SW Legal studies in Business

Code Violation Not Discovered for Decades Still Enforceable
Description

Appeals court held that a violation of county housing code, involving rental of an apartment without permission for 25 years, was still a violation. Although the county taxed the property owner for the apartment, the code inspectors did not know about it, so it was still subject to code enforcement.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Housing Code; Violations; Enforcement; Equitable Estoppel

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

A Monroe County (Florida) code enforcement inspector determined that Sandra Carter was renting a ground-floor enclosure to a tenant. Her single-family house had no certificate of occupancy as a duplex, and there was no building permit on file showing the area had been converted into an apartment. At a hearing before a magistrate, it was determined that Carter violated the Housing Code. She appealed to the circuit court, which reversed in her favor. It found that the County knew of the rented apartment for 25 years, levied taxes on it, and never objected to the rental unit. County appealed.

Decision

Reversed. Information about the tax status of the property cannot be imputed to the county’s housing inspection authority as they are in separate offices. The fact that the code had not been enforced for so long does not raise a defense of equitable estoppel. The code violations were on-going; that did not excuse Carter from compliance with the housing code.

Citation Monroe County v. Carter, ---So.3d--- (2010 WL 2836407, Ct. App., Fla., 2010)

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