Florida Retiree May Lose His Home Because He Didn't Mow His Lawn: 'It's Outrageous'
A man in Florida is facing foreclosure on his home because he didn’t cut his grass.
Jim Ficken owes the city of Dunedin, Florida, nearly $30,000 in fines issued for his untidy lawn. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the town imposes fines of $500 per day on homeowners whose grass is longer than 10 inches, and the 69-year-old retiree has reportedly failed to pay up.
“It’s an excessive fine, and everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s outrageous,” he said during a news conference in front of his house.
Dunedin’s Code Enforcement Board claims that they received complaints from Ficken’s neighbors about his yard’s appearance, a claim his attorneys dispute.
After the city moved to foreclose on his house, Ficken filed a counter suit against the city and the Code Enforcement Board members, asking for $1 in nominal damages, coverage for attorney fees and injunctions, so he doesn’t have to pay back the fines, which total $29,833.50.
He is also hoping to stop the city from being able to impose fines “without considering a homeowner’s ability to pay” in the future, the Times reports. (According to the suit, in 2018, Dunedin collected nearly $1.3 million in code violations, up from just $34,000 in 2007.)
Ficken’s attorney did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
In his lawsuit, Ficken claims his grass got so tall because he was often traveling to South Carolina to take care of his ill mother, and after she passed away, he went there to handle her affairs. Ficken says he hired someone to mow his grass in his absence, but that man died suddenly. Upon his return home to Dunedin, he alleges that he attempted to handle the yard himself, but his lawn mower broke.
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Over the course of two months, Ficken was receiving fines, but claims he was not given notice by the city until he was informed that he owed tens of thousands of dollars. He says that a code enforcement official came to his home, telling him to expect “a big bill from the city.” After that visit, Ficken reportedly bought a lawn mower and the next day, he cut his grass, the Times reports.
After he met with the board, they decided that the fines would be upheld, and Ficken sought legal aid. Ari Bargil of the Institute for Justice is representing Ficken free of charge.
“Nobody should lose their house for having tall grass,” Bargil told reporters at the news conference.