Hillsborough Code Enforcement utilizes new tool to crackdown on repeat code violators

TAMPA, Fla. - Pastor Nunez was brought to tears when we confronted him with his record of code violations spanning 13 years.

"It's an injustice!" he cried "I've been trying my best. I've been complying."

Hillsborough County Code Enforcement does not agree. The agency labels Nunez, owner of more than 40 homes, one of the 20 worst violators in Hillsborough County.

Officials shared documents with ABC Action News that list all his infractions.

According to those documents, Nunez  has racked up about $4.3 million in fines.

When Awe asked him about the violations he refused to take responsibility.

"90 percent of this is the tenants and not the landlord," said Nunez.

The county doesn't agree. And after years of trying to get owners to comply they are taking drastic measures.

Beginning this month, for the first time, the county is using a state rule to put violators, like Nunez, before a judge.

In the past, they faced a Code Board that could only fine people.

Now, courts could put these repeat offenders behind bars.

"Let them put me in jail. Maybe they can support me over there. I've never done anything criminal!" exclaimed Nunez.

The county doesn't see it that way and gave us a list of his properties.

A home on Hiawatha street appears unsafe. The roof is falling apart and there's exposed wiring.

The tenants were not home but neighbors, like Maria Gomez said it's not only an eyesore.

"It's horrible," she said.

Gomez said it also affects her property value. She's waited years for the county to take action.

"I am happy they are trying to do something," said Gomez.

Nunez insists over the past few months he's focusing on improving his properties and we did see that at some of his other homes.

"They have made me a criminal without being a criminal," said Nunez.

Nunez faces a judge Wednesday.

The City of Tampa and many surrounding counties already apply what is allowed in the state statue.

Hillsborough County started working more than a year ago to change it's policies after seeing success in other communities.                    

Director Ron Spiller said, "the bottom line is to make Hillsborough County a safer place for everyone." 

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