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Title: A Florida woman was fined $100,000 for a dirty pool and overgrown grass. When do fines become excessive? [she didn't even own it]
Source: Yahoo
URL Source: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/flor ... utm_content=link&ICID=ref_fark
Published: Jul 20, 2019
Author: Kristine Phillips
Post Date: 2019-07-20 15:06:48 by Tooconservative
Keywords: None
Views: 1250
Comments: 6

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Kristi Allen read the letter and thought it had to be a scam.

It said she owed $92,600 in fines for overgrown vegetation and a stagnant swimming pool at a house she no longer owned. She must pay in two weeks, the letter said, hinting that she could be sued if she didn't. Including interest charges and other fees, her debt swelled to $103,559, about twice her yearly income.

Three months later, in late 2018, the city of Dunedin sued to collect, setting off another legal fight over how local governments use their power to impose heavy fines on citizens. What Allen, 38, a mother of two, thought had to be a scam turned into a nightmare she said could bankrupt her family.

“I haven’t woken up from it yet,” she said.

Dunedin, a small seaside city outside Tampa, cracks down on code violations, saddling homeowners with massive fines while its revenue grows. In 5½ years, the city has collected nearly $3.6 million in fines – sometimes tens of thousands at a time – for violating laws that prohibit grasses taller than 10 inches, recreational vehicles parked on streets at certain hours or sidings and bricks that don't match. The Supreme Court ruled in February that local governments can't impose excessive fines. The decision is among the first constraints by the federal government on how much money cities and states can charge people for everything from speeding to overgrown lawns. But the court did not say what should be considered excessive, leaving local governments and residents with a question: How much is too much?

Fines are a reliable source of revenue for cash-starved cities, and have become a big – and rapidly growing – business for local governments. States, cities and counties collected a total of $15.3 billion in fines and forfeitures in 2016, according to the most recent financial records collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s a 44% jump from a decade earlier.

The Supreme Court’s decision should be a wake-up call for local governments that trap people in a never-ending cycle of debt, said Lisa Foster, a former Justice Department official who runs the Fines and Fees Justice Center, a New York-based advocacy group. But the ruling has not reined in some of the most aggressive practices, in Dunedin and elsewhere.Dunedin officials declined to be interviewed but insisted through a spokesman that the fines they impose were neither excessive nor abusive. Dunedin’s code enforcement policies are meant to “protect the integrity of neighborhoods and the quality of the community,” spokesman Ron Sachs said.

City and county records show that at least 33 homeowners owed the city $20,000 or more in fines as of May. That tally does not include dozens of bank- and company-owned houses with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of code violations. In some cases, the fines seem to have more to do with aesthetics than public safety.

The city fined a man nearly $30,000 because of a “chronic” overgrown yard.

It fined a couple $31,000 for fixing their roof without a permit after a tree fell on it during a hurricane.

“They’re using a shotgun to kill a mouse,” said Bill Prescott, who was fined $43,000 because of an inoperative car and a pile of dried leaves in his front yard and plants that grew over the street. Prescott, who lives with his wife in Tallahassee, said he became ill last year and couldn’t make the long drive to Dunedin to maintain their second home. Fines of $250 a day piled up without his knowledge, Prescott said.


Poster Comment:

A zoning paradise!

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#1. To: Tooconservative (#0) (Edited)

When do fines become excessive? [she didn't even own it]

She didn't own it because she walked away from her $200,00 mortgage. But the bank didn't release her until 3 years later.

Oops.

By the way, the fine wasn't excessive. It was only $100 per day.

misterwhite  posted on  2019-07-20   16:42:58 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: misterwhite (#1)

Sounds like the perfect place for you to retire to. Jackboots on every corner, extorting the citizenry.

Tooconservative  posted on  2019-07-20   17:19:38 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: Tooconservative (#2)

Rules are rules.

misterwhite  posted on  2019-07-20   19:28:37 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: misterwhite, Tooconservative (#1)

She didn't own it because she walked away from her $200,00[0] mortgage.

It is not as simple as that. Walking away and leaving no forwarding address does not change the title.

https://cbs12.com/news/local/florida-woman-fined-over-100000-for-overgrown-grass-on-foreclosed-property

According to the report, Allen moved to Dunedin in 2005 to be with her boyfriend, who later became her husband. She bought a bungalow-style house with a pool and backyard next to a hiking trail. But then the financial crisis in 2008 hit, and Allen was forced to take a pay cut and lost her house in the wave of foreclosures. She signed an agreement with U.S. Bank National Association allowing the foreclosure and moved out of the house.

[...]

Allen argues that the condition of the house should not be her problem, as she'd foreclosed on it and relinquished ownership in 2011.

[...]

The only problem is that her name stayed on the property records until late 2014, when the foreclosure was finalized.

The CONSENT UNIFORM FINAL JUDGMENT OF FORECLOSURE was filed on 27 Oct 2014.

https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/6200646/Letter.pdf

Attorney letter of September 17, 2018

The Dunedin Code Enforcement Board has heard testimony concerning the compliance by the Respondent with the Order of the Board previously issued on May 14, 2014.

[...]

On July 17, 2014 a lien was placed on the above referenced property with regard to the above referenced Code Enforcement Board case, a copy of which is enclosed for your reference.

The lien of July 17, 2014 was placed prior to the filing of the final judgment of foreclosure on October 27, 2014.

Kristi Allen had skipped on the loan and left no forwarding address.

nolu chan  posted on  2019-07-21   15:32:26 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: nolu chan (#4)

It sounds like the bank didn't finalize the transfer so they wouldn't be on the hook for the house until some years had passed. So she got left holding the bill.

She should have made the bank formally resume its responsibility. And it was the bank who was responsible.

Tooconservative  posted on  2019-07-21   16:22:10 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#6. To: nolu chan (#4)

But then the financial crisis in 2008 hit, and Allen was forced to take a pay cut and lost her house in the wave of foreclosures.

Probably got one of Obama's subprime mortgages and kept refinancing her house to make the payments.

misterwhite  posted on  2019-07-21   17:12:00 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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