Court Rules Off-The-Grid Living Is Illegal

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Court Rules Off-The-Grid Living Is Illegal

Can you believe this? – Living off the grid is illegal in Cape Coral, Florida, according to a 2013 court ruling. Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin ruled that the city’s codes allow Robin Speronis to live without utility power but she is still required to hook her home to the city’s water system. Her alternative source of power must be approved by the city, Eskin said.

As previously reported in Off The Grid News, Speronis has been fighting the city of Cape Coral since November when a code enforcement officer tried to evict her from her home for living without utilities. The city contends that Speronis violated the International Property Maintenance Code by relying on rain water instead of the city water system and solar panels instead of the electric grid.

“It was a mental fistfight,” Speronis’ attorney Todd Allen said of Eskin’s review of his clients’ case. “There’s an inherent conflict in the code.”

Part of the conflict: She must hook up to the water system, although officials acknowledge she does not have to use it.

Speronis told Off The Grid News in February she hopes to win her case and set a precedent for others in her situation. After court Thursday, Speronis told Off The Grid News that she actually won on two of three counts, although she acknowledged her legal battle is far from over.

“But what happens in the courtroom is much less important than touching people’s hearts and minds,” she said. “I think that we are continuing to be successful in doing just that and I am so pleased — there is hope! [Friday] morning, as I took my two hour walk, there was a young man, unknown to me, who drove by me, tooted his horn and said, ‘Robin, congratulations on your victory yesterday, keep up the fight and God bless you.’ That is beautiful.”

(Editor’s note: Hear our earlier interview with Robin Speronis here.)

Magistrate Admits Code is Unreasonable

Eskin spent several hours reviewing the case and admitted that the code might be obsolete, the local Press-News newspaper reported.

“Reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand … given societal and technical changes (that) requires review of code ordinances,” Eskin was quoted as saying.

Eskin’s remarks indicate that he views the code as both obsolete and unreasonable and in need of change. Yet he felt he had to enforce it.

The city did overstep its authority and may have violated due process procedures, Eskin noted. He felt that the city had not given Speronis proper notice of violations and ruled that some of the charges against her were unfounded.

“I am in compliance,” Speronis told the News-Press. “I’m in compliance of living … you may have to hook-up, but you don’t have to use it. Well, what’s the point?”

Case is Unresolved

Speronis disconnected all the utilities from her modest home in Cape Coral for an experiment in off-the-grid living some time ago. City officials ignored her activities until she went public and discussed them with Liza Fernandez, a reporter for a local TV station. A code enforcement officer designated Speronis’s home as uninhabitable and gave her an eviction notice a day after the piece aired.

The widow and former real estate agent now has two choices. She can either restore her hookup to the water system by the end of March or appeal Eskin’s ruling to the courts.

It is not known what action the city will take but city officials told Fernandez that they would be willing to let Speronis stay in her home if conditions are “sanitary.” At the hearing, Eskin noted that city officials have not actually been in Speronis’s home to make that determination.

The International Property Maintenance Code is used in communities throughout the United States and Canada. The code states that properties are unsafe to live in if they do not have electricity and running water. Speronis has electricity and water. She gets running water by collecting rainwater and electricity from solar panels.

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  • By Lynn, February 24, 2014 @ 13:10

    The Intl. Property Maintenance Code is straight from the International Code Council, part of the U.N.’s Agenda 21. Often, these codes (there are others!) are embedded into a County’s Comprehensive land use and zoning plans, unbeknownst to the County residents. (Read more at renewamerica dot com or other sites)

  • By Brian Alls, February 25, 2014 @ 00:42

    It doesn’t say here, but I assume she is still connected to the public sewer? It would be bad in a city to not be connected to a sewer, for your neighbors too. And in a lot of places, your sewer bill is determined by your water consumption. So she could be getting over on that. I agree that you shouldn’t have to buy city electric, but there might be more to the water than is initially obvious.

  • By Sandie, April 19, 2016 @ 05:43

    We are farmers in Australia. We don;t have town water or town sewage. We rely on rainfall and have a septic tank. They don;t smell at all. All our water after we have used it gets pumped out onto gardens from a grey water tank. Things like shower, bath, laundry, basin etc. Now that does tend to smell a little. But grey water is used throughout cities all over the world.

  • By BB, April 20, 2016 @ 09:19

    Appeal it, honey; for the sake of us all.

  • By Jules, April 19, 2016 @ 17:34

    It just amazes me that they can determine the house is “unsanitary” and “unliveable” because it is not connected to mains water or power, despite the fact no one has even been in to inspect the conditions? That is simply an assumption, not a fact! Further, where was due process in serving the eviction notice? Aren’t they required to give a suitable amount of notice in serving an eviction i.e. 2 week or a month? To simply serve one the day after they became aware of the issue is ridiculous.

  • By Laurel Sorensen, April 19, 2016 @ 21:04

    As a food inspector, I know both the laws we enforce, as well as the history behind the laws. If someone is so determined to do the back to nature thing, they need to live in an unpopulated country, where they won’t contaminate everyone’s water with their sewage. Officials can “be too busy to enforce”, until advertising turns something like this into a complete nightmare. Sorry, but she is completely wrong about off grid for sewer and water in a populated neighborhood.

  • By Jake, May 16, 2016 @ 23:15

    Lynn is absolutely correct. I live in Florida and was told recently that Off the Grid living is illegal in the State of Florida, not just Cape Coral. It was shocking to me. Our crooked politicians are secretly incorporating many rules and laws that the public knows nothing about. But the Sheeple have demonstrated such a level of indifference and ignorance that public outrage will never occur. And without a public outrage, nothing will happen. Perhaps even with a public outrage at this point, the Socialists and Communists have gained so much control of our government at so many levels, I believe it may be too late. They are allowing us to believe we are free, but we are not. We have done an unforgivable thing to our children and still nobody cares.

  • By Doug Becker, May 17, 2016 @ 11:27

    What if you have a septic tank/field?

  • By Darlene Demandel Holmberg, June 16, 2016 @ 15:42

    It would be in the best interest of the citizen (and neighbors) to be prepared and able to be a viable home without any utilities, in the event of a catastrophe. The authorities that should be helping us do more with less are actually out to nickel and dime us for (personal) gain.

  • By Luz, June 18, 2016 @ 07:13

    I lived in Cape Coral for 23 years and left 11 years ago. I used well water without any problems during that time. The City of Cape Coral forced even those of us using wells to pay huge assessments, something like $14,000+, so the city could put city water lines in for the large developments being built. Mind you, I lived in the “boonies” of Cape Coral, where there weren’t even stop signs, and I would not have had access to city water for many, many years bcause the water pipes were first being laid in big development areas. This not being allowed to live off grid is simply another way to tax citizens for money.

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