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Florida Court Rules Living ‘Off The Grid’ Is Illegal

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posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 01:21 PM

originally posted by: ISawItFirst
Wow. I feel the fear of independence dripping off this post. Gives me the willies.

Save your 30k and the doom porn. Sketch it up and take it to the planning office. Use large sized paper and be accurate. If it's unacceptable they will tell you why. Fix it and try again. Rinse and repeat. Easy peasy.

Heh. Easy peasy. You sound like a contractor but on the other hand contractors tend to not oversimplify things. I've built commercial buildings. Nothing is "easy peasy" when dealing with inspectors and planners. Let's say you want to split off part of an aircraft hangar as a home. Not so fast - active fire suppression required. There goes $50k - project halted. Let's say you want to erect a steel building out in the county where there is no fire flow. The building inspector insists that you install a water tank for the fire department. You talk to the fire department and they say they never even use on-site water storage, they truck all the water in that they need. This is only too typical.

They have architects there, and engineers. If you can't draw it up you shouldn't be doing it yourself. IBC is not rocket science, especially when your talking about off grid life styles. Problems ubiquitious since antiquity often have many solutions.

No, they do not have architects and engineers you can lean on. They make it very clear that they will not help you in the design process - that's your job, and it would make them liable for their design. Literally all they do is find reasons you can't do something - if they can't find any reason to stop you, then you're in the clear.

There is usually much more leeway for owners than contractors/architects. No license requirements, ins. , bond etc. If it is something that ends up requiring a wet stamp, they can be had for a couple hundo.

It is much easier for them to refuse a contractor.

You're right in that owners get more leeway when it comes to bonding, but absolutely 100% wrong when it comes to inspections. Contractors who know the building officials generally get a "drive by" inspection or "Stevie Wonder" inspection. More of a "hey how ya doin" and "okay seeya" sort of a deal.

I don't know how it is everywhere, but I live in one of the most regulated areas of the US building code wise. Lots of AHJs have their own interpretations of many aspects of IBC.

Many of the inspectors I've dealt with would probably love too see some off grid type inspections, and would probably be a great help to the owners.

It's all up to the "authority having jurisdiction", which is your local building inspector. If he's a cool guy and knows you do good work, he'll turn a blind eye .. but that's not the way things should work. I shouldn't have to pray that my official will be in a good mood when he stops by my construction site.

Still, as long as you are in their process and trying to comply, you can pretty much do what you want as an owner. There are processes for getting a "code variance" for when it is not technically, financially, or otherwise feasible to comply, or at times to formalize a grandfathered aspect of a land improvement. Permit expirations can be repeatedly extended, you could be holding off inspections for years for a few bucks. I've seen hotels claiming broke for years, when requiring hydrotests of their dry pipe systems. That is much more serious than a residential permit issue, handled by the same office.

It's true that if you make an effort to comply, they'll be much more accommodating, but they still have to building and planning code. Many rural areas don't allow plots with wells smaller than 40 acres in order to prevent suburbanization. Other places prevent farmland from being converted into a home plot for 5 or 10 years (you have to take the land out of production for a long period of time as a farmer). Yet other places mandate that all runoff from a business be collected, no matter whether it comes from a gutter system or pressure washer. Some places won't let you live on property you own, even if you own it, because it's not zoned properly. I could go on and on - the regs are outrageous. The only thing you can hope for is that your building / planning officials like you .. a lot. It shouldn't be that way, but that's the way it is.

Everything is based on cost too. If your doing everything yourself, you can assign whatever cost you deem appropriate. Be prepared to briefly explain to the planning receptions why you think your 2 bedroom cottage project is only going to cost whatever your local minimum cost covered under the 25-150 initial permit cost is. Usually around 20k. Even if it is more than 20k, it's usually 5-25$ per additional 1k in cost. Many localities will reissue the first one at no charge if it gets hung up along the way, and additional renewals are usually the same cost as the initial.

Hah! I recently put up a facility with 100 or so electrical circuits. I was charged by the circuit for my permit. My local electrical inspector said I had paid enough money to cover over 15 visits. I used 3.

It's a simple bureaucracy, and often staffed by friendly folks. It's not the DMV.

Go in, take a number, go up to the lady and say, I have this land at X, and I'd really like to do Y. What do I need to bring you?. What are the minimum requirements.

It's really basic stuff. It's not good case for civil disobedience.

It is the DMV, just in different form. You've got a bunch of people who'd rather not be there and aren't terribly interested in making your life any easier. Sure, they'll tell you what the minimum requirements might be, and those requirements will probably make the project uneconomical. Hell, in my county you can't even park an RV and live in it on your own property without putting the RV on a permanent foundation.

