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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.