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Palm Beach County settles near-$1 million code lien for $12,000


A suburban West Palm Beach area couple will write a check for $12,000 to settle a code enforcement lien with Palm Beach County.

But it could be worse: They were looking at paying about $1 million in the dispute, which has dragged on for 17 years.

According to a staff memo for Tuesday’s county commission meeting, Matthew and Patricia Beasley had replaced windows and remodeled without obtaining the required building permits, inspections and “certificate of completion” at their home near Forest Hill Boulevard and Congress Avenue.

The work, estimated at $3,000, comprised upgrading existing windows with extras from a friend who owned a window company, and converting the carport into an enclosed room.

The staff memo said Beasley, who worked as a carpenter before being sidelined by medical problems, “has acknowledged that he should have had the inspections done and completed to avert the large code lien that is on their home.”

On July 1, 1998, a code enforcement special magistrate gave the Beasleys a Sept. 29, 1998, deadline. When it passed without compliance, the county started the clock on a $75-a-day fine and later slapped a lien on the couple.

It would be May 2009 before the code enforcement department certified the code violations as corrected and the work as completed and stopped the clock.

The memo said nothing then happened for another six years, until September 2015, when Jason Evans, the Beasleys’ attorney, approached the county about settling the fine because the Beasleys were planning to sell their home and needed to get out from under the lien.

By then, fines totaled $986,698.58, the memo said.

Why?

It’s 4,009 days from Oct. 19, 1998, to Oct. 9, 2009; at $75 a day, that’s only $300,675. But by state statute, code enforcement liens draw interest. And, if liens go to an outside collection agency, as this did, it collects fees as well.

The county later agreed to the $12,000 deal, pending county commission approval, the staff memo said. The commission is required to bless any fine reduction larger than $2,500.

Neither Evans nor the Beasleys wanted to comment for this story.

It’s rare for cases to get this large, and dramatic reductions are the norm, Glenn Meeder, the county’s collections coordinator, said Wednesday. He said the ultimate goal isn’t to hit up someone for a big check.

“Code compliance is first and foremost,” Meeder said. In this case, he said, the violations weren’t a threat to safety, and “these people aren’t wealthy by whatever stretch. At the end of the day it got resolved.”


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