SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. — Getting fined for not mowing your lawn is one thing, but being penalized $500 a day for almost two months might seem excessive, especially when the homeowner wasn't even notified he or she was in violation.
That's why a man in Dunedin is fighting the city for his $30,000 fine.
Turns out, he's not alone.
10News started looking through documents and found property owners all across Tampa Bay are being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Another woman was fined more than $100,000 for overgrown weeds and a stagnant swimming pool.
Kristi Allen told USA Today she didn't even own the Dunedin home. She foreclosed and moved out in 2011.
Andrew Ward, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, believes some of these fines are an abuse of government power.
"Cities and towns are allowed to fine people every day a violation occurs. That's how we're seeing these fines in Dunedin," said Wagner.
According to city records in Safety Harbor, one property owner owes $113,410. Violations cited are a hazardous tree and a bad pool.
Another is on the hook for $106,831.59. Violations cited include junk and building envelope issues.
"Cities could be fair about this by making sure people know they're violating the code so that they have a chance to fix the violations," explained Ward.
A Safety Harbor spokesperson said fines and liens are the last resort. The city offers a petition for reduction/waiver of code enforcement liens once the violation is corrected.
Tarpon Springs has about a dozen outstanding fines in the six-digit range. One woman owes nearly $2 million from a case that started back in 2005.
Records show there was overgrown grass, trash and debris and a pig on the property.
A man with an even older case owes close to $700,000.
While the Eighth Amendment prohibits cities from imposing excessive fines, property owners could be left hiring a lawyer to help them fight that battle.
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