The governments do charge some eye-popping fines when a property owner does not comply with the codes. However, the government generally gives the property owner several notices and several months to correct the deficiencies before the government starts the fines. If the property owner needs a little bit more time to correct the deficiencies, the government often is willing to reasonably extend the deadlines.
"Sounds like a great way for a county to grab 1st lien position and steal homes..." The persons who get the big fines are usually the ones few members of the public would support. They are the ones with properties where rats run in and out, where wrecks are strewn everywhere, and where the neighbors are begging the government to do something.
If your property is alleged to be in violation of some codes, you can contact the office named in the notice. The personnel in that office is very willing to let you know exactly what must be done to bring the property into compliance.
You should also promptly review the specific facts with your attorney. The proposed fines can be greatly reduced if not entirely dismissed.
Contact a land use/zoning attorney. If you're looking at an excessive amount of fines, there may be other ways to resolve the issue.
DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.