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Florida City Evicting Woman For Living Off The Grid

woman evicted off the grid

Editor’s note (March 2014): Hear our in-depth interview with Robin Speronis here. Hear her discuss the latest court ruling here

A Florida widow has been ordered to leave her home by city officials because she discussed her off the grid lifestyle with a local TV station.

Robin Speronis decided to live without utilities such as running water and electricity in a modest home in Cape Coral, Florida, but she made the mistake of discussing her lifestyle with reporter Liza Fernandez from Channel 4. The day after the report on Speronis aired, a city code enforcement officer designated her home an “uninhabitable property” and gave her an eviction notice.

“Where is the justice?” Speronis asked. “Why did they choose me, because I was exercising my First Amendment rights of free speech in discussing living off the grid?”

Living Off the Grid in the City

Speronis, a former real estate agent, decided to adopt an off the grid lifestyle in the home she owns after her husband died after a long illness. She cited her faith in God and desire to be self-sufficient.

“It was an interest in empowering myself, like we did when we got off the health care system,” she said. “I wanted to look at every other part of my lifestyle and say, do I need this? Is this of value to me? If it went away tomorrow, what would I do? The more I got into it, the more exciting, the more of an adventure it became.”

When Fernandez visited Speronis’s home in mid-November, she found the house was clean and neat even though Speronis disconnected herself from the electric grid and municipal water. She had even got rid of her stove and her refrigerator and was eating nonperishable food and cooking on a camp stove.

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Speronis gets her electricity from solar panels, and uses rainwater for drinking, bathing and cooking. The rainwater is disinfected with a colloidal silver generator for safety. She uses an antenna to get free Wi-Fi to stay connected with the Internet.

“My message was to create, so I created a happy place,” Speronis told the TV station.

She said she lives for as little as $20 a week.

Living Off the Grid is Illegal

As long as she was willing to stay off the radar, officials didn’t seem to care.

Yet a code enforcement officer found her home and declared it unsafe and unsanitary because it lacked running water and electricity, Speronis said. Speronis alleged that the officer never entered her home or checked to see if it was unsanitary. The official simply posted the notice and left.

City officials said they were simply enforcing the International Property Maintenance Code. That code states that properties are unsafe to live in without electricity or running water. Of course, Speronis does have electricity and water; she simply gets them from alternative sources.

Under the terms of the code, the city could seize the home and evict Speronis.

A city official told Channel 4 that the municipal government is willing let her stay in the home if she can prove conditions are sanitary. The city was willing to compromise because of adverse publicity and a local attorney who was willing to take Speronis’s case on a pro bono or free basis.

Speronis told Channel 4 she was aware of the code and was willing to fight them. She also she was willing to take her case to the highest court in the land as a test case.

Local Government vs. Off the Grid

Speronis’s case should be a wakeup call for those who want to live off the grid. The International Property Maintenance Code and similar regulations are on the books in many parts of the United States and Canada.

Local officials can take code enforcement actions against residents and property owners for living off the grid. Officials in Miami Shores, Florida, Orlando, Florida and Drummondville, Quebec have threatened to fine homeowners for growing vegetables in their front yards. Homeowners have been prosecuted for collecting rainwater in a number of states, including Utah and Oregon.

It might be possible to work within the laws — or to get them changed. In many cases, all it takes is a public outcry to get regulations changed or to have officials back down.

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  1. Gee, I wonder what they municipalities would think of people living off the grid, were their residence was never connected to the grid? No electric utility service available in their area. No wired telephone. No municipal water connection because, it is not available due to location, or, there has never been any of these REQUIRED services available due to they do not exist.

    In my county, we do not have any government supplied water system. No government supplied sewer system. No garbage pickup. (There are regional trash stations where dumpsters are supplied. But no home trash pickup.) Telephone and electrical service is available, but not a legal requirement. Heck, there are only a handful of traffic lights (<10) in the entire county: Halifax County, Virginia. Several local counties do not have a single traffic light. Nor need one.

    People are not living in unsanitary conditions. And I can honestly say, are stable, well balanced, and oftentimes a good bit happier their urban/suburban counterparts.

    Indoor plumbing, running water, and electricity are not required to live a healthy life. Anyone who believes this truly has no grasp of reality. Convenience? Yes. Requirement? No.

  2. Just another symptom of our lobbyist form of government.The water and power lobby is a strong one in cities.

  3. So this antenna for free wifi, does this mean she’s stealing from her neighbors who don’t have firewalls?
    As for this rainwater, is it coming from her roof? What kind of shingles? Because the asphalt-shingle roofs are toxic. I can’t use my rain water for an edible garden. I hope she’s not drinking THAT! Solar panels for electricity? Jeez, I can boost my pool temp, in summer, on a week of clear days, 5 whole degrees with our solar heater. Either she lives an uncomfortable life of squalor or she’s fibbing. BIG time!

    • First. Firewalls have nothing to do with protecting your wireless internet. The router must be secured by password for it to not be stolen. What if she lives near a place that has free wifi? Did you think of that or automatically think the worst? Second. The article said she is treating the rain water. She does not have to collect rain water from her roof. If she has gotten rid of a lot of her appliances. Why couldn’t she use solar power?

