A Messy Yard Can Cost You $100,000 in Florida

Many of us may have that one neighbour who doesn't mow their grass or may have a boat they are "planning to restore" (but without a firm date to begin restoration work on the eyesore commonly referred to as a dilapidated ship).  However, in Dunedin, Florida, the city has been assessing some dubious fines to residents that have totaled tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Interestingly, Dunedin has a Canadian connection because it is home to the Toronto Blue Jays Spring training camp.

One local resident was fined $92,000 for overgrown weeds and a discarded swimming pool.  With interest, fees and other charges, this fine increased to over $103,500.  To put this into perspective, the resident's current income means that she will need to work for the next 2 years without any deductions or money spent on her own bills and cost of living expenses just to be able to afford this fine!  The City of Dunedin's fine may end up putting the resident into a foreclosure process as she cannot afford both the repairs and city fines, so the house is not being improved or repaired, continuing the cycle of fines and threats of court proceedings.

These types of fines are not just being levied in Dunedin.  In Georgia, a homeowner was fined $1,000 for stacking firewood in his own backyard.  Many homeowners feel that the constant fines while they are repairing the property is not fair, and other homeowners are being fined for damaged roofs from windstorms and natural disasters while they wait for repairs to be undertaken by restoration or roofing companies. 

In one case, a homeowner 
found herself in foreclosure when the recession hit, and was forced to make arrangements for the bank to take over the home.  Three years later, she was shocked to learn that because the home had sat vacant for 3 years while the foreclosure process was finalized (even though she had legal paperwork from the bank relinquishing her ownership), she had been given $100 per day fines.  The City of Dunedin did not have a forwarding address for her, so it simply kept fining her at the old address.

What is interesting is that in this city has less than 40,000 residents (according to the most recent census) and yet 33 homeowners are facing fines in excess of $20,000.  For many struggling cities, fines are one way to increase revenues.  However, the Supreme Court has responded to the complaints regarding unfair or excessive fines and have ruled earlier this year that the constitution protects residents from "excessive fines", but has not yet determined what "excessive" will mean.

Maintaining your property and yard is important, especially when the local authorities seem quick to give out bylaw violations and fines.  In Nanaimo, common complaints to the City often relate to illegal suites, vehicles illegally parked, or nuisance properties.  If you have any questions about bylaws or zoning, it is always important to speak with your local city or regional authority.  Some building schemes specifically prevent laundry lines in a yard or boats and RV from being visible from the road.  When purchasing a home, it is a good idea to ensure that your agent reviews all items on the title search so that you know exactly what is allowed for your property.   It is important to make informed decisions that will help you protect your investment.  Let us provide the experience and expertise that you need to successfully navigate this changing real estate market.  Contact Layzell Dreger & Associates today at 250-585-2601.

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