DUNEDIN, Fla. (WFLA) – Jim Ficken claims he may lose his Dunedin home because he didn’t cut his grass.
In 2018, Ficken said his mother died and he left state to handle her affairs.
While he was gone, Ficken said he asked a friend to cut his grass, but when he returned home, he found the lawn had not been cut.
“I went over to see why Dave didn’t cut it and well, he died,” said Ficken.
He didn’t know it at the time, but Dunedin’s code enforcement office had noticed the high grass and started issuing him fines of $500 per day.
Ficken says they never notified him and the fines piled up to $28,000.
Ficken called the Institute for Justice and they took up the case.
“At IJ, we are generally aware that Florida is one of the worst places in America when it comes to code enforcement,” said attorney Ari Bargil.
The city said Ficken is a repeat offender. Bargil disagrees.
“The reality is, this is the very first time he was ever fined for anything and the city went completely nuclear. They went after him for $500 a day in fines for uncut grass,” said Bargil.
They lost the case in federal court.
In a statement, the city of Dunedin maintains they did nothing wrong.
“The city of Dunedin is committed to protecting the health and safety of our citizens, and public and private investments in the community through fair and equitable policies consistent with the applicable law. While the city has prevailed in this case, the city has undertaken a thorough and careful analysis and review of its code enforcement policies and procedures. The current policies reflect modifications emphasizing compliance over enforcement.”
Ari Bargil says the city used it’s code enforcement office as a stream of revenue.
“The city’s revenue from code enforcement has been increasing exponentially over the last decade and it’s because of cases like this where people are fined almost into destitution for trivial violations,” said Bargil, who plans to appeal the ruling.