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Florida Couple Fined $50 Per Day for 'Illegal' Treehouse on Their Own Property

Cited for building the treehouse without a proper permit, the family must now file for permits to tear it down.

Chris Clor Blend Images/NewscomChris Clor Blend Images/NewscomA private treehouse overlooking the ocean should have been a source of relaxation and fun for Florida couple Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen. But the hideaway, built on beachfront property they owned on Anna Maria Island, wound up rooting them in a prolonged legal battle with local authorities.

After exhausting their options in Florida, Tran and Hazen appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court—which rejected the case on Monday. The Second District Court of Appeal rejected the case in 2015. That means the couple has no recourse but to respect a circuit court judge's initial ruling to take the treehouse down.

Tran and Hazen built their treehouse in 2011, after local authorities informed them that no special permit would be required to built it. The structure cost them about $25,000.

But in 2013, an anonymous complaint to Holmes Beach city officials noted that the treehouse had actually been built on land where such structures were prohibited. A subsequent inspection from Holmes Beach code enforcement determined that Tran and Hazen's treehouse was in multiple violations of the city code. It also faulted the couple for failing to get proper building permits.

Now the city is fining the couple $50 every day the treehouse remains up.

The kicker? Tran and Hazen can't start tearing down the treehouse until they get the proper permits for tearing down a Holmes Beach home.

Photo Credit: Chris Clor Blend Images/Newscom

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They shouldn't have let Mexicans build it then.

  • Hugh Akston||

    When I think of all the people being harmed by the existence of this illicit structure I just...well let's just say I'm glad that the local government is there to enact justice on behalf of us all.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    You poke fun, but you let this tree house stand, pretty soon everyone is living like Robinson Crusoe.

  • Rat on a train||

    Living like the Swiss Family Robinson attracts pirates.

  • CE||

    Cited for building the treehouse without a proper permit, the family must now file for permits to tear it down.

    Can't they just wait for the next hurricane?

  • Zeb||

    For $50 a day they can.

  • Liberty Lover||

    A accidental fire would be faster. Bad electrical cord and a space heater.

  • chemjeff||

    Good Lord. How ridiculous.
    What if the guy just burned his own treehouse down? Would the state fine him for that?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They almost certainly require permits to burn wood in your yard.

  • Zeb||

    I suspect he'd be charged with arson.

  • DiegoF||

    As a boy I knew a girl with a quite impressive arson sheet. Man, they say don't stick your dick in crazy but sometimes you gotta make exceptions.

  • Liberty Lover||

    I bet she was "hot"!

  • TangoDelta||

    Meh, it just has to be set up right. It's the old, "we were up there for one last night of fun before tearing it down and had some candles lit to set the mood. While banging away my head knocked over a full 1.5 liter bottle of vodka which broke and spilled all over the place. The noise and splashing startling her quite a bit and when she jumped up I, I mean she, knocked over the candles which started a conflagration that we were lucky to escape from before the propane tanks and ANFO we store up there exploded".

  • Brandybuck||

    Gotta get permission from the glorious State to build the treehouse, but gotta make sure that permission was actually permissible, so one really needs to get permission from every glorious State department one can find. And then cross one's fingers and hope someone doesn't change their mind.

    Better just not to build anything.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    You didn't build that.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    THAT POOR TREE

  • Libertymike||

    In this cast of deplorables, the anonymous complainant is the worst.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    And the most powerful.

  • Rich||

    local authorities informed them that no special permit would be required to built it.

    Dust off that written information and ... "Oh, Joe -- he don't work here no more. Demolition permits, down the hall."

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    As happened to me while building a home - "it's our mistake. it's still your problem."

    NJ and FL are so much alike.

  • ||

    As happened to me while building a home - "it's our mistake. it's still your problem."

    NJ and FL are so much alike.

    It pains me a little to break this to you but pretty much anyplace that employs a building inspector is the same way. Build enough stuff in enough places and eventually, you'll end up with a notice of public hearing or in front of a planning/zoning committee to resolve an issue that two inspectors don't agree on.

  • ||

    Never, EVER, take a verbal assurance from a permit-issuer that you don't need a permit. Either get it writing that you don't need a permit (which you won't be able to do), or insist on getting the permit.

  • DiegoF||

    In NYC the wisest course of action is often just don't get the permit in the first place. But that's obviously going to vary a lot from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

  • Brandybuck||

    I would like a fish license!

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Here, fill out this 3000 page application explaining why you need a fish and how you plan to properly care for the fish, in triplicate.

    You will also need a building permit for the aquarium. To get the permit, you will need an environmental imagct statement for the planned aquarium.

  • Rich||

    But in 2013, an anonymous complaint to Holmes Beach city officials noted that the treehouse had actually been built on land where such structures were prohibited. ... The kicker? Tran and Hazen can't start tearing down the treehouse until they get the proper permits for tearing down a Holmes Beach home.

    The kicker-kicker? No such permits exist for structures built on land where such structures were prohibited.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Up next, Vogon poetry.

  • TangoDelta||

    Thank goodness, finally something that's easier to understand than zoning and building codes.

  • ||

    And the forced reading of which is less likely to drive you suicidal.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    It's not their property, and they metaphorically signed a contract with the Holmes Beach government to follow its building codes. Maybe it's a bad code, but we're a nation of laws, damn it.

  • gaydalus||

    I love this post so much, because you act like such a cunt and think you're making a point, while in fact ignoring that they did in fact have the ability to move at any time if they dislike the actions of their government.

