BCC approves code enforcement lien settlement program
Feb. 24, 2021
The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday evening adopted a lien forgiveness resolution and approved amendments to the Pinellas County Code that, together, will encourage code enforcement compliance, streamline the condemnation and demolition of hazardous buildings and structures, and reduce undue delays for reinvestment opportunities.
The action authorizes Pinellas County Code Enforcement to reduce liens in the unincorporated portions of the county according to a specific methodology and aligns practices with current case law and national standards. Liens are capped at $20,000 per violation for properties in use as single-family homes and $100,000 per violation for other properties such as multi-unit residences, commercial buildings, and industrial buildings. A hardship committee can reduce liens for residents facing particularly difficult circumstances once their violations have been resolved.
“Having a predictable process for reducing liens is an incentive to prospective property owners or an organization such as Habitat for Humanity to rehabilitate properties because their costs can be determined prior to acquisition,” said Blake Lyon, director of Pinellas County Building and Development Review Services.
A separate ordinance addressing demolitions and condemnations allows Code Enforcement to work with the County Attorney’s Office to address unsafe conditions lawfully and expeditiously. The ordinance ensures responsible parties are afforded due process and maintains compliance with state statutes governing homestead exemptions.
“These ordinances will help the County more efficiently address unsafe properties and improve the overall health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” said Pinellas County Code Enforcement Division Director Jude Reazin. “At the same time, the updated directives will offer more reasonable avenues for citizens, property owners and prospective property owners to address code violations and resolve administrative penalties.”
Currently, there are more than 500 properties in the unincorporated county with lien amounts that exceed the value of the properties. Through the settlement program, Code Enforcement will reduce the lien amounts to levels that encourage compliance while still recouping all public expenses related to the enforcement.
These changes are expected to benefit homeowners and the community by removing monetary barriers, encouraging reinvestment, and promoting the improvement of deteriorating properties.