These building codes are bought by the industry groups (just look at the sway the fire sprinklerfitters union / sprinkler manufacturers have over IBC fire code) and the zoning codes are bought by local wealthy people who want to shore up their property values.

It most certainly IS a good case for civil disobedience - we're talking about people's freedom to build a house where they please and operate it as they please.

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 01:25 PM
Ok, I concur to that, about this particular woman's situation. I was getting self righteously defensive about the general premise of building one's own home. a reply to: boohoo

I live in NM. Maybe I have a different experience with zoning, permitting, & acceptance of alternative building. This is a state where all the building in the capitol must conform visually to the aesthetic of Adobe-building.
A state where much of the population lives in trailer or mobile homes. Where for centuries bricks of mud have been used for fences, hornos, and houses. It's probably more accepted here in public and government, to build one's own home.

edit on 16-6-2015 by kkrattiger because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 01:28 PM
a reply to: Guidance.Is.Internal

Many rural areas don't allow plots with wells smaller than 40 acres in order to prevent suburbanization. Other places prevent farmland from being converted into a home plot for 5 or 10 years (you have to take the land out of production for a long period of time as a farmer).

Sounds like California

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 01:28 PM

originally posted by: Guidance.Is.Internal

THANK YOU, for nipping this n the bud, point by point. ISawItFirst is WAY off here.
edit on 16-6-2015 by boohoo because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 01:29 PM
"For the Greater Good", It's shared responsibility, which should be a goal for a good World Citizen.

if everyone is on the water supply, it's cheaper and better for everyone, just like Obamacare

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 01:32 PM

originally posted by: kkrattiger
*Note: of course there's restrictive zoning in cities and developer-owned subdivisions, etc. I am talking about land in areas not zoned in a way which precludes building one's own home. If one buys a parcel just east of Main Street, next to a pizza joint across from a school, intending to tear down the fixer upper to live off grid, then you may feel slighted by the tyrannical pile of tickets for codes violations that will shut down your "plan".

Did I miss it, or have we been given no indication of the exact circumstances here? Is she living off in the boonies, and taking care of her environmental footprint so that it does not negatively impact others? Or is she right next door, living in a #hole and killing my property values? Do I look out my window and see solar panels 4 feet from my face, where there used to be greenery? Is she accountable for water service to insure her home, in order to get a mortgage?

There are a lot of variables here that would add to the discussion, but have not been brought to the table. Also, there are zoning codes and property standards for a reason.

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 01:59 PM

originally posted by: JohnnyCanuck
Also, there are zoning codes and property standards for a reason.

You're right, there always is a reason. Sometimes it was a "good" reason 20 years ago and is a "bad" reason now. Sometimes it was the brother-in-law of a county commissioner wanting to prevent someone from blocking his view of the river. Sometimes it was a "good" reason 20 years ago and still is a "good" reason. Like so many things in government, once it has become law, it's practically impossible to remove it. The IBC isn't cozy with the idea of off-grid living - the industry groups supporting off-grid living are miniscule. No sway. City/county officials aren't cozy with the idea because it means they actually have to get off their duffs and figure something new out. The ONLY two places I've seen people build without being pestered are 1) remote Alaska where there simply aren't any building/zoning officials 2) Reservations for native Americans.

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 02:01 PM
a reply to: maddy21

Land of the FREE, yippee-ka-yay!

"International Property Maintenance Code" ???
Whaat is dis sheeet?
Can they maybe go help some people in third world countries who do not have a grid to connect to, instead of imposing their will upon people who would like to choose disconnecting?

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 02:11 PM

originally posted by: new_here
a reply to: maddy21


That is what concerned me too.

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 02:12 PM
a reply to: new_here

The IPMC is a building code which was compiled by the ICC, the International Code Council. Previous to the existence of the ICC, the regions of the USA had their own independent regulators for building codes, and that became either confusing, or just a nightmare for people moving out of one area, to another. For example, house builders in the north west would have to adhere to regulations which might have been different in the South East. The ICC was created from the combined resources of the bodies which regulated these things before, and their codes are hybrids of the codes used by the old regulating bodies.

The ICC is actually misnamed, because it is not international. The ICC has no jurisdiction outside the US, what so ever, as far as I am aware. Basically, it's an old boys network which, yes, creates building codes to prevent accidental death or injury on worksites and in homes and buildings in the US, but also has more clout than it ought to, and like all large bodies trying to create rules for even larger populations, fails to take into account the individual when creating these codes.

The US government accepted the ICC codes a while back.

