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Variances, zoning disputes and freedom of speech, oh my!

You don't need to tell readers of our blog about how complicated real estate law can get sometimes. With complex legal terminology and differing laws between each county, some property owners here in Michigan would agree that homeownership is not as simple as holding a deed.

A Florida man is learning this the hard way this month after being embroiled in real estate litigation for quite sometime. His dispute began when he applied for a zoning variance on his home. When his request was denied, he claims that his home became uninsurable, therefore leading to other legal problems. To voice his disapproval with the town, he proceeded to paint several large political cartoons on the side of his home. This eventually led to further litigation.

This city claimed that the paintings violated the town's sign ordinance. The man disagreed pointing to his First Amendment right. The town had scheduled a hearing to settle the dispute but the man sued, which caused the hearing to be postponed. In the man's lawsuit, he intended to stop the town from forcing him to paint over the cartoons by filing an injunction. But because the town's decision on the matter was not final, a judge recently ruled that he could not file an injunction or restraining order against the city.

It's unclear from reports, but it appears as if the city may proceed with the zoning ordinance hearing which could result in the man being forced to remove the paintings outside of his home. This could lead to further litigation, pitting freedom of speech against zoning ordinances in the end.

Source: Courthouse News, "Suit Can't Save Shrek-Like Cartoon on House," Iulia Filip, July 3, 2013

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