(WSVN) - You know, if you have to do work at your house or condo, you probably have to pay to pull a permit. But what happens if you change your mind after pulling the permit? It’s why one South Florida woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you live in South Florida and want to know what life used to be like, Laverne Roundtree has been around long enough to tell you.

Laverne Roundtree: “We moved in that house in April 1950. I loved that house. I loved that house.”

Laverne and her husband Charlie lived in the house for over 60 years, till that day Laverne pulled her car into their driveway.

Laverne Roundtree: “I looked up and smoke was coming out the window, and when I opened the door, the smoke was black as night.”

The house and everything, including all their pictures, were destroyed. But Laverne and Charlie decided to rebuild their longtime home. So they hired a contractor and paid for a permit to do the work.

Laverne Roundtree: “I wrote them a check for $5,000.”

Months passed. The contractor told her the city wouldn’t issue the permit, so…

Laverne Roundtree: “So I went to Miami Gardens myself and I asked them why wouldn’t they give him a permit to finish my house. They said, ‘Well, the guy is not here that you are supposed to see.'”

Then, Charlie died and Laverne decided to give up rebuilding their home. A few years passed.

Laverne Roundtree: “That’s when I went to Miami Gardens to ask them if they would give me back my money for the permit.”

The city’s response: no.

Laverne Roundtree: “I said, ‘Why? You never gave me a permit.’ They finally made the permit for the guy to come and get it, and he never did come and get it. But it was two years passed then.”

Laverne didn’t know the permit was finally issued and had now expired, and when she walked around the house. Her frustration, combined with the heat, truly affected her blood pressure.

Laverne Roundtree: “This sun got me feeling like I’m gonna pass out.”

Jonnie Uzarek: “Let’s get to the shade.”

Our photographer, Johnnie Uzarek turned his camera off and helped Laverne to the ground. Fire Rescue came out.

Laverne Roundtree: “I just felt dizzy and felt like everything going around and around and around.”

Laverne was taken to the hospital, where she let us know she would be OK, and don’t forget about her $5,000 for the permit.

Laverne Roundtree: “They should give me back some of it, because they didn’t give me a permit.”

Well, Howard, you pay for a permit and decide not to do the work. Can you get your money back?

Howard Finkelstein: “Legally, once you pull the permit, if you change your mind, a government agency can return some money if their local their rules allow it. After the permit expires, like in this case, they do not have to return any money at all. But there is no law blocking them from returning some money. And in a rare case like this, with an 88-year-old-woman who changed her mind about building because her husband died, morally, the right thing to do is give some money back to her.”

Miami Gardens sent us a statement saying: “What happened to Mrs. Laverne Roundtree is truly a tragedy, to lose your home to fire and your partner in life in a short period of time is a sorrow.”

But, it took 11 months to approve Laverne’s permit because her architect’s plans kept being rejected.

Her contractor then started work and failed inspection over and over. He then disappeared.

Laverne then asked for her money back in 2016. Unfortunately. the length of time, expiration of the permit, and abandonment of the job prevent the city from refunding permit fees under these conditions.

We all went to see Laverne at the hospital and took flowers to cheer her up. Johnnie had to get a picture with her.

Laverne Roundtree: “I feel fine now. I just feel very tired all the time since I came home from the hospital.”

Laverne is back home and still not happy with Miami Gardens.

Laverne Roundtree: “I feel very, very sad that I got nothing from Miami Gardens for my $5,000.”

Glad Laverne is back home, doing well. She told me she is going to sell the property now and just move on from it. And, another reason Miami Gardens doesn’t want to return any money to Laverne: If they do, they set a precedent, and then might have to return it to other people who change their mind after pulling a permit.

Got a problem that has you on fire? Want to construct a solution? Permit us to help. We won’t change our mind — and will try to help you rebuild your faith in people. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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