More information on this interesting feature of life in the developed world, can be found at the following Wikipedia page:

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 02:13 PM
a reply to: TrappedPrincess

We can't have everything. We have to give up a little bit of freedom to have civilization. Otherwise, nothing would get done. It's called a "social contract":

Thomas Hobbes famously said that in the "state of nature", human life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". In the absence of political order and law, everyone would have unlimited natural freedoms, including the "right to all things" and thus the freedom to plunder, rape, and murder; there would be an endless "war of all against all" (bellum omnium contra omnes). To avoid this, free men contract with each other to establish political community i.e. civil society through a social contract in which they all gain security in return for subjecting themselves to an absolute Sovereign, one man or an assembly of men.


Locke believed that natural rights were inalienable, and that the rule of God therefore superseded government authority; and Rousseau believed that democracy (self-rule) was the best way of ensuring the general welfare while maintaining individual freedom under the rule of law. The Lockean concept of the social contract was invoked in the United States Declaration of Independence. Social contract theories were eclipsed in the 19th century in favor of utilitarianism, Hegelianism, and Marxism, and were revived in the 20th century, notably in the form of a thought experiment by John Rawls.[3]


So yes, in order to have nice things and not live in barbarous primitive chaos, we have to give a little to get a little. None of us would even be communicating via the internet without social contracts.

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 02:21 PM
a reply to: Guidance.Is.Internal

Don't get me wrong, I think we fundamentally agree.

Personally I don't think the AHJ have the authority they assume. But I think property taxes are slavery.

Still, it sounds like your projects are the ones that pay for the Harry homeowner inspections.

Btw, I have spent years in project management, owned a fire protection company, and spent probably a few months cumulatively in various AHJ offices. In almost all jurisdictions here, owners can pull trade permits with no licenses. There is so much gray area inherent into the system. Being friendly and resourceful in those offices can save tens of thousands of dolllars.

No, the structural guy is not going to engineer a beam for you to span that 20 foot gap you drew up for your large addition. He will tell you that anything over 15 feet Will have to be engineered. He will tell you, it needs to be stamped by an engineer. He will not refer one. An engineer will put eyes on your drawing and stamp it for a nominal fee, if it is up to par.

Yeah, adding 15 circuits or converting to residential is going to make them cream their pants. Much like changing fire alarm zones.

Do you know what it costs to have the utilities hooked up?

My friend with working septic is being pressured into sewer hookup at a cost of over 30k.

Still, code enforcement offices are local offices, where for the most part you can reason directly with the individual making the decision on your case, make notes and additions in real time, and they actually have the authority to disregard the code and make variances.

When dealing with Harry homeowner, they often rely in the reasons and intent of the code in their descriptions, whereas a contractor should know these things. Something that would result in summary dismissal for a contractor, is often explained in plan review to an owner. The inspectors are for the most part former tradesmen, drive by inspections have much much more to do with the inspectors work ethic than any untoward relationship with the contractor. I have never heard of one, although I have sat all day for am inspection only to find the approved sticker stuck to the edge of the mailbox.

I have picked up inspection stickers from the street. I have received them conditionally on certain changes. I've had the opposite too. I've had rejections for things not on the property or area of work at all. I've had an inspector threaten to fail because I was not sure of the fastest egress route in a building I had never set foot in prior, and was only meeting him for the final inspection of a steel stairwell. It helps a ton if you know their hobbies. Do they fish or hunt, what schools their kids go to etc.

Should it be this way. NO! And if you go in there like you are going to tell them what is what they will hand you your ass. Still, fighting building codes is silly.

Let's just restore basic property rights and it's all a non issue. I think we agree on this.

Oh another btw, since you mentioned. I was in the sprinkler fitters union for a time as well as the carpenters union.

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 02:33 PM

originally posted by: MystikMushroom
Well, if you aren't hooked up to sewer, you're going to be dumping your waste on your land in ways that may not be very safe. Your waste could leech into the subsurface groundwater and contaminate other people's property, or the entire town/city's itself.

There are thousands of people in Florida living off the grid on boats and elsewhere. For sewage composting toilets are becoming increasingly popular. This means someone can live without being hooked up to a sewer system and not dump waste, however doing this requires a bit of responsibility on the individual.

Florida is an interesting state and each section is much different that the rest. Some municipalities have 'nanny state' laws while others are much more lax.

While I think government can no doubt do good, and I can give a plethora good examples of this, I have little faith that Florida's current administration is looking out for the citizens and environment.

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 05:55 PM
Florida is West Virginia's inbred retarded cousin. Florida put the "S" in stupid. AND Yes I did live there!

