Code Enforcement Update: Unkept Properties Impact The City As A Whole
By Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper
December 20, 2023
By Using the MyHB App for The City Of Hallandale Beach You Can Easily Report & Solve Issues.
Recently the City has been addressing many issues with Code Enforcement. I have written about the process in past articles in hopes of educating residents on the limitations of what cities can do to address Blighted Conditions. Unkept Properties impact the Neighboring Properties adversely and the City as a whole. We do Cite Properties but what happens if the Owner does not correct Violations?
Typically, our Staff will provide a Courtesy Notice when there are Violations on a Property. Owners have 24 hours to correct them and or contact Staff to let them know how they plan on remedying the Violation. If there is a large issue they need at least to try to correct it or get proper Permits to repair. Depending on the type of Violation, Corrective Actions can be immediate or others may take months. As long as the Owner is making a Good Faith Effort then Staff will not start Fining the Owners.
Just because a Case is open and there are no comments online for a Specific Property does not mean Staff has not been in contact with the Owners. Every single Case is unique. Our goal is not to be Punitive. Our goal is to have Properties come into Compliance.
So, what if the owner is Non-responsive? They end up being Cited with a Notice of Violation. If the Violation is not addressed typically within 2 months’ time frame it will be referred to the Magistrate. At that time, the owner can appear and plead their case. Usually, they will ask for more time with the commitment that they will bring the Property to Compliance.
So, what if they do nothing and snub their nose to their neighbors, the City, and the Magistrate? Fines are set by the Magistrate and Capped at a maximum of $500 Per Day Per Violation. The Fines accrue and then become a Lien. What if this still does not get Compliance? The next step is Foreclosure.
Last month, the City filed Foreclosure actions on 20 cases that had accrued 100s of thousands of dollars. These cases are not in just one section of our City and are each different. In at least one case the Fines were over $1 Million. Two owners, I understand, have already started to work towards resolution. One of the worst violators was a property in the Northwest. Readers may recall I wrote about a property with a fence without a Permitted Cargo Container, Illegal Structure without Permits and Storage of an RV on Unimproved Property. Foreclosure was filed and the owner in turn hired an attorney.
Our City Attorney made it clear that until the property was in Full Compliance, the Foreclosure Action would continue. They needed to remove all Containers, remove the Structure, remove the Unpermitted Fence and remove the RV. Last week, the Containers were removed. As of Monday, they had not complied with the other Violations. They even took down part of the original fence and then installed another Illegal Fence without a Permit. Obviously, the Fines are still in place and a new Violation was Issued.
So, what happens to all those Fines once the property comes to compliance? The City has a Mitigation Process. It is a process where the owner can request a reduction in Fines. Homesteaded Property can mitigate up to 90% of the Fines. Depending on if there is a Significant Hardship due to Income, Death or other factors, the Staff may recommend a Waiver. This process is with Staff only. Commissioners are not involved.
In the case of Commercial Non-Homesteaded Property, the maximum is 85% or the value of the property whichever is less. There is never a Full Waiver. The City Commission Policy is to have our direct cost covered. We are doing this because we want to recover the Taxpayer Dollars utilized during the process. Everyday taxpayers should not have to pay for the deeds of bad players.
So, if the property is in Foreclosure what happens next? The attorney files the request to Foreclosure at the special magistrate. It then gets filed with the County Court and awaits assignment of a court date.
The City is at the mercy of the court system. The court system could be weeks to months. We certainly share with many of our residents the frustration that properties sit blighted for months and sometimes years. We cannot go onto private property without the permission of the judge. In order to ensure we are filing these cases in a timely manner we have hired outside counsel that specializes in Foreclosures.
If a lot is vacant that is the one time we can go onto the property. We are by law allowed to cut the grass and remove debris. The costs that we incur providing performing grass cutting and removing debris are placed on the Property Tax Bill. I need to stress that our City does not want to take properties. We want compliance with the goal of keeping our City safe and clean.
Property Maintenance is fairly basic and common sense, but some code owners may not beware of. Our Staff has put together a citywide Neighborhood Improvement Program. We are educating property-owners through door hanger flyers and on Social Media. Please take some time to learn the basics. For more on Code Enforcement, visit our city website at: www.cohb.org
Have a Blessed Holiday Season!
As always please feel free to contact me anytime with your questions, concerns, and ideas to make our City a better place! I am available at: email@example.com. Or: firstname.lastname@example.org. On my Office Number at: (954) 457-1318. Or on my Cell/Text at: (954) 632-5700. You can always visit my Facebook and follow me at: Mayor Joy Cooper!