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Miami Gardens

Miami Gardens landlord disputes $300,000 in fines for lacking permit to rent out apartments

Miami Gardens officials say a landlord owes more than $300,000 to the city for failing to pay a $250 fine earlier this year for not getting the proper permits for renting out his apartments.

But the landlord, Ramces Dufrense, said the city is unfairly targeting him because he refused to lease one of the apartment to a city employee. Dufrense also says he didn’t learn of the fines until months after they were issued because the city placed the notice at the rental unit, rather than notifying him directly.

Dufrense claims that a city code enforcement officer, William Ervin Miller, issued the citation after Dufrense refused to lease the apartment to Miller.

Miller was on vacation and unavailable for comment. The city’s code compliance director declined to comment.

“They are getting away with violating citizens’ rights as a means to generate revenue for the city,” said Dufrense.

Dufrense was ordered Nov. 20 to pay the liens within three months, after a hearing with Special Master Dawn Grace-Jones. Dufrense and his lawyer, John Sutton, plan to file an appeal in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The city said it first notified Dufrense April 22 about his need to apply for the permit. Dufrense claims that he didn’t know of the notice until months later because it was placed at the property not sent to his home address. He added that although he has tenants at his five apartments at Golf Ridge Villas, at 20400 NW Seventh Ave., they did not tell him about the notice.

The city ordinance on code enforcement procedure states that a code enforcement officer can leave notice on the premises and that the service is typically done in person.

Additionally a property owner cannot be given more than a month to respond to the warning notice, and they have a week to contest the citation. A lien is placed on a property if the owner remains non-compliant after the warning period.

Shellie Ransom-Jackson, the city’s code compliance director,said that owners allowing their liens to build up over time is not uncommon.

“Some people will let their property accrue into the thousands and the millions,” said Ransom-Jackson, adding that many owners allow it to happen right before selling their property.

Miami Gardens requires property owners to annually apply for a landlord permit before leasing or renting out their property.

The City Council initially passed the landlord permit ordinance in 2005 and amended it in September, adding a requirement for landlords to conduct background checks on potential residents before leasing out their property.

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