that disposes the gray water to the City’s waste-water disposal system is required. Please see (Do I need A Permit to Remodel / Repair My Floating On-Water Residence?)

Q: Can I replace my Floating On-Water Residence?

Yes, Replacement to the same size and configuration as established in the verification is allowed. Replacement with expansion of up to 120 square feet is allowed. Expansions greater than 120 square feet shall provide gray-water containment or a waste-water hookup that disposes the gray water to the City’s waste-water disposal system.

Q: Do I need A Permit to Remodel / Repair My Floating On-Water Residence?

A: Generally, repairs and maintenance do not require permits, however, this is a complex question and should be resolved with the local building authority. Please see Seattle Municipal Code 23.60A.20 for details on Shoreline Development permits. Please contact Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections to determine if you need a Shoreline Development Permit or a Shoreline Development Exemption.

Floating On-Water Residence Documents