Don’t Let Municipal Violations Bring Down Your House


WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 28, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — In an eye-opening episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver provided an in-depth look at municipal violations (video), and how they could be harming the nation. Often times, when people think of municipal violations they think of traffic infractions and minor crimes; they don’t think their homes are in danger.

The truth is there are many petty municipal violations that can cost homeowners hundreds to thousands of dollars. Your best recourse is to learn as much as you can about your local codes, and how you can protect yourself from breaking them. The following is a list of common code violations, but your local ordinances may differ.

Building Without a Permit

“We have all committed municipal violations,” Oliver said on his half-hour program. “And, if you’ve never gotten a ticket for one, congratulations on not getting caught.”

One of the most common violations homeowners commit is the building without a permit violation. In most places, permits must be obtained to build structures. People sometimes confuse this law when they place already pre-built structures on their properties, such as sheds, gazebos, and fences. Some places, such as Palm Beach County Florida, issue building violations for simple things, such as placing a satellite dish on the roof of your home.

To protect yourself, it’s imperative that you learn your local permit requirements. You can obtain this information at local county buildings.

Waste and Overgrown Lots

Many places require that lawns be kept neat, and that vegetation be cultivated and not left to grow wild. Depending on where you live, there may be requirements to keep your grass trimmed to a certain length, or your waste to a minimum.

In 2014, California homeowners were targeted over brown, not watered lawns. A new bill inspired a law that eradicated the fines that were at times enforced on residents. Sometimes, it takes a community to come together, and rally against unfair fees being levied against them. In this case, the homeowners won because who can argue that California isn’t hot?

Inoperative, Uninsured, or Recreational/Commercial Vehicles

Another great example of expensive bureaucracy is the fees, which counties, cities, and towns impose on their residents, for uninsured or inoperable vehicles on the homeowner’s property. Many places don’t allow inoperable vehicles to occupy a homeowner’s property, which makes collecting and restoring cars difficult for hobbyists. This is a very popular municipal violation, so if you have inoperable vehicles, contact your insurance company now to have the vehicle properly licensed.

Unfortunately, unpaid fines can result in a license suspension – even if the fine was for parking a car, that isn’t even drivable, on your lawn. In California, it’s difficult to obtain insurance after a suspension. In order to garner vehicle insurance, you’ll need to have the more expensive SR22 California insurance, but there are systems for finding cheaper SR22 insurance online if you use a service that compares rates.

Building Too Close to Property Lines  

If your municipality enforces zoning codes, then you need to beware where you’re building. Oftentimes, you cannot build directly on your property line. Instead, you must build a set amount away from it. Community zoning divisions set the specifics for these building measurements, so contact them if you have questions.

As Oliver smartly warns on Last Week Tonight, small fines can quickly spiral out of control, and end up costing violators more than they can afford. In order to protect your home and wallet keep up-to-date on any codes that are relevant to your situation, whether behind the wheel or beyond your back door.

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