DUNEDIN, Fla. -- A Dunedin man faces sky-high fines and possible foreclosure on his home after code enforcement cited him for overgrown grass in his yard.
Jim Ficken returned home last summer to find the grass in his yard grew more than 10 inches tall. Ficken spent most of his time in South Carolina helping take care for his late mother's estate.
Ficken says the man who mowed his yard unexpectedly died and the grass hadn't been cut.
City code enforcement officers noticed and started fining Ficken $500 a day, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Pinellas County. The fines mounted to nearly $30,000 before the city notified Ficken of the problem, according to Ficken.
"That's about five or six years of living expenses for me. So, they’re really trying to take five years of my life.”
Attorneys with the Institute for Justice are now representing Ficken free of charge, claiming the fines are excessive.
“Crippling fines against their citizens in order to align their pockets and generate revenue on the backs of people who have done, really nothing wrong beyond small things like letting their grass grow too tall," said attorney Ari Bargil.
Dunedin's code enforcement board agreed Tuesday to move forward with foreclosing on Ficken's home.
“If they go ahead and foreclose on me, I can’t come up with the money to pay for it and I’ll just be booted out of the house and I’ll have to find another place to live," said Ficken.
A city of Dunedin attorney told ABC Action News that he can't comment on the lawsuit but stands by his decision to recommend foreclosing on the property.