In 2015, two brothers replaced a piece of drywall in an apartment they own. Seven years later, the city sent them a notice that ended with the order to demolish the property. Is that legal? It’s why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Forty years ago, the Browns’ parents bought this property in Liberty City. It’s seen some changes.
Hernando Brown Jr.: “Previously, it’s been a cleaners on one side, a restaurant on the other side.”
Today, it houses a church and four apartments, if its allowed to stand.
Hernando Brown Jr.: “The building is to be apparently demolished because it is unsafe.”
The trouble began back in 2015 when water from a second floor air conditioner started running inside the wall instead of outside. A wet piece of drywall on the first floor ceiling fell.
Barry Brown: “So I’m with the my truck. Got a piece of drywall, put it back up.”
In 2015, the city posted a notice that the Browns needed to pull a permit to repair the wet spot and the hole Barry enlarged to put in the new drywall.
Barry Brown: “They repair with less than $100. You do not need a permit.”
That was it. Until suddenly, seven years later, the City of Miami posted this unsafe structure notice writing because of the water stain and partial ceiling collapse, the Brown’s needed to get a permit for the repair, and to do that, they had to take several expensive steps.
Barry Brown: “They told me get a contractor, got a contractor. Told me get an architect, got an architect. For a piece of drywall.”
Barry thought there was no need to appear before the Unsafe Structures Board since he was taking care of the problem.
Turns out they did have to go, so Hernando tried to schedule a meeting.
Hernando Brown Jr.:”No, you will not be going in January, the docket is full. No, you will not be going in February, the docket is full. I would go every month.”
And they got this notice. Their request to speak to the Unsafe Structures Board was denied and their building had to be demolished.
Hernando Brown Jr. :”And if I won’t demolish it, they will demolish it.”
Needless to say, Barry was stunned.
Barry Brown: “Tear down a church and a four unit apartment building. There seems to be a very steep price to pay for not getting a permit that was not required.”
They tried to fight to save their building. Right now, they are losing.
Barry Brown: “Where somebody can come along and just take something from you, and I find that to be very disturbing.
Hernando Brown Jr.: “My brother said, ‘Maybe we should call Help Me, Howard.”
They did. But legally, what can they do to save the building, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Waiting years to come after a property owner over a piece of drywall doesn’t make sense. The purpose of code enforcement is compliance and safety, not punishment. If the city was concerned about safety, they should have done something in 2015. Waiting until 2022 to try to demolish the building proves this is simply punishment. It’s wrong, probably illegal and should be stopped.”
I asked the city for all their records regarding the Browns’ drywall case. I got pictures but none of the paperwork from the Unsafe Structures Board.
Then I was able to talk to high ranking city officials who straightened it all out with just four words: “This was a mistake.”
We then got a document cancelling the notice of violation and the pending lien. The demolition order was wiped out.
Hernando Brown Jr. “Well, I was glad to hear it.”
As for why the city waited seven years to bring up the violation notice, I was told the corner lot has two addresses and there was a mix up that wasn’t discovered in 2022. But Hernando and Barry won’t have to fight anymore to save their property after their call to Help Me Howard.
Hernando Brown Jr. “That’s my brother’s idea. But i’m all for it because I didn’t feel that I had a voice.”
That’s another reason we’re here. To give you a voice.
One reminder. Even if you do everything the government agency says to do, you need to contact them and get their approval in writing to avoid any other headaches, days or years down the road.
Battling a problem and getting demolished? Ready to patch things up? Permit us to help to see if we can construct a timely solution.
With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
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