The city of Dunedin, Florida, has authorized the foreclosure of a man's home because his lawn grew too tall while he was out of town settling his mother's estate last summer.
What are the details?
Jim Ficken, 69, was fined more than $29,000 — $500 per day of violation — after Dunedin's grass measurers discovered his yard turf was longer than the allowable 10 inches for an eight-week period, Reason reported.
Ficken had arranged for a friend to mow his lawn in his absence, but the friend unexpectedly died after Ficken left. So, the fines continued to rack up without as much as a phone call from city inspectors.
When Ficken returned and found out about the fees, he explained his situation, but the city stood firm — insisting he owed the 30 grand for being out of compliance. Ficken had been flagged, inspectors informed him, as a "repeat offender" because his lawn had also grown too tall in 2015.
On Tuesday, the city of Dunedin authorized the foreclosure of Ficken's home in order to collect the fine in full.
Now, Ficken is suing to try to save his property. The Institute for Justice has taken up his case and is fighting the city for trying to take his home for the minor code violation.
IJ attorney Ari Bargil said of the case, "Losing your home because you inadvertently let your grass get too long is the very definition of an excessive fine. No one should face crippling fines, let alone foreclosure, for trivial code violations."
Bargil explained, "Jim asked the city if they would reconsider and give him a fair fine or a new hearing, but they rejected him. Now they are trying to take his home."
According to IJ, "this case is bigger than just Jim."
Code violations are quite a money maker for the city of Dunedin. In 2007, the total fines imposed by the city for minor infractions was $34,000. Just 10 years later, they took in $700,000.
Last year, the city collected nearly $1.3 million in fines, and authorized the foreclosure of 18 homes.
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