    They could also have attempted to change the law, or get elected, and work it that way.

    But hey, pretending they were frog marched into building a tree house and remaining in a place that mistreated them is easy, and actually doing what I said is HARRRRRRRDDDD!!!

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Thank you.

    And I agree that these people who took their case to the Supreme Court should show a little initiative.

  • LarryA||

    It's not their property...

    Facts not in evidence. Just because it's "land where such structures were prohibited" doesn't mean they don't own it. Around here, all kind of construction is prohibited in certain flood zones, which belong to individual property owners.

    And according to the original information they got, they did comply with the code.

    We are indeed "a nation of laws." Be careful what you wish for.

  • DiegoF||

    I think this was a /sarc. Also note the comment above yours (which I suspect is a parody account, but still). I'm horrible at picking up on these too! (And none too good at writing them.)

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Now, we're a nation of building codes and regulations. Laws are passed by legislators.

  • DiegoF||

    A tree house, a free house,
    A secret you and me house,
    A high up in the leafy branches
    Cozy as can be house.
    A street house, a neat house,
    Be sure to wipe your feet house
    Is not my kind of house at all--
    Let's go live in a tree house.

    --Shel Silverstein, 1974

  • chemjeff||

    Well, as we all know, due to the social contract that we all signed at the moments of our births, we are bound by the inheritance of freedom and liberty that we all acquired to just bend over and take it when our benevolent government decides to change the contract and replace it with FYTW.

  • DiegoF||

    I signed mine as a zygote. Life begins at conception, you murderer.

  • Wizard4169||

    Please consider yourself upvoted.

  • gaydalus||

    Or you could just whine like a bitch about it and misrepresent what they did, like you did there.

    Local tyrants are tyrants. You're clowning yourself trying to hyperbolize it.

  • Longtobefree||

    A little historic quite from the sixties;
    "You can't fight city hall. But you can burn it down."

    I guess we should have added "after you get a permit"?

  • DiegoF||

    Naw, today's "radicals" would dutifully apply for--and probably get--a permit to burn other buildings down. The government ones would be the only ones they'd leave unmolested.

  • Buddy Bizarre||

    Related: About a week or so ago, I heard a strange repeating sound a couple hours before sunrise. It took me a few minutes to realize it was a rooster crowing. Flash forward to today & the friendly neighborhood animal control officer knocks at my door asking if I own a rooster. I laugh & tell him I've heard it but don't know where it lives. Apparently someone who lives in the condos near me pointed the officer in my direction.

    He let me know chickens are allowed in my town but not roosters. I imagine it's a lot more annoying during warmer weather when windows are open.

  • DiegoF||

    That chickens but no roosters thing is quite common in the U.S,, and I'll imagine it is or will become the standard for urban-farming relegalization in areas where the hipsters push for it.

    Elsewhere the concept is entirely foreign. Puerto Rico is a statist dystopia, as is now well known, but I think a rooster ban would be the one thing capable of sparking a libertarian revolt. Live in a high-rise in the densest part of San Juan, and there will still be roosters all over the fucking building (at least when I grew up, and I'm not that old). And, of course, you never sleep with the windows shut down there.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    It's the new defining paradigm of the Golden Globes.

  • The Last American Hero||

    I would have told him you have a rooster, but since xe is currently choosing to identify as a chicken, he's shit out of luck unless he wants to be looking at going to court over a civil rights violation.

  • Buddy Bizarre||

    @DiegoF - I know someone who's living in San Juan now. I'll have to ask about that.

    TLAH - I wish I was quick thinking enough to come up with that!

  • ||

    Fun fact: In order for me to put up playground equipment it has to be inspected by a government approved engineer.

    I'll let you imagine the racket.

  • The Last American Hero||

    No, it has to be signed that it was inspected by a government approved engineer. Do you even baksheesh, bro?

  • ||

    Tell me more...

  • Rat on a train||

    Have you reached the license to operate and annual inspection of lawnmowers? I am sure it is coming.

  • croaker||

    Killdozer.

  • IceTrey||

    And Gillespie wonders why people want to live in rural areas.

  • DiegoF||

    I always thought it was the superior recreation options.

  • ||

    And Gillespie wonders why people want to live in rural areas.

    It would be a pretty bitchin' deer stand.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    "Gee, the treehouse must have collapsed in the middle of the night. Sue gravity for not getting a permit."

  • ||

    Just park this (NSFW) in the driveway. I'd put down some good money that says the Holmes Beach City Building Code contains no specifications about any penis cars specifically and that as long as it's not in the driveway overnight or whatever (like any other ATV) it's not illegal. I hope to God the giant penis car comes with a form-fitting latex 'car cover' that you can put on it when the neighbors ask you to 'at least cover it up'.

  • colorblindkid||

    I want to see what this $25,000 tree house looks like.

  • colorblindkid||

    Never mind. Never clicked on the link. Derp.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    That structure is clearly built on the ground next to the tree. That's different than a tree house which is built entirely supported by a tree. Had they actually built a tree house I bet they would have been in compliance.

  • Jen G.||

    I feel like this article is misleading. Any tree house that costs $25000 to build falls more in the 'permanent structure' side than 'kid's plaything that will be knocked down when they outgrow it'. Almost every city would have a problem with something like that being built without a permit.

    The $50/day until they get the permit to tear it down is ridiculous though.

  • ||

    They should leave it up. Screw em.

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