(WSVN) - Eighteen years ago, a citation was left on the fence. The owner didn’t know about it and now 20 years later, found out she has a lien on her house and a $6,000 fine. But does she have to pay it? Let’s bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser for the answer. A hint: She is left smiling.
Laronn Montgomery, Ruth’s son: “Mom, I made this for you.”
When we walked into the Montgomery house, the aroma was mouthwatering.
Laronn Montgomery: “Happy birthday to you on your 81st birthday.”
The birthday cake for Ruth Montgomery came in a house her mother bought back in 1974.
Ruth Montgomery, a 20-year-old fine: “And it’s the first house she ever owned, and I decided to keep it in remembrance of her.”
That memory brought a smile to her face — and then she started talking about the reason Help Me Howard was called over.
Ruth Montgomery: “I was really upset, and very nervous.”
This year, a letter came revealing there was a $6,000 lien on the property.
Ruth Montgomery: “I was flabbergasted. I didn’t know what to think.”
Ruth called Miami-Dade County and was told back in November 2000, they issued a $260 fine to her mother Eva Lamb. But Lamb passed away 10 years before the citation came in her name. I will explain why that’s important in a minute, but first why the property was cited in 2000.
Ruth Montgomery: “She said trees are growing in the yard. I said, ‘No, not that house.'”
Ruth and her family didn’t live there at the time. The house was empty.
And the county writes, when they sent a certified letter, it was returned because no one was there.
Instead, the code inspector took a picture of the citation left in the fence. Ruth says since no one lived there, she never got it.
Ruth Montgomery: “Anyone can take it off the fence, the wind can blow it off, the rain can knock it off.”
A few months later, the inspector noted the yard was cleaned up and the violation corrected.
But the fine started growing and Ruth didn’t know about it for nearly 18 years…
Patrick Fraser: “Can you pay $6,000?
Ruth Montgomery: “No, sir. I would gladly pay the citation, but not $6,000 dollars. Not at all.”
Laronn, who is now the third generation of the family to live in the home, said when the citation arrived, he worried about telling his 81-year-old mother.
Laronn Montgomery: “Might upset her real bad and send her to the hospital, and I don’t want that.”
But the $6,000 in fines didn’t send her to the emergency room. It sent her into a fighting mode.
Ruth Montgomery: “May I use the term, I am being bamboozled? I feel like that.”
Well, Howard, Ruth feels bamboozled. How does the law see it?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “The cornerstone of all law is what’s called due process, which means you have right to notice of what proceedings will take place. In this case, it means the owner of the property had to receive proper legal notice. Since Eva was dead, it had to go to her heir, Ruth, and it did not. Therefore, the lien is not valid.”
Now it becomes clear why it’s important that the citation was issued in the name of Eva Lamb even though she was dead.
I contacted Miami-Dade Regulatory and Economic Resources. They were great to work with.
They wrote, “This is the first notice to [the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources] that Ms. Eva Lamb had passed away so long ago.
The family provided her death certificate from 1990.
As a result, the county recalled the citation and cancelled the lien, adding, “The owner’s being deceased was the reason why the citation was voided.”
Ruth no longer owes the $6,000.
Ruth Montgomery: “Jump for joy, jump for joy! I am so happy.”
Ruth had kept the house in her mother’s name to honor her. She will do as the county requested and update the records now that everything is cleared up.
Ruth Montgomery: “Thank God for you, Patrick. You are really my angel in the midst.”
And Ruth said she said a prayer for me, got to smell that great cake — the benefits of this job.
Two things. If your property is in the wrong name, fix it. And if you want to know if there is a lien on your property, the county websites to check are at the end of this Help Me Howard story. Do it, because after you are told about the original fine, the government doesn’t have to update you as the fine grows and grows year after year.
A growing problem not fine with you? Need to lien on someone? Contact us. Hopefully solving it will be a piece of cake for us.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Monroe County Records Search, or click the link below:
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