Kafka In Palm Beach County

We’re having to deal with a bizarre situation with a house we own in Lake Worth, Florida. The Building Department is demanding that we close a permit, and threatening to fine us a grand a day until we do so. Fun fact: The permit was opened at the time the house was built, two owners prior, and we have no idea what it’s for, and neither does the Building Department, but they’re demanding that we take care of it and have it inspected anyway. It seems to basically be an extortion scheme by a money-hungry local government. Does anyone have any ideas about how to get them to cease and desist pro se? Or know someone who would take it pro bono?

11 thoughts on “Kafka In Palm Beach County”

      1. Figured it was too obvious a solution, but lots of folks don’t know about online permit lookups and thought details would have been digitally transferred no matter the quality of their physical records.

        Such bureaucracy is the best argument for limited government.

        Good luck.

  1. IANAL.

    Building and other departments have broad powers due to understandable public safety concerns.

    However, an inspection without a specific purpose might be construed as a 4th Amendment violation.

    In addition, the obviously incomplete documentation raises the possibility that the inspection *was* done and that another inspection is frivolous and an invasion of your privacy. You could argue that it’s up to *them* to prove that their incompetence in failing to pursue the closing of the permit didn’t also extend to not recording an inspection.

    And, if there is an assigned inspector recorded, you could ask for copies of his records – many keep a daily log of their work and their might be something there. Indeed, it might have been an external inspection – driveway paving or mailbox placement, that doesn’t require property entrance in the first place.

    If the department doesn’t have *that* either its more evidence of lack of due diligence on their part.

    All that said, it’s hard to fight city hall. Best bet is to appeal to a higher authority – the city council or board overseeing them. Ask for a waiver or something.

    Be nice, but have a plan to be a pest to everyone in the council chambers (and make it known)….

  2. It would be worth the money to have a lawyer send a letter demanding they prove that a permit actually exists and for what work.
    Suggest that until they can provide such details it is your opion that no such permit exists and that they are engaged in harassment.

  3. Rand, your title insurance company from when you bought the house should have to cover this, and any costs. That’s what it is for.

    (If this is happening a lot in your neighborhood, they likely are already fighting it and can just add you to their suit)

    1. Yeah, I used to be in that business, and here in CA that would not have been a lien, but would certainly have been a “defect in title”. The title insurance should cover this.

  4. Their records don’t say what the permit is for, you didn’t know about the permit … if everyone was being reasonable I’d think a mutual declaration that the permit is closed would be in order. But the threatened fine suggests the other people have something else in mind.

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