Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Help Me Howard: No Fence in Backyard?
When I say 'backyard' to you, what do you envision? A nice, private place for you to sunbathe, your kids to play. A secure place. But what if you backyard couldn't be surrounded by a nice, secure fence? What could you do? One solution: Call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Anyone who has ever bought a home knows it's a great feeling.
And then you move in.
Aileen Otero, Wants Backyard Fenced In: "It's stressful. It brings a lot of problems that you would never think you would come across."
Aileen and Robert bought this house in Miami, in part because of the backyard.
Aileen Otero, Wants Backyard Fenced In: "I want my son to have a nice, big backyard to play in."
But their backyard faces a busy street, so they needed a fence.
And that's what created the first new homeowner headache.
Aileen Otero, Wants Backyard Fenced In: "And the City of Miami is not allowing us to put a fence."
Aileen has a six-foot fence on one side of her yard and the back, and wanted to put up a six-foot fence here along this side of the backyard, but since it faces the street, the city considers their backyard part of the front yard.
Aileen Otero, Wants Backyard Fenced In: "Because it's a corner lot, they consider the house to have two lots, so they consider my backyard to be the front of the house. So they are not allowing me to put a fence over four feet there."
Look out Aileen's yard. Many of her neighbors have six-foot fences in their backyard. But a new city code passed in 2010 only allows a four-foot fence for her yard.
Aileen Otero, Wants Backyard Fenced In: "It's a side yard to me. There's nothing that looks forward there, but they're considering it to be the front."
And Aileen says a small, four-foot fence won't give them security or privacy.
Aileen Otero, Wants Backyard Fenced In: "I want a nice, closed yard, where I can have a dog. I want to put a pool there one day. It's a private house, I want a private, closed yard. I want to have a backyard."
Aileen went to the City of Miami to try to reason with them.
Aileen Otero, Wants Backyard Fenced In: "It's very frustrating. It hasn't been easy, and every time you go to try to speak to somebody in zoning, you have to wait about three hours, and you wait three hours and nothing gets resolved."
Aileen says it seemed so simple when they bought the house.
With a young child running in the backyard along a busy street, with plans to build a pool, they have to have a six-foot fence like everyone else.
Aileen Otero, Wants Backyard Fenced In: "I want six feet here. I want this private. I don't want people who pass this busy street to look inside of my backyard. I have no privacy. I think I should be treated as any other single family homeowner in this area."
Well Howard, Aileen makes a strong case for a six-foot fence in her backyard.
But legally, is it a winning argument.
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "In some cases, the city can declare a backyard a front yard, and they can block Aileen from putting up a six-foot wooden fence to match the rest of the fence in her backyard. But that same code does allow her to put up a six-foot aluminum or iron picket fence in the backyard and to plant shrubs along it to give her privacy."
And a few days later, the city gave Aileen the permit to install the six-foot iron picket fence.
She wanted to cover it with some type of sheet metal. She says a city commissioner told her they may change the code to allow that in the future.
If the city does not do that, she might plant shrubs along the fence line to give her privacy.
The city also told us when they denied her original permit, they explained some alternatives. Aileen says they did not.
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "When a permit is denied, the city must tell you the reasons for the denial and cite the code. And remember, codes are online. Go read it before you pull a permit so you know your rights and don't have to rely on a government official to tell you."
Aileen has her fence and is learning that owning your own home is great, except when it's not.
Aileen Otero, Wants Backyard Fenced In: "It's a hassle. It's a big hassle."
Patrick Fraser: "And if you hire a company that works in your area, hopefully they will know the ins and outs of your city or county codes. But still check the codes online yourself to confirm everything. You can save yourself a lot of homeowner headaches.
Troubles got you feeling fenced in? Ready to climb out? Permit us to help. Our code is not online. It's on TV, and simple: Just help people.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com