(WSVN) - Many people have lost their jobs or have had their hours cut and are struggling to get by, so imagine a city posting expensive violation notices on house after house in a neighborhood. What city is it, and what can residents do about it? Let’s bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser for some answers.

Clarence had called us about his troubles with Miami Gardens.

Clarence Douglas, upset with Miami Gardens: “They say that the grass is too high, the sidewalks have to be cleaned, the asphalt has to be taken up.”

Back in the ’80’s, Clarence put down asphalt on his swale when it was Miami-Dade County.

In 2002, it became the City of Miami Gardens. In 2021, it’s become the neighborhood of nightmares.

Clarence Douglas: “The county did not mess with us. We only started having these problems after Miami Gardens took over.”

As we talked to Clarence, word got out we were there, and his neighbors came over, each with a similar story of violation notices.

Cathy Sims Coney, hit with violation notices: “My husband has a trailer. We have to get a permit on our own property.”

Veronica Crews is a disabled widow struggling to get by on Social Security. She got slapped with a long list of violation notices she cannot afford to repair.

Patrick Fraser: “The walls, the fences, the landscaping, drainage, dead grass?”

Veronica Crews, can’t afford what city wants: “I get one little check a month, my Social Security to pay my house. Now where am I going to get all this from?”

Clarence said almost every neighbor has gotten a notice, adding that on one day, Code Enforcement looked like the mailman going down the street.

Clarence Douglas: “Door to door. I watched the truck.”

Clarence is not exaggerating. Since COVID hit, from April to December, Miami Gardens has hit residents with a total of 2,136 violations.

Mirelys San Roman, surprised by notices: “My family is sad. My husband is worried.”

Residents say many of the violations are picky. One woman told us she got cited for dead grass. She put in new sod. Since she doesn’t have sprinklers in the swale, it’s turning brown, and she says the city is coming after her again.

Miami Gardens resident: “It’s not fair.”

The Smiths say it’s clear what’s going on.

Miami Gardens resident: “They are just money hungry.”

The violation notices are generating revenue for Miami Gardens. From April through December, they brought in $48,700 to the city coffers.

Clarence Smith: “In the middle of a pandemic? You don’t have no compassion. People are losing their homes.”

Well, Howard, does the city have to enforce all their rules and regulations?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “No. Cities have great power to enforce their rules, but they also have great discretion and latitude, and if it’s not a threat to the public safety, government officials have the power to look the other way, especially during a pandemic. It’s grass and sidewalk. Give people a break for a few months.”

We asked to speak to a few elected Miami Gardens city officials. None responded to us.

The city did send a statement saying, “Compliance with the City’s Code is consistent with the efforts to make Miami Gardens a great community for all residents.”

They added residents can ask for extensions to have time to correct the violations, but legally, does Clarence have to remove his asphalt swale?

Howard Finkelstein: “It’s a close call. Since it was not illegal when Clarence put it in, and they said nothing for decades, he may have a vested right to keep the asphalt. Now, of course, the city owns the swale, and if this went to court, a judge could rule either way, and during a pandemic, the city could also look the other way.”

Many homeowners are so fed up, they just want Miami Gardens to go away.

Clarence Smith: “I’d like to see this come to a stop. I’m sorry that it ever became the City of Miami Gardens.”

Some cities do help residents get grants to do certain projects. If you live in Miami Gardens or any city, talk to your elected officials or their staff to try to get some help.

Getting hit by people you thought were paid to help you? Need someone to deliver good news? Contact us,
and see if we can pave the way for you.

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

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