How do you cut a $415,000 fine by 95%?
Foreclosure Crisis in South Florida
All over the country, there are codes and laws in place for how a home should be properly maintained. These codes are designed to keep people and neighborhoods not just safe, but well maintained and livable. The problem is, all throughout South Florida, there’s a crisis brewing. The number of homes within local municipalities that are improperly kept are rising and the neither the state nor local officials are doing anything about it.
These homeowners are being properly fined for their out-of-code dwellings, but they’re doing nothing to enforce the rules. In fact, there are some residents who have been consistently fined for over a decade, owing a million dollars or more in fines, but no one comes to collect or force homeowners to remedy the violations.
Some cases even receive fines up to $500 PER DAY.
A Pembroke Pines resident has multiple violations going back to the late-90s, owing over $3 million dollars and rising. A Davie resident, who has been cited for having an unsecured facility owes $415,000. The problem is so bad, a lot of these cities have been offering an amnesty program where they’ll make a big cut to the fine if you’ll fix the issue at hand.
The Protected People
The cities not collecting on the fines isn’t an issue on their end refusing to enforce the codes. For the most part, their hands are tied. They can’t foreclose homes with a homestead exemption attacked to it. That really leaves the city without any authority to collect, enforce the rules, or kick them out.
The only option is to try and reduce fines and work with the homeowner to try and get the issues fixed. In the area of West Palm Beach, they often times settle these fines with homeowners, making them pay only between 5%-25% of the original fine.
“The number of problem properties have reduced a lot because the economy has gotten better, but we still have a lot of cases where the homeowners haven’t made any plans to clear their liens,” said Mark Joyce, Code Enforcement Manager for West Palm Beach.
Other cities, like Delray City, claim not to have too many issues with residents not paying their fines. According to their mayor, Cary Glickstein, there are ways of getting the money.
“There are lots of types of fines that accrue that aren’t necessarily property fines, like fire rescue fees and parking ticket infractions, that are part of a larger collection issue that is a common thread for most cities. Most cities will simply write off non-payments as non-collectable because court costs are almost always higher than the amounts being sought,” he said. “That would be rewarding the debtor, so we would seek full payment.”