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 05:55 PM
Florida is West Virginia's inbred retarded cousin. Florida put the "S" in stupid. AND Yes I did live there!

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 06:07 PM
a reply to: boohoo

Jury Nullification would be awesome if it weren't for that pesky "Jury Tampering " charge it just may get one.

Only the court can tamper with juries and they do as a matter of course.

The system is broken.
edit on 16-6-2015 by MyHappyDogShiner because: stoopidassnonproofingretard

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 06:48 PM
What happens when your social contract (that you signed by merely existing, according to some logic I've seen) to a bankrupt culture starts to border on suicidal, or neglectful in terms of the planet we leave to our children? I totally respect the need for some levels of government especially in areas where we are hopelessly incapable. In the case where an informed individual knows exactly how to handle themselves ethically, from an ecological perspective, then I think government should not be there to offer resistance to your god-given right to a higher degree of self-reliance. Should we go knocking down doors in the Congo and tell the indigenous that they have a social responsibility to the rest of us to let globalism deforest their homeland because we've failed as a collective to restructure our culture into one that is more sustainable and less toxic? Where do you draw the line? Actually, it doesn't matter...because everyone has there own idea of where to draw it, as is their right.

As others have mentioned, there are ways of dealing with your waste that is not only clean but actually very wise when viewed from the correct perspective. As animals, we have to find ways (no, not needlessly tech-based) to mimic our other animal neighbors and deal with our waste locally. Composting toilets, greywater systems, treebog, dry outhouse...etc are all ways of dealing with your waste locally. By structuring our living systems to take advantage of the energy cycles nature is secretly displaying for us we can be more sustainable and more independent. I mean, let's be fair, what of the groundwater effects of dumping tons of pesticide, herbicide and fungicide and the upside-down acceptance we have for it because of a massive lack of local self-reliance when it comes to how our food is produced? But if somebody takes a crap on the back 12 we get all environmentally.

Health, security, the experience of living, family, community are ways we would improve as a culture if people were encouraged to manage energy and material locally, and responsibly. The internet is providing a way for people to educate themselves on how to safely move away from a short-term gain culture. We would do well to make sure our laws greased the wheels of this necessary evolution of human living.
edit on 16-6-2015 by SlickMcFavorite because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 07:20 PM
not all counties / cities in fl are that strict.

in fact i live in what was considered to be a rural area that is fast becoming a suburb. we use to call it the boonies or sticks.
with in a, i'll say a 15 square mile area, there are 10 families / couples that are living in camper trailers on their property.
some are hookup up to the Gulf Power( electric), some and are hooked up to the local water system others have sewer system out here so some may have septic tanks.

on the road i live on, there are three of the ten i'm talking about. i know for a fact that two have septic tanks and wells. they also have power poles on their property, but rarley use it. you hear their generators running all the time.

the thrid one is a single guy i think, he comes and goes. stays for a couple of months then he is gone. he also has a power pole, but no septic tank or well.

it all depends on the zoning laws.

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 08:55 PM
a reply to: ISawItFirst

Thanks for the thoughtful reply, good stuff. In a perfect world, inspections would simply be mandated by insurance companies. If you want a structure insured, there has to be a chain of responsibility. I know people love to hate insurance companies, but really they are the experts in assessing risk because they're the ones who have to open their wallets when stuff hits the fan. I hate the idea of someone out there protecting people from their own stupidity. It's like people choosing to ride a motorcycle to work vs driving a car. Risk and reward - let people decide it on their own.

When guys like Obama talk about "stimulating the economy", they should really look at what's involved in starting a business, paying taxes, building structures, conforming to local zoning regs, etc. It will absolutely strangle a small business.

But here we are, basically having to kiss the butt of building/zoning officials in order to get work done. It shouldn't be this way, but if you complain to them ... like you said, they will hand you your ass and you can forget about ever getting something done again. Pretty scary thought that some people have that much power. When I was younger, I worked for an electrical testing company where our boss had to bribe local officials to get work done. That was in NJ. I worked on another job on a reservation where we had to hire a few locals to "help" .. all they did was hang out in the truck, smoke cigs and drink. Sheesh. Crazy world we live in ..

posted on Jun, 16 2015 @ 09:41 PM
a reply to: ISawItFirst

LOL my brother was a building contractor in California, about 25 years ago.

Reading your post brought back memories of his stories.

He claimed, he used to keep an unopened case of beer in a visible spot when inspectors were scheduled, and 99% of the time he past inspection and that case of beer magically disappeared.

Just stories, ya know

edit on 16-6-2015 by Annee because: (no reason given)

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