Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County administrator wants new plan for enforcing codes

Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala has given staff members 30 days to come up with a better way to get owners to repair and clean up their property.

LaSala's decision came after a report in the Tampa Bay Times disclosed that many code liens in the unincorporated area far exceed the value of the property. In some cases the liens exceeded $1 million. A Times editorial concluded the county's code system is not working.

LaSala said in an email to county staff members that "I can't disagree with the editorial."

He added: "We all recognize that our first priority is to achieve compliance. The current penalty system doesn't work to accomplish that goal effectively.

"Please begin work on a more common sense, outcome based approach that we can bring to the (county commission) for consideration."

He recommended that the special hearing officers who rule on code cases and authorize liens be consulted "in developing an improved approach."

County Commissioner Karen Seel responded that a new plan is "long overdue."

Seel said she has long advocated for changes to the system. The county, she said, might want to look at Clearwater's system. Rather than going through the courts, Clearwater has a community advocacy committee, which is less punitive and tries to seek solutions. Seel said she'd also like to see a social services or similar component to help those who cannot afford to fix their property.

Pinellas has more than 300 liens filed on mostly residential property in the unincorporated areas for ongoing code violations. The total amount owed to the county for outstanding liens is about $47 million. In at least four cases, the liens exceed $2 million each. One couple with two properties in the High Point area owes the county about $5.8 million in code liens, according to county records. Many other liens are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The houses are worth a fraction of that. One house in the Lealman area, for example, has a lien of about $2.3 million but is worth about $41,000.

County code officials acknowledge it's hard to collect the money. The county collected about $435,000 of the $47 million during the 2010-11 fiscal year. And it's unlikely the county will ever see much of the rest.

About a third of the liens can't be collected because the house is worth so much less than the claim, code officers say. Another third aren't collectable because the houses have a homestead exemption, which protects the homeowner against government foreclosure. A third may be collectable, but many have outstanding mortgages that take precedence over the county code lien should Pinellas foreclose.

And even though the system is more about compliance than money, that doesn't happen either. Sometimes owners can't afford repairs. Other times, they are simply stubborn.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Pinellas County administrator wants new plan for enforcing codes 04/24/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 10:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: The Underwoods bring the political terror in 'House of Cards' Season 5

    Blogs

    The ruthless Frank and Claire Underwood are back, continuing their own form of terror inside and outside of the White House.

    Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards Season 5 on Netflix.
  2. Trump hails heroes at Arlington on Memorial Day

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — UPDATE, 12:28 P.M.: President Donald Trump is expressing his nation's "boundless and undying" gratitude to Americans who have fallen in battle and to the families they left behind.

    President Donald Trump participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. [Photo by Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images]
  3. French president attacks Russian media outlets; Putin says Moscow didn't try to influence French election

    World

    VERSAILLES, France — UPDATE, 11:57 A.M.: French President Emmanuel Macron has made an extraordinary attack on two Russian media outlets, saying they acted as "propaganda" organs during France's election campaign.

    French President Emmanuel Macron, right, speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Galerie des Batailles (Gallery of Battles) at the Versailles Palace as they arrive for a joint press conference following their meeting in Versailles, near Paris, France, Monday. [Stephane de Sakutin/Pool Photo via AP]
  4. In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the third hole during the final round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. Woods has been arrested on a drunken driving charge in Palm Beach County , various media outlets are reporting. [AP photo]
  5. Tiger Woods arrested on DUI charge in Florida

    Public Safety

    Golfer Tiger Woods was arrested on a DUI charge Monday in Jupiter, according to the Palm Beach County sheriff's office.

    Tiger Woods has been arrested on a DUI charge in Florida.