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Treehouse dispute keeps on going and going in Florida

How bad can it be if you don’t get a permit for a building on your own property before you start construction?

You might not want to ask that question around the city of Holmes Beach. A dispute over the construction of a treehouse has spawned a series of lawsuits over the last decade that has yet to be settled and has cost its owners thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses.

According to news reports, a resident of Holmes Beach and the owner of Angelinos Sea Lodge approached the city in 2011. He asked the city inspector if a permit would be necessary to build a treehouse on his property and was told by officials at the time that none was required.

Well, there was never any discussion about what size the treehouse was going to be — and the resident and his wife ended up designing and building a custom two-deck treehouse with 400 square feet of room, removable windows and solar panels for energy. The treehouse was 30 feet back from the erosion-control line that separates the owner’s private property from the public beach.

If the treehouse had been another 20 feet back, there might not have been a problem. However, a 2013 code board decision says that the treehouse violates the law and ordered it removed. Other lawsuits surrounding the treehouse involve separate decisions and fines that have been imposed for its continued presence. All told, the treehouse itself cost $28,000 — but fighting for an after-the-fact building permit has cost the owners around $50,000 and the city more than $179,000 to deny it.

If you want to avoid problems with construction that could lead to extensive litigation and more than double your costs, get some experienced legal advice before you start.