WSVN — A landlord discovered one of his tenants had an illegal pit bull, so he contacted animal control. The result: The landlord is now facing a $10,000 fine. Can you be fined after doing the right thing? It’s why one man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

The money experts will tell you one way to acquire wealth is through real estate. Collins Reynolds believes it.

Collins Reynolds: "I had about 24 apartments at one time, all from Little Havana, to here to the Beach."

Twenty-four tenants and one landlord, and Collins liked being that landlord.

Collins Reynolds: "It’s a great job, as well as I get to provide a nice, safe place for people to live."

Of course, there are headaches. One of Collins’ properties is this quad plex, and back in 2007, Collins found out one tenant had a pit bull.

Collins Reynolds: "As soon as I found out about it I called animal services, because I realized this was a dangerous dog."

The main reason Collins moved quickly was because three children lived at the property. Collins wanted to protect them, and himself.

Collins Reynolds: "Because kids are precious. We don’t want anything to happen to them. From a liability standpoint, I wouldn’t want to be held liable in case there was an incident where somebody was actually hurt or killed."

Animal control came out.

Collins Reynolds: "They fined the tenant. The tenant never paid the bill."

The tenant then moved out without paying the fine. Collins recently put the rental property up for sale, and that’s when he discovered that $300 fine had grown.

Collins Reynolds: "It’s $10,000, a lot of money."

And guess who was told they had to pay the $10,000 lien slapped on the property by the county.

Collins Reynolds: "Since the tenant moved out and the incident was here on the property, that bill actually falls to the property owner."

Collins is fuming because, back in 2007, he was the one who let animal control know about the dangerous dog.

Collins Reynolds: "And I did the right thing. I reported the animal. The animal was taken away, and I’m the one who is suffering for it now."

Collins called the county to argue his case. He was told the county sent letters to the property notifying him about the lien. Collins said he never got them, and the $10,000 lien remained.

Collins Reynolds: "There should be incentives for people to do the right thing. There shouldn’t be negative consequences that are associated with people who do the right thing."

Well, Howard, Collins reported the pit bull. The owner didn’t pay the fine, and now it’s become  $10,000 lien. Does Collins have to pay it?

Howard Finkelstein: "It depends. As the property owner, Collins is responsible for the $10,000 lien if the county provided proper notice to him about the code violation. If the county didn’t talk to him or send him a certified letter, he is legally not responsible for the fine."

We contacted Miami-Dade Animal Services. They told us they mailed a notice to Collins, but he never responded. Collins said he never got the letter.

But give Miami-Dade Animal Services credit. They told us if Collins could show documentation that he did not allow dogs on the property, they would work with him.

Collins then showed his lease, which clearly states, "No dogs, cats or other animals are allowed in this apartment." The county accepted that, then reduced the $10,000 lien back to the original $300 fine. Collins paid that.

Howard Finkelstein: "Give Miami-Dade credit for working this out, and they should have, because Collins told them about the pit bull, and if he hadn’t, the animal could have hurt a child."

Collins faced a real headache for reporting the illegal pit bull, and if he is faced with the same decision again…

Collins Reynolds: "If I had to make the decision again, I would do the exact same decision. I would make it. I would call animal services and I would have the dog removed."

Patrick Fraser: "Glad it worked out for Collins. If you are a landlord and your tenant gets a fine and doesn’t pay it, you can be forced to pay it. The solution? If you find out in time, the landlord can take it out of the tenant’s security deposit."

Feeling like the pits with a problem dogging you? Need someone to lien on. Contact us. Hopefully when we are done, you won’t have a fine. You will be feeling fine.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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