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CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 10238
Experience:  I am a civil litigation attorney with experience representing HOAs, homeowners, businesses and others in real estate matters.
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I am in Florida and bought a lot on which to build a

Customer Question

I am in Florida and bought a lot on which to build a lakefront home. There is a fence built by the Homeowner's Association across the front of the lot along the road. The access to the lot is through a gate across an easement on my lot granted to the State of Florida for ingress and egress to public sanctuary lands behind the lot. There are four padlocks on the gate: one for the HOA members to use to access a boat dock on HOA common land behind the lot; two locks used by state and county vehicles; and my own personal lock. The locks are supposed to be attached in chain formation so that opening any one lock will open the gate. However, several times in recent weeks one of the state locks has been locked in a way that bypasses the other locks. In other words, everyone else is locked off the lot, including me, the servient estate holder. I am about to start construction on my home, and the contractors will need access through that gate. I can't have construction crews show up to find themselves locked off the property. Despite my having had two conversations with South Florida Water Management District (and once even calling a sheriff's deputy to the site to see if he had the lock combination) about their lock being placed directly on the gate chain so as to lock me out from my own lot, they still persist in putting their padlock on that way. The Water District manager to whom I talked told me that many employees and contractors, as well as sheriff and fire personnel, have the combinations to their locks, and he has no way of knowing who is doing it. Upon finding myself locked off the property for the fourth time I bought a bolt cutter and cut the offending lock off the chain. Relocking the gate without that lock now means that state and county personnel are locked off the easement. Do I have any legal remedy to being locked off my property repeatedly?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 1 year ago.

You can sue the state for violation of the easement.

However, this is much easier said than done (suing a state entity is very complicated, unfortunately). You may want to contact the state (again) and see if there is a mechanism or resolution that can be reached in a way that can help ensure you do not have this problem in the future.

The state is responsible for the actions of their agents, contractors, and assigns - so if one of their agents or contractors is responsible for locking the gate in an improper fashion, the state is still responsible for this. However, it is going to be difficult to gain any type of financial recourse against them, and likely the best you can hope for is going to be a court "declaratory order" telling the state that they have to honor the easement in the way it is written (basically telling them to do what they are supposed to do), and you are going to be out whatever attorney's fees and litigation costs that you have paid.

You may want to discuss with the state installing a small metal sign with instructions on how to properly lock the gate or some similar measure to help avoid problems in the future. The state may be able to take advantage of access to their metal shops and sign facilities to do this at no cost to you (I would recommend asking for a proposed template prior to having the sign created).

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