YOU RECEIVED A NOTICE OF VIOLATION FROM CODE ENFORCEMENT, WHAT’S NEXT?

By Lenore T. Brakefield, Florida Government Relations and Community Association Law Attorney

ECEIVED A NOTICE OF VIOLATIONThe number one rule is: do not ignore this notice. The notice of violation provides the roadmap of what is to come. This roadmap is important because each jurisdiction has its own process for handling code enforcement issues. Even though Chapter 162, Florida Statutes, sets forth a quasi-judicial process requiring notice and a formal hearing, each jurisdiction has its own procedural rules for how these hearings are conducted. Whether you are dealing with a city or county, it is important to be responsive once you receive a notice. Typically, a notice will tell you which code section it is alleged you have violated, the offending behavior and your deadline for compliance. It is important to pay attention to the deadlines in the notice.

What should you do once you receive a notice?
You have two choices: 1) you can hire an attorney to guide you through the process or 2) you can handle it yourself. Either way, it is most important you are responsive, and you are aware of the deadlines set forth in the notice. Whether you hire an attorney or go it alone, touching base with the code enforcement officer is an important first step for several reasons. First, you want to let the department know you received the notice. Second, you want to let the department know you are taking the alleged violation seriously. Third, you are letting the department know you are working to find a resolution. Resolution can mean many things – it may mean there is a mistake with either the facts or circumstances as reported and observed by the code enforcement officer or it may mean there is an issue that needs to be resolved for you to come into compliance. Either way, it is important to keep in mind code enforcement’s intent and purpose is to help you be compliant. Laying the foundation for a cooperative resolution is instrumental.

What happens if you miss the compliance deadline?
If you ignore the notice and/or you do not come into compliance by the deadline set forth therein, more than likely, your case will be set for hearing in front of a magistrate or code enforcement board for a determination of guilt and fines. While Florida’s Constitution does require due process, different municipalities have different rules, requirements and procedures for conducting these hearings. For example, some jurisdictions require you to submit a defense package a week before your code enforcement hearing. It is important to know the procedure, so you do not waive your defense or other explanation. If you decide to hire a law firm two days before your hearing, you may already be late to the game. There may not be time to submit a defense package and now your attorney has to go in and argue in front of a board or magistrate without the benefit of presenting your defense beforehand.

What happens if you miss the code hearing?
If you disregard the notice, miss the compliance deadline and fail to go to the hearing, it is almost certain that fines will be assessed against your property (or against your landlord’s property if you lease or rent). You may not even know these fines have been levied until you go to sell or transfer your property and the title company discovers a lien against your property. Now you are potentially in a situation where you are unable to close on the sale of your property until these liens are satisfied or otherwise removed. At this point, your only hope is to request mitigation of fines; however, there is no guarantee. In addition, you will likely have to go back in front of the magistrate or code enforcement board to request mitigation of fines. There is never any guarantees that code enforcement fines will be reduce but what I can guarantee you is none of this will be done quickly and your closing will most likely be delayed. This is a result no one wants.

Bottom line, if you receive a notice of code enforcement violation, take it seriously. Read the notice and decide if you are going to handle the alleged violation yourself or hire an attorney. Whichever you do, decide quickly, so none of your rights are waived. One more piece of advice, if you have multiple addresses, please make sure your mailing address, as listed on the Collier County Property Appraiser’s website, is correct, because this is where your notices will be mailed.

waive your defense or other explanation. If you decide to hire a law firm two days before your hearing, you may already be late to the game. There may not be time to submit a defense package and now your attorney has to go in and argue in front of a board or magistrate without the benefit of presenting your defense beforehand.

What happens if you miss the code hearing?
If you disregard the notice, miss the compliance deadline and fail to go to the hearing, it is almost certain that fines will be assessed against your property (or against your landlord’s property if you lease or rent). You may not even know these fines have been levied until you go to sell or transfer your property and the title company discovers a lien against your property. Now you are potentially in a situation where you are unable to close on the sale of your property until these liens are satisfied or otherwise removed. At this point, your only hope is to request mitigation of fines; however, there is no guarantee. In addition, you will likely have to go back in front of the magistrate or code enforcement board to request mitigation of fines. There is never any guarantees that code enforcement fines will be reduce but what I can guarantee you is none of this will be done quickly and your closing will most likely be delayed. This is a result no one wants.

Bottom line, if you receive a notice of code enforcement violation, take it seriously. Read the notice and decide if you are going to handle the alleged violation yourself or hire an attorney. Whichever you do, decide quickly, so none of your rights are waived. One more piece of advice, if you have multiple addresses, please make sure your mailing address, as listed on the Collier County Property Appraiser’s website, is correct, because this is where your notices will be mailed.

Should you need someone to represent you in a code enforcement action, please fill free to contact any of the attorneys listed below:

Lenore T. Brakefield is a Naples native and graduated cum laude from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. She focuses her law practice in civil and commercial litigation and is experienced in construction litigation matters. Lenore also handles local government law, code enforcement violations, community association law, and real estate law, as well as transactional matters. Lenore is a Certified Financial Litigator by the The American Academy for Certified Financial Litigators.

Zachary W. Lombardo is a government relations lawyer and is an associate attorney at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. His Juris Doctorate is from the Florida State University College of Law where he graduated cum laude. Zach grew up in Naples, Florida, and focuses his land use, zoning, business, contract drafting, and litigation practice in the Southwest Florida community.

Anthony (“Tony”) P. Pires, Jr. is a partner at Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A. and serves clients throughout Collier County in Local Government Law, Land Use and Zoning Law, Government Relations, Real Estate Law and Community Association Law.

 

Woodward, Pires & Lombardo, P.A., (WPL)
Naples Office:
3200 Tamiami Trail N, Ste 200
Naples, FL 34103
239-649-6555

Marco Island Office:
606 Bald Eagle Dr, Ste 500
Marco Island, Fl 34145
239-394-5161

www.wpl-legal.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check Also

New Gynecologist

New Gynecologist Offering Specialized Care for Women at Every Stage of Life

Trusting your gynecologist is one of the many factors in finding the best physician for …