Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Help Me Howard: Mow the Lawn
A neighbor moving out, the property in foreclosure, and nobody is caring for the yard. Now one South Florida family is tired of the mess next door, so they're turning to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Weekends in South Florida. The beach, some barbecue, after, of course, this: if you own a house with a yard, the sun and showers gets you grass that never stops growing.
Tim Hinson: "It's hard during the summertime because things grow so fast. You maybe get two weeks and then its overgrown."
Tim doesn't mind taking care of his yard. It's his neighbor's yard that has stopped growing on him.
Tim Hinson: "The grass and trees are getting out of hand and the sides are overgrown. It's just crazy. It's bad, and it's just getting worse every day."
Eleven months ago his neighbor lost his job and the ability to pay for his house.
He moved out, the house headed for foreclosure, and the problems started multiplying.
Tim Hinson: "There's no 'For Sale' sign. There's no activity whatsoever."
Actually, there is a lot of activity, but it's not what Tim wanted to see.
Tim Hinson: "She said, 'What's this, Daddy?' and I said, 'I think it is a tick.'"
Tim Hinson: "The first one we thought was a rare occurrence, but then, unfortunately, it happened again and again. Nasty looking aren't they?"
Tim's children got the ticks from playing in the yard.
Tim Hinson: "We've had to actually run pesticide over on the side to try and kill some of the ticks, and we can't let [our children] go outside, on the side anymore."
The neighbors then started taking turns mowing the front yard, but the back hasn't been touched in almost a year, so Tim has complained to Coral Springs.
Tim Hinson: "We're hoping that the city would step in and force the bank to actually take care of the lawn."
The city did try to contact the bank about mowing the grass. No response.
And Coral Springs code enforcement said they couldn't do it unless a magistrate gave them permission to go on the property. The only problem: the next hearing was a month away.
Tim Hinson: "I just want the lawn cut. Please, cut the lawn."
Sounds simple enough. Howard, when a house is in foreclosure, who's responsible for cutting the grass?
Howard Finkelstein: "The owner of the property, whether it's an individual or a bank, has to maintain the property. When they fail, the city or county has the power to step in. In this case, the city waited way too long to protect the neighborhood's health and safety."
After not getting anywhere with the code enforcement department, I called the Mayor of Coral Springs. Scott Brook put the city in overdrive.
The city quickly moved up the special hearing.
After battling for nearly a year, Tim finally got to talk.
Tim Hinson: "The back has not been cut, as far as I know, in the 11 months at all."
The magistrate took care of it.
Alan L. Gabriel, Special Magistrate: "I do hereby authorize the city to move forward and abate the conditions of the overgrown lawn."
For people like me who didn't spend three years in law school, abate the conditions means the city can mow the grass. They did. About time, says Tim.
Tim Hinson:"It's a shame that it really takes that much bureaucracy to get the grass cut. It should have been done four months ago."
The city paid $150 to get the grass cut, and, in a few weeks, when the grass grows again, the city told us they have to go back to the magistrate to get permission to cut it again. Tim is hoping they don't wait 11 months this time. By the way, if you noticed, Tim didn't have much luck dealing with the city. It wasn't 'til the mayor got involved that things got done.
So if you can't get a problem solved, call your local commissioner or mayor. It can't hurt.
Got a problem that's grown out of control? Feel like you are "lawn" overdue for help? Contact us, we don't do yard work, but we can weed out the things bugging you.
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