    • PV solar for electricity is a totally different system than solar hot water.

  4. Lived on the big island of Hawaii a few years ago and we lived completely off-grid with the exception of the internet (which we then used for phone and television). We used solar panels for power and had absolutely no problem running anything we wanted to run, whenever we wanted to run it. The usage of solar power only does not mean you are “living a life of squalor”, it depends on how many panels/batteries, etc, you have vs. how much you can do. We had to be mindful (we brewed coffee with the old stovetop coffee pot instead of using a coffee maker, we avoided using items that had massive pulls on the system – it’s a matter of thinking how to do things smarter). We also had ‘catchment’ water (as everyone in our area did, there was no “city water”, thus we usually had a truck bring us out a 5k gallons of water every few months and supplemented with rainwater (via the roof!) and ran it through a system that cleansed it for usage. We used propane stove and fridge. We lived a very nice life. clean and without ‘squalor’ or need….and we did it all without paying exorbitant rates in electricity, cable/satellite, etc. The only thing that was higher for us than those on the grid was the water, but when averaged out (and taken into consideration how much we were saving on everything else) we didn’t pay that much more. When we built it would have taken almost 20k to get them to run the power lines to our home, we spent 15k in solar equipment instead and saved 5k in set up and, had I continued to live there more than the couple years I did, whatever the cost of the monthly power bill would have been – for us it was a smart choice, but to each their own. Solar power is not the answer for everyone, obviously it was a good solution in Hawaii, in other places wind may be a better choice, but we are coming to a place where thought is going to have to be put into the usage of resources that aren’t finite.

  5. She flushes the toilet. Which means she’s not completely off the grid. And what does she do about non compostable trash and such?

  6. She flushes the toilet. Which means she’s not completely off the grid. And what does she do about non compostable trash and such?>>

    The grass is often greener over the septic tank.

  7. Some people were saying that she wasnt actually the owner of the home. I cant find proof of that or not does anyone know?

  8. Living off the grid is a fine and admirable goal, an American dream for many. To further complicate things, this lady’s story, as a widow, is pretty sympathetic.However; there is a broader issue here. The issue is location. This woman is living off the grid in Cape Coral, FL a city of 161K not 161. This woman should comply with ordinances or if so impassioned move out of the city.
    (1) These ordinances being violated are in place for public safety. Even with the best intentions, using a propane camping stove indoors is dangerous. One uncontrolled spark, could ignite this woman’s home AND THEN spread to her neighbor’s home which is connected to her’s. (look it up) That’s not fair.
    (2) This is a free country; Florida, and any other state allows folks to live off the grid if they desire. You can build a self sufficient home, make electricity from solar panels and fire your rifle to your heart’s desire. The issue is you cant do that in a city. it is too crowed. its not safe for the people around you.
    (3) if this lady is allowed, what is going to stop the next, less intelligent retiree in Cape Coral, FL intending to live off the grid in a hi-rise apartment from using a camping stove. This issue, if a precedent is set, opens the door to too many negative consequence.
    (4) if you watch this news story, (which is worth a watch) you discover she is still using the public sewers to flush her waste, and she uses an antenna to gain access to other’s internet wi-fi signals. Living off the grid is about pulling your own weight and self-sufficiency. I’m sorry but she not being true to that spirit in taking things she is not entitled. I remain sympathetic for this woman and her goals, I wish her the best, but her motives appear to be just as much a play to cut costs as they are some romantic walden pond desire of self sufficiency. An unfortunate reality of this modern world is that you cannot have it both ways.

  9. If I were this woman I would leave the city and find a more remote location. It is only a matter of time till Al Quada gets a nuclear device or maybe even several of them. Then living in a city (target) will not be so good. The city should be commending this person not penalize them. This is why I live in a remote area of upstate New York (not remote enough though).

  10. When she was asked what she did with her “toilet flushes” (squirt and poop) since she refused to hook up or pay at least something for the city interconnected water/sewage system for over a year, she stated in the media that she disposed of that “the same way people dispose of their dog’s excrement”–i.e. in the trash!
    This lady has a “dicey” past. Lost her real-estate license for fraud.
    Hey, living “off the grid” if just fine w/ me. But she lives in a duplex in a suburban neighborhood (not in the woods, desert, or on a mountaintop) where civilized folks have to obey very reasonable health and safety ordinances.
    She sounds like one of those “sovereign citizens” that hate the government, all the while happily using our roads, pubic schools, fire department, etc., as needed, while whining about the government and our laws.

    • “OUR LAWS” You don’t have any clue what the law is. It isn’t local law. Try reading the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. Can’t wait till “OUR LAWS come crashing down on you because we won’t want to hear your cries.

  11. so all the homeless people are living off the grid ? big power and big water do not want the people to live off the grid so they can make more money to pay politician to keep us plugged in so they can make more money. to keep us poor so the can control us. and you though you were free.

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