Buying or Selling Waterfront Property

No one likes surprises. Before you buy or sell any waterfront property, make sure shoreline construction and alterations have been properly permitted by TVA .

Permits are needed whenever a property owner changes, when modifications are made to existing structures or when there are new structures or activities being considered. To ease the transition—and eliminate any possible snags in the sale—make sure you have the appropriate Section 26a permits. Here’s what you need to do before you sell/list or buy waterfront property:

If you’re selling/listing waterfront property:

  • TVA owns land or land rights (such as a right to flood the land or prevent certain construction) along most reservoir shoreline. It’s important to understand the TVA land and land rights before you list, sell or buy waterfront property. Not sure? You can contact TVA’s Public Land Information Center at (800) 882-5263 and request information about your location.
  • Ensure that all shoreline construction has been approved by TVA.
  • If you can’t locate a Section 26a permit for the lot, contact TVA’s Public Land Information Center at (800) 882-5263 and request a copy of the Section 26a permit.
  • Review the permit and check to see whether all shoreline construction (docks, ramps, seawalls, land-based structures, utilities, etc.) is listed on the permit. Walk the site and be sure the plans in your permit match what is constructed on site.
  • If there is TVA land or land rights between your lot and the lake, check to be sure that all the construction on the TVA land and land rights has been approved by TVA.
  • All construction or alterations to the shoreline require TVA approval, even minor changes to the dock.
  • Vegetation management of TVA property also requires a Section 26a permit.
  • Second stories on docks can be constructed as an open deck with railing, but they cannot be covered with a roof or enclosed with siding or screening. If the second story of a dock is covered, it will likely have to be removed.
  • If you identify unauthorized modifications or construction, apply to TVA for approval for those structures. TVA will let you know if they can be approved, or whether modification or removal of the structure is required.

If you’re buying waterfront property:

  • TVA owns land or land rights (such as a right to flood the land or prevent certain construction) along most reservoir shoreline. It’s important to understand the TVA land and land rights before you list, sell or buy waterfront property. Not sure? You can contact TVA’s Public Land Information Center at (800) 882-5263 and request information about your location.
  • Request a copy of the Section 26a permit from the homeowner or your realtor. You can also contact TVA’s Public Land Information Center at (800) 882-5263 and request a copy of the Section 26a permit.
  • Review the permit with the seller or your realtor to that ensure all facilities (docks, ramps, seawalls, land-based structures, utilities, etc.) are listed on the permit. Walk the site with the seller or your realtor.
  • All construction or alterations to the shoreline require TVA approval, even minor changes to the dock. Be sure the plans in the permit match what is constructed on site.
  • If there is TVA land or land rights between the listed property and the lake, check to be sure that all the construction on the TVA land and land rights has been approved by TVA.
  • Second stories on docks can be constructed as an open deck with railing, but they cannot be covered with a roof or enclosed with siding or screening. If the second story of a dock is covered, it will likely have to be removed.
  • Permits do not automatically transfer with property ownership. The new owner is required to apply to TVA for a Section 26a permit within 60 days of closing on the property.
  • When you close on the property, remember to apply to TVA to obtain a new permit in your name.

TVA can also help you determine:

  • If the property owner has the necessary rights to apply
  • If a Section 26a permit is required for a specific land- or water-based activity
  • The maximum facility size allowed at the location
  • If there are any building restrictions on the private property
  • If TVA holds any land rights or restrictions on the private property, such as a right to prevent certain construction

Workshops for Realtors

Interested in learning more? TVA staff can conduct a workshop at your office. Contact us at the number below, and we'll gladly set up a time that works for you.

Contact Us

For more information or clarification, email us at plic@tva.gov, call us at (800) 882-5263 or contact your TVA Regional Watershed Office.