(WSVN) - How would you feel if someone dumped trash on your property? After you cleaned it up, it happened again and again. And each time the dumper drives away, you get fined. Frustrating, right? But can a government agency do that to you? It’s why one South Florida man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Jose Caraballo calls himself a trader.
Jose Caraballo: “I trade securities, stocks and bonds.”
Sounds like fun — unless it’s your money.
Jose Caraballo: “Anytime your capital is in harm’s way, it’s stressful. It’s the most stressful thing in life, I think.”
But lately, Jose has something that’s running a close second in the stress category.
Jose Caraballo: “I’m the sucker at the poker table now, and everyone in the area has figured it out, and they’re throwing all their garbage here.”
Jose’s family has owned this property in Northwest Miami-Dade for over 20 years.
Today, it’s surrounded by condos, and about a year ago, It became a target for law breakers to dump their furniture, cabinets, roofing materials and plain garbage.
Jose Caraballo: “It just gotten to a point where we can’t keep up.”
Patrick Fraser: “When was the last time you cleaned it up?”
Jose Caraballo: “Last week.”
Patrick Fraser: “You picked up last week.”
Jose Caraballo: “Wednesday, Thursday we came.”
Patrick Fraser: “And this was here Friday, ’cause we came here Friday.”
All this dumped the day after Jose paid someone to haul away the last load of trash. Jose has complained to the county.
Jose Caraballo: “The county tells me to figure it out. How am I going to figure that out? They said to ‘put cameras to find out who it is and tell us.’ Tell me to find out who killed Kennedy, too. I mean, it’s ridiculous.”
Jose has a fistful of violations from Miami-Dade County sent to him in the past year, one for $460 and another for $920. One bill was for $1,720, and yet another was for $2,520.
Then, last week, Jose got a letter threatening a lien on the property with a $5,960 fine, boosted by a $1,530 administrative fee for the county because some of the tickets were not paid on time.
Jose Caraballo: “And you can’t fight them because they are the government.”
A sign was put up warning dumpers faced a $1,000 fine.
Patrick Fraser: “Nobody has ever been caught?”
Jose Caraballo: “Of course not, except the owner. Who are they going to catch?”
Jose had a solution. Let him put up a fence around the swale to make it harder for the crooks to dump. He was told, “That’s a swale, so you can’t fence it in.”
Jose Caraballo: “We can’t control that piece of land, but you can fine us because things happen on that piece of land?”
You might have noticed: Jose is frustrated.
Jose Caraballo: “I gotta pay someone to clean it up, and I gotta pay the fine, and the next week, we got the same show and the same game, and it’s never-ending.”
Well Howard, the person dumping the trash is the criminal. Jose, the property owner, is the victim, and he is the one being punished. Legally, is that fair?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “No, it’s not, but it’s what the law calls an ‘in rem proceeding,’ which means it’s the property that’s in violation, and since the people dumping get away with it, the law does not make the county clean it up. They toss the problem into the property owner’s lap.”
According to Miami-Dade County, they cite a property owner when an inspector sees a violation or they receive a complaint from a neighbor.
A Solid Waste Department spokesperson told me they try their best to identify anything in the trash that would reveal who dumped it. If they can’t identify the dumper, they have to go back to the property owner to clear it up.
They did send a list of suggestions for Jose to deter and catch the dumpers. It included lighting, surveillance cameras and a sidewalk.
Howard Finkelstein: “The county clearly knows they have a problem, and they want Jose to do the work that code enforcement could be doing. The county could put police officers out there or light the street, put cameras up, do the same thing they are telling the taxpayer he should do.”
Give Jose credit. He’s getting trashed by dumpers, but he has not lost his sense of humor.
Jose Caraballo: “You have to laugh at this. I mean, how are you gonna do it? If not, I would have jumped off a building or something.”
He is a character. One suggestion for Jose: Ask the county for a reduction in the fines, since he’s not the one committing the crimes. This is a mess for Jose and the county, and the only ones not affected are the crooks who dumped the trash. It ain’t fair.
Getting trashed by a problem that’s no laughing matter? Wanna dump it in our laps? Contact us. We’ll try to clean things up and haul ’em away for you.
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