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Am I liable for bogus building code violation, and can we sue for harassment?

Palm Harbor, FL |

My wife and I purchased our house June 24th 2013. We received a letter from the building department this year (3 years later) that we had installed a garage door without a permit on July 9th 2010. They are telling us we have to pull a permit and/or pay a fine. We never installed a new garage door since owning the home. When trying to fight this they are providing no proof that this was done and are saying that if they have it on file as a violation there is nothing I can do and I need to fix this. Is there anyway to get them to leave me alone or get this to go away? We are feeling bullied and there is no one in the department willing to help. If they continue to send me letters to comply without proof, can I sue for harassment?

I had a typo. We purchased the house June 24th 2010, not 2013

Attorney Answers 2

Posted

It is not harassment for a city/govt office to send you letters and notices about a potential violation, no matter how frequent. If the garage door was required to have a permit and did not, then you need to comply--it does not matter to them that you did not install it. You may have rights against the previous owner, but as between you and the city, it won't matter. If you feel strongly that you want to fight, enough to pay attorneys fees, then consult with a local attorney. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "proof"--they usually have specifications in the codes stating what types of things a permit is needed for, if your garage door fits those parameters, then they're going to send out the notices. There's no "proof" really, unless they are to come to your door and measure the garage door--but I don't know how that helps you.

We do not have an attorney-client relationship. I am not your lawyer. The statements I have made do not constitute legal advice. Any statements I have made are based upon the very limited facts you have presented, and under the premise that you will consult with a local attorney. This is not an attempt to solicit business. This disclaimer is in addition to any disclaimers that this website has made. I am only licensed in California.

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4 comments

Asker

Posted

The building department is claiming that the door was installed 16 days after we purchased the home. So how can this be when we never installed a garage door since owning the home? So are you saying this is my word against theirs? Doesn't seem right that they can make a claim, true or not, and I have to comply.

Golnar Sargeant

Golnar Sargeant

Posted

Your question says they accused you of installing it in July 9th 2010, which would be under the previous ownership. I'm just saying "the other guy installed it" will not get you out of it.

Asker

Posted

Sorry, I am an idiot. We purchased the home June 24th of 2010. Sorry for the mistake. Does that change anything? They are coming after me now 3 1/2 years later.

Golnar Sargeant

Golnar Sargeant

Posted

There usually isn't a statue of limitations issue with code enforcement, so the 3 1/2 years later part may not help you. However, in your previous post you said that the date of installation they have in the notices can not be correct, because it was after you owned the house and you did not install the door--that might help you. However, trying to meander through a bureaucracy without a lawyer is like a snail trying to climb uphill in molassess--very difficult to do. They either have you mistaken for another house, or are just plain wrong about the installation date. If it is the latter, then you'll still have to comply, even though they have an oops as to the date. But either way, you'll have to get to the bottom of it, and I encourage you to hire an attorney to do it. At the very least have the attorney send them a legal letter--that might get their attention to at least clarify what is going on. If you have not done so, you may want to physically go down to that city office and speak with someone. I've had clients who have had much better results that way--just don't approach them angry.

Posted

I recently was involved in a county coding dispute. One of two things have happened. First, the county is wrong and no garage door was ever installed without the proper permit. You can make this point at a hearing they will set and they have to prove it was installed without a permit. You will be responsible for the costs and fees of this hearing should you lose. The second possibility is that the previous owner installed a garage door that was not coded properly. The liability for a code violation is on the present owner regardless of who actually initiated the violation. (for most counties) You will have to go to the county building department office and apply for the garage door permit. Once that is approved you will need to schedule the proper inspections. Inspections for a garage door may include electrical, structural and several others, but the building department will let you know. You then have to pay for and schedule the inspections. Once the inspections are completed you can apply for a certificate of occupancy. (if one is needed for a garage door, the county will tell you). As far as the letters, they are not harassment.

The information provided is not legal advice and no attorney client relationship will arise based upon this information. If you decide to retain an attorney a separate discussion regarding your rights will have to occur. Do not rely on any of the information provided in deciding whether or not to act. David Fraser disclaims any liability for actions that are taken by individuals based upon the information provided. CONSULT AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR JURISDICTION BEFORE TAKING ANY LEGAL ACTION.

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