Jim Ficken, 69, was in danger of losing his home after he was fined $30,000 when his grass grew too long while he was away for two months. He said that he had to spend two summer months away to tend to his late mother’s estate in South Carolina.
Jim’s mom, Marienelle Ficken started to become ill way back in 2015. Jim then started to go back and forth to visit her in South Carolina. Every time he was gone, the city cited him for letting his grass grow passed the allowed length. To help him out, he asked for help from his friend, Russ Kellum. He was the one who was maintaining Jims’ grass and mowing it while he was away.
In 2016, Marienelle passed away. It was the only last summer that Jim had to be in South Carolina for a couple of months following his death. He needed to be there to close down her estate.
While he was busy taking care of her moms’ estate, he was not aware that Russ also passed away. Because of this, his lawn was left to grow and nobody was there to mow and maintain it for him.
A Dunedin code enforcement officer came to inspect his yard. He was found to be a “repeat offender” because of his citation way back in 2015. The city then started charging him. While he was gone, Dunedin City started fining $500 a day even without giving him notice that his grass is already over 10 inches for nearly 60 days.
Jim is retired and only living on food stamps. He tried to fix the issues as soon as he returned home in July. However, his lawnmower broke. But during this time, he was still not aware fo the fines. Just until the city official came by in August to warn him that he was “going to get a big bill from the city.”
To avoid having this problem, Jim got a new lawnmower the very next day. He did cut his grass and the city inspector informed him that his lawn was in compliance. But until then, he was still not notified that he was already charged $23,500 in fines.
Then in early September, Jim learned about the fines. It was during a hearing with the Code Enforcement Board.
However, he had more problems with his moms’ estate so he had to go back to South Carolina. And when he was away again, his grass became overgrown. Because of this, he was fined $10,000. So in total, he ended up facing $29,833.50 in fines. His house was valued for $125,541 in the market.
Since then, Jim was fighting back by filing a lawsuit against the Dunedin’s Code Enforcement Board.