Q: Can a city government impose exorbitant civil fines on a senior citizen FL homesteader with income below poverty line?
There is a 72 year old female senior citizen who lives as a single woman in her "Safe Haven" homestead residence in Saint Petersburg, FL, with total annual income of $7,800 approx. which is well below the IRS poverty line limits. The city government of Saint Petersburg FL is repeatedly trying to financially impose an egregious civil code violation fine of $3,500 (minimum-estimate) upon the homeowner by way of an issued code violation for a tree to be removed from her property that currently simultaneously resides in the city's right-of-way shared liability. Once the City Rep was made aware of the female senior citizens' financially destitute income status and age, they reviewed the tree location a second time, confirmed the initial finding, and they are sending her to a hearing to impose those fines Dec. 19th. Given the shared liability the City has acknowledged they have, along with FL laws on the books regarding Elder Abuse/Exploitation/Safe Haven laws, how does she reverse this?
A: Her homestead status protects her from foreclosure/eviction, not from fines. Also, her age does not protect her from fines. She needs to hire an attorney (or see if the local Legal Aid/Legal Services office can represent her) to contest the code violations at the hearing. Often, the code enforcement officials are willing to reach a settlement with the "violator", and having an attorney contesting the matter would give her more leverage in settlement negotiations.
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