(WSVN) - His father built a house with a small building in the back 70 years ago. Now, the city wants proof it was permitted or tear it down, and without that 70-year-old permit, the family did what South Floridians have been doing for decades. They called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

In the early ’50s, Charlie Moody needed a house for his wife and nine children. He went to work.

Mike Moody, needs 70-year-old permit: “My daddy built this house. He started in ’51, and I think he finished it around ’53, and we all grew up there.”

Seventy years later, the Moody children still own their late parents’ home and can still see the handprints they put down when their father poured the concrete.

Mike Moody: “We put the hand down there when it was wet, when we were like 6, 7 years old.”

But now, Mike feels like the city of Fort Lauderdale has stuck their hand into the middle of the property.

Mike Moody: “I just want them to leave it like it was all these years.”

When Mr. Moody built in ’51, city records show he pulled a permit for the house, and Mike says he is certain his father legally built what they called the little house used for storage in the backyard.

Patrick Fraser: “And it was built with a permit?”

Mike Moody: “Yes, it was because if there wasn’t a permit for that, Broward County Property Appraiser wouldn’t even have it on the map.”

The county records showed the house and what they called a utility building.

For 70 years, the Moodys paid property taxes on both. Then, Fort Lauderdale stepped in.

Mike Moody: “I get notified by the city and the code inspector.”

After an anonymous complaint, a code enforcement officer cited the Moodys, writing “constructed a shed in the backyard without a permit.”

Mike was told he had to prove there was a permit for the small building.

Patrick Fraser: “So they want you to show them a permit from the early ’50s?”

Mike Moody: “Yes.”

Patrick Fraser: “How are you going to show a permit from 70 years ago?”

Mike Moody: “That’s what they want, and I don’t think it’s right, and they gave us 30 days to comply.”

Since Mike doesn’t have the 70-year-old permit, he says he went to city hall to show them the county records that, he believes, proves the small building is legal.

Mike Moody: “I showed it to them more than once. They told me, ‘That don’t matter. That’s not a permit. That don’t matter.'”

Mike says the city officials told him he had one option left: tear this down.

Patrick Fraser: “Are you going to tear down your daddy’s little house?”

Mike Moody: “No, I’m not. No, I’m not. I’m not going to do that.”

Mike thought he fought city hall and had the proof he won but nope.

Mike Moody: “I know that they are supposed to answer to every complaint because that’s their job, but once you investigate and do your homework, if there’s nothing there, there’s nothing there.”

Well, Howard, does Mike have to prove that the small building is legal? Or does the city have to prove it’s illegal?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “The city has to prove that building is illegal, and they cannot do that. First, they don’t have the paperwork from 70 years ago, and secondly, the little house, as the family calls it, is on the property appraiser’s website. It’s sent there by the city when they approve a permit and the building is completed, so in this case, Fort Lauderdale is wrong and needs to wipe out the violation.”

We contacted Fort Lauderdale. Instead of an inspector, they sent out a supervisor.

A city spokesman then wrote, “It was determined that the utility shed is legal, and the complaint will be closed,” adding, “We have encountered similar cases within the same time frame involving multiple structures being built on a single permit, and after today’s inspection, this is believed to be the case.”

Mike Moody: “I am so happy. I am relieved. I can get some sleep now.”

The little building his dad built 70 years ago is safe after Mike’s call to Help Me Howard.

Mike Moody: “Anybody needs any help, they better get on the phone and call Help Me Howard.”

Now, the complaint about the building on Moody property was anonymous, but that won’t happen anymore.

A new state law requires the person complaining to go to code enforcement to identify themselves, so the person you are turning in knows who did it. That could make an enormous change in code complaints.

Got a problem that’s tearing you down? Ready to build a solution? Permit us to help shed a little light on the problem.

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

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