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Florida couple faces legal battle over unrecorded easement

A Florida couple are in danger of losing the business that they have spent 17 years building because of a conservation easement on their property that was unrecorded and thus did not appear on a title search. The real estate dispute will be decided by a Florida circuit court judge, but the couple are worried that the court will be swayed by arguments that a ruling in their favor could lead to a flood of similar claims.

The conservation easement came to light after the couple applied for a liquor license for their Martin County restaurant. The easement had been placed in 1990, but county officials did not record it. The couple performed routine due diligence before purchasing the property in 2011, but the easement was not discovered in a title search or land survey.

County officials have demanded that the couple remove dumpsters and a trailer from a 40-foot by 70-foot section of the property and could impose fines of up to $6,000 per day for noncompliance. They accept that the easement in question was never recorded, and they say that other unrecorded easements could number in the hundreds. The couple was dealt another blow in June 2014 when their title insurance company rejected their $155,120 claim. The company said that a public records search was unable to discover items not recorded according to state law.

This case shows that the buyers of real estate may sometimes face troublesome legal issues even when they perform prudent due diligence. This kind of issue can lead to protracted court proceedings, and it can also make it very difficult to sell a property. An experienced real estate attorney will likely be familiar with this type of complex issue and may be able to suggest strategies geared towards reaching a settlement.

Source: Florida Watchdog, "FL county’s unrecorded land restriction may put couple out of business", William Patrick, September 05, 2014

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