Deed Restriction Complaints

Deed Restrictions 2
By Mike Cooper

As was discussed in the July Villager, Citrus Springs is a deed restricted community. That is, every residential lot in the community is subject to a set of restrictions or limitations which run with the land and act to restrict the ways in which we can use our property and what we can place or store on our lots and where. These restrictions and limitations are designed to assure that the use of one person’s lot does not unreasonably affect the use and enjoyment of their neighbors’ property and does not thereby reduce the value of the neighbor’s property.
In a perfect world, all our neighbors would act responsibly, would maintain their property in a neat and sanitary manner, would not operate an auto junkyard in their front yard, would not store large commercial vehicles on the side of the road, would not…well, you get the picture. All of these activities and more which violate the deed restrictions have occurred, and many continue to occur in various locations in the community, despite our best efforts to stop them.
In every case these violations have a severe negative impact on the adjoining and nearby properties. Even the owners of vacant lots are impacted. Many of these violations render the sale of nearby vacant lots impossible thereby reducing their value to zero. The worst of the violators can have the same effect on nearby lots with homes. The impact of a nearby property that is a shambles of overgrown vegetation, trash and junk strewn around the yard, unregistered vehicles sitting on cement blocks in the driveway, etc. can cut the value of nearby homes in half or more and cause them to sit on the market unsold for months, if not years.
The Citrus Springs Civic Association has been the primary agency for the enforcement of the deed restriction in this community since accepting that authority from the Deltona Corporation in 1995. Many of the violations of our deed restriction are also violations of various County Laws as well. Many of these are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Code Compliance. Though woefully understaffed since the fiscal crisis caused drastic budget cuts, they have in many cases been very helpful when called. In other cases, not so much. The Association for the last eight or nine years has had one heroic volunteer in charge of deed restriction enforcement, Board of Directors Member, Paul Noblitt. And does he have some stories to tell.
Paul gets complaints almost on a daily basis from citizens who believe their neighbors are in violation of the deed restrictions. He inspects the properties and if he finds a violation that is also a County Code violation he will contact the Code Compliance office to report the violation. If he finds a deed restriction violation which is not a County violation, he will speak with the property owner and seek voluntary compliance which in many cases is readily forthcoming. If voluntary compliance is not forthcoming, the matter is brought before the CSCA Board of Directors for enforcement which involves written notice of violation with a specified time frame for correction, and ultimately legal action, the costs of which, if successful, are assessed against the violator and may be enforced through the filing of a lien against the property, which may ultimately be enforced by foreclosure and sale of the property.
In the next edition, I’ll discuss why this cumbersome and hugely expensive system has largely failed and needs to be changed.

Deed Restrictions

CITRUS SPRINGS IS A DEED RESTRICTED COMMUNITY

What does this mean for you and your property? Deed restrictions or covenants, as they are sometimes called, are legal limits on the ways in which one can use his or her real property. Restrictions, applying to all residential properties in Citrus Springs, were put in place by the Deltona Corporation, the original subdivider / developer of the Citrus Springs subdivision. The original restrictions were recorded in the Citrus County Public Records in conjunction with the approvals for each of the 27 Subdivision Units or sections as laid out on the Plats approved by the County in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Because these deed restrictions are recorded in the Public Records the law considers that recording to be adequate legal notice to future purchasers that the property they are buying is subject to those restrictions.
Many new residents have indicated that they were totally unaware that the property they bought in Citrus Springs is subject to any deed restrictions. “No one told us”, they say. Your realtor and your title company should have pointed out the existence of deed restrictions, and every stone pillar at the entrances to Citrus Springs has the words “A Deed Restricted Community”, though no longer very easy to read. Regardless, actual notice is not required in order to make the restrictions enforceable, recording in the Public Records gives them legal status.
Nearly all substantial subdivisions in Florida and around the country are made subject to deed restrictions of some nature. Some are extremely restrictive, others like those in Citrus Springs are less so, but still substantially limit the use of our property.
Why are these restrictions put in place? What purpose are they intended to serve? Quite simply, to protect and enhance your property value; to assure to you the quiet enjoyment of your home; to enhance the quality of life throughout the community; and to prevent the accumulation of trash, junk, noxious or poisonous substances, or conditions which could be dangerous, attract vermin, adversely effect your health and the environment generally.

Since 1995 the Citrus Springs Civic Association has been the entity legally authorized to enforce the provisions of the deed restrictions having accepted an assignment of that authority from the Deltona Corporation. Individuals adversely effected by deed restriction violations by their neighbors also can bring suit to ask a court to order compliance.
For several years the Civic Association has published and made available a summary of the deed restrictions in booklet form to inform residents of what is allowed and what is not allowed on residential properties in Citrus Springs. This booklet is available at the Community Center.

The following is a very brief synopsis of the current residential deed restriction provisions as set forth in the booklet:
1. Only one single family dwelling per lot, no more than 2 stories high with minimum 1 car garage or carport under the main roof. One shed allowed on small lots at the rear of the property. 2 sheds allowed if lot over 1/2 acre in size. 5 foot setback for sheds.
2. Setbacks 25 feet in front, greater of 7.5 feet or 10% of the lot width on the sides and 25 feet to the rear lot line, except a swimming pool enclosure may be 15 feet from the rear line. Waterfront lots and lots in Unit 12 have larger setbacks.
3. Minimum square footage requirements are established for various locations and lots ranging from 1000 sq. ft. to 1800 sq. ft.
4. No noxious or offensive trade is allowed. May not reside permanently or temporarily in any tent, trailer, RV, garage, shed, barn, or other outbuilding. Signs are limited in size and number. No mining or drilling. No animals, livestock, poultry of any kind other than household pets such as dogs or cats are allowed. No commercial breeders or kennels are allowed. No dumping of rubbish, trash, garbage or other waste. All household waste shall be disposed of offsite regularly and when stored on site must be kept in clean sanitary containers. No large trucks or recreational vehicles, tractors, campers, travel trailers or boats may be parked on any street, street right of way or on any lot in Citrus Springs, unless previously approved by the Architectural Review Committee and kept behind the home and screened from view. Fences up to 6 feet high are allowed in back yards not to extend closer to the street than the rear property line.
5. No private wells for drinking water. OK for irrigation, pools etc.
6. No fence or shrubs which obstruct sight line of roadways.
7. No changing elevation which causes drainage problem for neighboring lots or roads.
8. All buildings, structures, swimming pools, fences, sheds, including temporary and movable structures may not be placed on any lot until first approved by the Architectural Review Committee. Plans for the proposed building or structure must be submitted and reviewed and approval granted before placement on the lot. No manufactured, mobile or pre-fab homes are allowed. All new homes must be compatible with existing homes in the area.
9. Provisions for Amendment are provided.
10. Remedies for violation include the right to bring suit against the violator, with the violator to pay all legal and administrative costs which may be enforced through the placement of a lien on the property which could result in the foreclosure of and sale of the property.

In future articles, we will discuss these provisions in more detail and will discuss proposals to amend and clarify the deed restrictions.