What Rights Do I Have When Nearby Construction Affects My Property?

Q. My neighbor is putting in a swimming pool and I am being asked to allow access over my yard for the construction. Our homes are close together, so I don’t believe that the pool company can access the rear of my neighbor’s house without going over my property. What will happen if I refuse to allow the access, and should the homeowners association be involved as well? 

A. In Florida, it is very common for homes to be close together and or even practically attached. These types of development are often referred to as “cluster living” or “detached villas”. Further, these homes are in almost every instance part of a homeowners association, so it can be falsely assumed that the association controls all property and that your permission is not necessary for construction that affects your home.   Whether or not there is an association, chances are that you own the lot that your home sits on. This can be confirmed by reviewing the subdivision plat or a survey of your property. If you own the lot and access over a portion of your property is necessary for construction traffic, you absolutely have the right to approve or reject the access. The pool company did the right thing by asking your permission. However, it should not be necessary to refuse the access provided you have some protection. First, ask the pool company if they are willing to repair any damage to your property caused by the access. It is likely that there will be extra wear and tear on your landscaping from the construction traffic. Second, you should ask for evidence of insurance and also an agreement to hold you harmless in the event of any injuries that may occur on your property. If you are protected from property damage and liability, the neighborly thing to do would be to allow the temporary access. Regarding the homeowners association, it is almost a certainty that the association will need to approve the swimming pool improvements. This can be confirmed by reviewing the community documents, which probably contain a procedure for securing approval for exterior alterations. In some cases, the community documents even require the homeowner making improvements to obtain permission from next-door neighbors. Contact the association’s property manager to make sure that they are aware of your neighbor’s plans. If you run into any problems, you should consult with an attorney.

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