US

Florida Man Sues City Over Possible Foreclosure on His House for Not Mowing His Lawn

By Paula Liu

A Florida man is facing foreclosure of his house due to fines for not mowing the lawn, according to multiple reports.

Jim Ficken of Dunedin was fined almost $30,000 for allowing his grass to grow beyond 10 inches, the maximum height for grass, according to city rules, Fox News reported, adding that the city will be moving to foreclose Ficken’s home due to the accumulated fines—fines that he wouldn’t be able to pay back.

Ficken, 69, told FOX13 he had been out of town taking care of his late mother’s property in South Carolina in the summer of 2018, and while he was at his mother’s estate, the grass on his lawn kept growing.

”The grass did what grass does,” said Andrew Ward, one of Ficken’s attorneys, “and a code inspector saw it was more than the 10 inches the city allowed, and Jim was officially on the hook.”

Ficken did, while he was away, ask a friend to help him cut the grass so as to not allow the grass to get too wild, but the friend he entrusted to cut his grass unexpectedly died. With nobody around to help him cut the grass, it kept growing, and by the time the grass had surpassed the 10-inch allowance set by the city, fines started to accumulate.

Ficken, who is retired, was fined at a rate of $500 per day over a 57-day period, and was unaware of what was going on until he got back, by which time the fines had accumulated to $29,000. The city told him that he was going to get a bill for the fines he had to pay for not following city policy.

“It is outrageous for being fined this amount for being tardy cutting your grass,” Ficken told ABC Action News.

The city of Dunedin released a statement to address the issue, stating that Ficken had been previously warned for his violation of city rules on his rental property.

“On Tuesday, May 7, 2019, the City of Dunedin Code Enforcement Board authorized the City Attorney’s office to files foreclosure actions after the resolution of the case could not be agreed upon by Mr. Ficken. The City Attorney’s office has not had an opportunity to review litigation filed by Mr. Ficken and as such comments at this time.”

Fox 13 reported that Ficken will be fighting the city over the fines, and along with his attorneys, would be suing the city for its excessive fines. According to Ficken and his attorneys, they would take the case to the supreme court if they have to.

Ward, who is part of the Institute for Justice, is representing Ficken free of charge due to the agreement they came to regarding the excessive fines.

“We’re arguing in our lawsuit that limitless fines are, in fact, unconstitutional,” said Ari Bargil, another attorney working at the Institute for Justice.

“Crippling fines against their citizens in order to align (sic) their pockets and generate revenue on the backs of people who have done, really nothing wrong beyond small things like letting their grass grow too tall,” said attorney Ari Bargil, according to ABC Action News.

The city has already started the process to foreclose on Ficken’s house, and for Ficken, who lives on a fixed income, the amount that he was fined was simply too much.

“That’s about five or six years of living expenses for me,” he told ABC Action. “So, they’re really trying to take five years of my life.”

“I’m trying not to think about it but I’ll be booted out of this house and I’ll have to find another place to live,” Ficken told Fox 13. Should he not be able to come up with $30,000 to pay for his fines, that could be his situation.