Code violations for uncut grass could mean foreclosure for Dunedin man

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Dunedin’s Jim Ficken tells FOX 13 he may be about to lose his home because his grass grew too high. 

According to Jim and his attorneys, while he was out of town last summer, taking care of his late mother’s estate, his grass grew and grew and grew. He says he paid a friend to cut it, but that friend died unexpectedly.

”The grass did what grass does... and a code inspector saw it was more than the 10 inches the city allows and Jim was on the hook,” said Andrew Ward, one of Jim's attorneys from the Institute for Justice.

Jim was on the hook for $500-per-day fines. They say it that went on for 57 days, totaling nearly $30,000.

Jim is retired and on a fixed income. He says he wasn’t made aware of the fines until they were already out of control. 

Tuesday, the city began moving towards foreclosure on his house.

“I’m trying not to think about it but I’ll be booted out of this house and I’ll have to find another place to live,” Ficken said.

He’s fighting back, suing the city of Dunedin for what he calls abusive and excessive fines.

”We're arguing in our lawsuit that limitless fines are, in fact, unconstitutional,” said fellow Institute for Justice attorney Ari Bargil.

“In February, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled the 8th Amendment prohibits cities from imposing excessive fines,” Ward said.

Today, Jim’s grass is freshly cut. The question is - how much longer will it be his?

“It is outrageous for being fined this amount for being tardy cutting your grass,” he said.

Jim and his attorneys say they’ll take the case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, if that’s what it takes.

The city of Dunedin issued the following statement:

Mr. Ficken was cited for repeat violations on his rental property. On Tuesday, May 7, 2019 the City of Dunedin Code Enforcement Board authorized the City Attorney’s office to file foreclosure actions after resolution of the case could not be agreed upon with Mr. Ficken. The City Attorney’s office has not had an opportunity to review litigation filed by Mr. Ficken and as such has no comment at this juncture.