Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Help Me Howard: Fence
When your neighbor puts up a new fence, that's nice. When they put it up on your property, that's a problem. Making it worse, the city approved it. Now what do you do? Just one thing: call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Superbowl Sunday is like a national holiday for many people.
Jemilla Montgomery: "We went out to the store to get some snacks."
Jemilla and her husband had gone to the store 'cause they were having a Super Bowl party, but their festive mood soon fizzled.
Jemilla Montgomery: "We came home and saw that the gate was built up on our property."
In the short time they had been gone, their neighbor started putting up a fence on their property.
Jemilla Montgomery: "We confronted our neighbor, and he said it was only an inch or so."
The Montgomery's first tried the neighborly thing and explained to the fellow what he had done. To put it bluntly, he did not care.
Jemilla Montgomery: "The way he went about it was nasty. It was nasty."
Next, they turned to the city of Miami Gardens, where they found their neighbor had not pulled a permit for his fence -- the city fixed that.
Jemilla Montgomery: "The code enforcement officer came out here, inspected it and gave him a permit."
The Montgomery's tried to explain to the people at City Hall that the permit had to be illegal since the gate was on their property -- but that tidbit got them the bounce treatment.
Jemilla Montgomery: "We went back to building, they sent us to zoning -- zoning sent us back to building."
In the meantime, their neighbor finished putting up his fence. Then Jemilla found a city official that would listen to her.
Jemilla Montgomery: "She told me that it was ridiculous. She showed me their survey and she clearly stated that from their survey the gate was on our property. They should not have been issued a permit, and the issue would be resolved soon."
Miami Gardens resolved it by telling Jemilla it was her problem.
Jemilla Montgomery: "The very next day the building compliance manager, he called my husband saying it's a civil matter."
Meaning if they wanted the gate moved off their property, they had to go to court.
Jemilla says that is just not fair.
Jemilla Montgomery: "We're trying to do right. We are law-abiding citizens. We are good people, we follow the law. What's the problem?"
The problem: if they do not get the fence moved, after seven years their neighbor can legally take their piece of property from them.
So, to slam the gate on this land grab, Jemilla called those people you may have heard of Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "The city clearly made a mistake in giving the neighbor an after-the-fact permit for a fence that is on someone else's property. Not only does the city have the right to go back and rescind the permit, they should make sure the fence is moved off the Montgomery's property."
When Help Me Howard contacted the city they told us they gave the man a permit to put up the fence in that location because they typically rely on the contractor performing the work to place the fence in accordance with the plans.
Once we pointed out there was no contractor, nor any plans, the city manager agreed to go out and look at the property.
The fence owner was then told his gate is on Jemilla's property, and he will fail inspection unless he moves it.
So, long bureaucratic story short, the homeowner finally agreed to move it off Jemilla's property.
That is the good news Jemilla has been waiting for. Her husband will be coming home from training soon, and she does not want an illegal fence to be the first thing he sees.
Jemilla Montgomery: "My husband is away for training because he's going to be deployed to Iraq sometime next year. When my husband comes I want the house, the yard to be perfect so that he can be welcomed home totally."
Patrick Fraser: "Surprisingly, when a city or county makes a mistake, legally they do not have to correct it or pay for the damage caused. They can correct it, but they do not have to. Give Miami Gardens credit for getting it resolved -- but if your government agency won't do the right thing, your only option is to sue in civil court."
A situation got you fenced in? Want to leap over it? Contact us. We cannot move heaven and earth, but we can crack open a law book with the best of them.
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