Monday, December 3, 2012
Help Me Howard: Lawn Violation
Can a government employee say your lawn is not green enough, too brown, not luscious enough? And then vow to fine you if you don't lay down sod. It's why one woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Maria Bedoya: "Yes it is difficult, I am working and I'm trying to keep my head above water, paying bills."
One thing Maria does not spend a lot of money on is her lawn. Just some guys to cut it every two weeks and the result caught the eye of the city of Hollywood.
Maria Bedoya: "I started getting letters and postings and letters on my door that my grass was not up to par."
This is what Maria's yard looked like when the code enforcement people showed up. She had no idea weeds, bare spots and brown grass would get you in big trouble in Hollywood.
Maria Bedoya: "I was told if I do not comply by a certain date that I would be fined up to $50 a day and they would put a lien on my property."
Maria went to work, bought some weed killer, grass seed and started watering. This is the result, so she called code enforcement again.
Maria Bedoya: "I asked her if I still needed to install grass and she said yes. She said, 'We want you to install new grass on the entire lawn, not just patches here and there or you will be fined by Dec. 31.'"
Maria said not only was the message from the city employee surprising, the treatment from that code enforcement person was shocking.
Maria Bedoya: "Rude over the phone, very you know demanding, 'no this is the way it is.'"
Lay down $1,000 in new sod. Maria said on her budget that's a luxury, not an option.
Maria Bedoya: "It's either lay down lawn or pay my mortgage. I guess I will have to not pay my mortgage one month to put grass down."
But Maria said she doesn't need pallets of sod. She thinks her yard now looks as good as her neighbors. However, she said she can't get code enforcement to come out to see it.
Maria Bedoya: "I just wish that they would look at my property again and let me know and say, 'OK, your grass is fine', but that's not the case."
Now quicker than the grass can grow in the rainy season, Maria's attitude toward the cites treatment of her has changed.
Maria Bedoya: "At first I was upset, but now I'm angry."
Well Howard, can a city fine you for a lawn like this and then require you to plant pallets of sod instead of cheaper grass seed?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes they can cite you and fine you for a lawn that does not meet the city code. But they cannot force you to lay down sod instead of cheaper grass seed. Green grass is green grass whether it comes from sod or seed."
Give Hollywood credit, after we contacted the city, they quickly sent a code enforcement supervisor out to look at Maria's yard. They agreed that the seeding and weeding worked and that the property was in compliance. No fines, no liens, no more headaches.
Howard Finkelstein: "In this case, it would have been resolved if the city employee Maria talked to had just come out and seen the difference. If you are not satisfied with a government employee, contact their supervisor, or your elected official. There are a few government employees that are less than perfect but the majority are good people who want to do a good job."
Maria Bedoya: "Thank you!"
To put it simply, Maria is happy.
Maria Bedoya: "I do want to thank Help Me Howard so much for helping me out. I really do appreciate it."
How can you know what the city codes and rules are? Most have them online. If you can't find them, ask them to email you a copy. If you don't like that, go to the agency's office and ask to see the ordinance they are citing you for. Then you figure out if they are doing the right thing to you.
Troubles left you high and dry? Got bare spots in your plan to solve it? Contact us. We won't let the grass grow under our feet. And we won't water down a solution.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: email@example.com (Please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org