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Homeowner Fights City Lien on Property

6:34 PM, Jul 5, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For years, Linda Ricker's vacant 5-acre property of trees and shrubs has been used as an illegal dumping ground.

Starting in 1997, when Ricker purchased the property, the city's code compliance division has had six enforcement cases against the property.

"When you own a vacant piece of land, you are responsible for it," said Ricker.

But the latest one, a citation in February, led to an ongoing dispute and what Ricker is calling an unjust lien.

In response to the February nuisance charge, Ricker said she paid a company $1,250 to clean up the property. "Grand total (of) 4.5 tons of debris and appliances that were taken to the dumpster, I have proof of that," she said.

But Ricker said the day after her clean-up, the city sent its own contractor to clean up the area, then placed a lien on her property for the work, and that she calls unfair.

"Their contractor came out 3/4/2011 and he didn't do anything," said Ricker. "There was nothing to do."

Kimberly Scott, the city's chief of municipal code compliance, said the city's contractor had to clean up what Ricker's contractor did not.

"They never told me that," said Ricker.

Scott said the contractor billed the city $980 for mowing and $136 for cleaning; the city placed a lien of $1346.77, including an administrative fee, on Ricker's property.

She found out about the lien in April and filed an appeal with the lien review committee. It was denied, but she said she still feels the city's work was unnecessary and the lien unjust.

"I want them to do the right thing; that's all I'm after is the right thing," she said.

Liens are disputed all the time, said Scott, and they are reviewed to see if the city has done something that would warrant a reduction or a cancellation.

So far in this case the city hasn't found one. She said the first goal is to give the owner a chance to bring the property in compliance and in this case the property owner's contractor did not do enough.


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