Code Enforcement says too much stuff

by Kathryn
(South Florida)

Reviewed: June 12, 2024

Visitor Question: My husband has ADD. He lost his job and as a result, he buys and sells things. He got cited from Code Enforcement for having too much stuff. They gave him 14 days to get rid of it. He did not comply; he tried and moved some, but not all. He had a court date and they fined him, but he did not pay because he is not working.

So now they put me, his wife, on the complaint and have decided to take both of our drivers' licenses for not paying the fine. I had nothing to do with it. I was at work. They said the law says that I am just as responsible as he is because I own the property too. He will not listen to me. I can't make him do it. Is this true? Can I sign the house over to him and be out of this whole mess? How do I get him to do something he won't do? We argue over this all the time. He doesn't have to worry about it; he doesn't work. So should I get stuck paying the fine and lose my license over something I did not do? Please give me your opinion. Thank you.

Editors Reply: Yes, you as one of the property owners are as responsible as he is for any and all code violations. Whatever remedies the court applies will fall on your shoulders, regardless of whose "fault" it is.

Whether or not you could escape being responsible for future citations is really a legal question, and you need to find out from an attorney what is possible. If you cannot afford a private attorney, there may be a legal aid office nearby; these services go by different actual names, but the term legal aid would be recognized by almost everyone involved in social services or even your local city government.

We doubt that deeding the house over to him would mean that you would not be responsible for the past citations though. That is another question for an attorney.

We often repeat that we do not give legal advice here because we are not attorneys. We also are not marriage counselors, but we can report our personal experiences on the basis that two of the authors of this website have led code enforcement offices.

You and your husband need to come to terms with the facts here. You are about to lose your driver's license because of this situation, and for many people, that would mean you can't get to work reliably and won't hold your job either. So this is a matter of urgency for both of you. It doesn't matter whose fault it is; you both have to work to clean it up. This could mean renting a storage unit, moving items indoors (since usually code enforcement doesn't deal with what is stored inside your house), selling items quickly, or throwing them in the trash or scheduling a bulk pickup.

Lean on any support system you may have, including family, friends, and work associates, to help.

The two of you need to act right away rather than spending the time arguing. If you can't get an agreement fast on how the cleanup will occur, you will have to find counseling from a trained professional, a pastor, or a mediator.

The reason we say that you need to make this a very high priority is that in almost every city, fines are levied on the basis of a certain amount per day that the code violation continues. Even if that is not true for your city, at any time they could write you a new violation for the items that remain. This is why we say you cannot just let this situation simmer on the back burner; you have to make it a joint priority.

Longer term, of course, you two need to decide what he is going to do to add income to the family, or if that is not possible, what his hobby will be. This one isn't working and will continue to get both of you in trouble.

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