MARCO ISLAND — The phrase “buyer beware” could apply to all properties not yet connected to the city’s sewer system.
Connection is required of Marco Island homeowners one year from notification that their district has been completed. The Code Compliance Board learned Tuesday that a lot can happen between notification and failure to comply.
In the case of the City of Marco Island v. Robert and Melissa Verity, the couple purchased their home at 130 Leeward Court believing the previous owner had satisfied all city requirements.
Attorney James Karl’s office even filed for and received an estoppel request from the city that enumerated any debts owed by Daniel Eastman, previous owner, before closing the real estate transaction. An estoppel is defined by law dictionaries as protection for “one party from being harmed by another party’s voluntary conduct.”
That document showed that Eastman owed the city $13,467.50 for sewer assessment and $450 in water/sewer charges. Those charges were paid at closing when the real estate settlement was completed.
The document failed to tell the Veritys that Eastman had not connected to the sewer system and was in violation of city requirements. On Tuesday, attorney Ron Webster, representing the buyers, argued the city had failed to give them accurate information.
He asked the city to admit its error and pay for the Veritys’ hookup. He also said the city should go after the previous owner for fines. Since the case had not been heard by the Code Compliance Board before the property sale, there was no lien on the property, an action that could have alerted the buyers.
What particularly disturbed Webster was the city’s lack of information. Eastman was notified of his violation of failure to connect in early 2012. The estoppel request was signed by the city on Aug. 1, 2012. The city knew of the violation but did not make it known to the buyers nearly six months later.
Liz Carr, the city’s code compliance supervisor, said she sympathized with the Veritys but the city was not at fault. The estoppel request prepared by the city does not address property owners’ requirements or violations. Connection to the sewer system is the responsibility of homeowners, and it is their responsibility to disclose it has not been done.
“Due diligence needs to be done by real estate agents,” Carr said. “They should help their clients to find out.” To do so, the buyer or agent should ask the building department about liens and violations, she said. Carr receives many such calls from agents and said she is happy to give them the requested information.
The board found the property in violation but increased the time for correction from 30 to 60 days and waived the city’s $250 administration fee. Depending on what work needs to be done; it will cost the Veritys $1,500-2,000 to connect to the sewer system.
In other cases, Richard Brooks, 1657 San Marco Road, was cited for failure to repair a portion of sidewalk adjacent to his property. Brooks wrote to the city that he refused to make repairs because he was not responsible for the damage.
He claimed damage was done when a city mower entered and cleared an adjacent lot.
Carr said the city did not mow the lot and could not have done the damage. The city had paid Brooks $1,000 for damage to his driveway from a truck moving a power pole, but the incidents were separate, Carr said. The sidewalk, Carr said, was a public safety hazard.
Angelo Ubertaccio, public works road superintendent, testified before the board that he had observed the damage and the two incidents were not related. Brooks was not at the hearing to defend his position.
The board authorized the city to make repairs within 10 days and invoice Brooks for the work. If he does not pay, the city will place a lien on his property for the amount and a $150 administration fee.
Kevin and Dianne Canavan of 1615 Ludlow Road were cited for failure to empty or remove a debris dumpster on their property. The couple, remodeling the home as owner-builders, was responsible for the commercial dumpster. A neighbor, tired of looking at the mess, called the city in December and complained about its unsightliness.
A courtesy notice was given to the Canavans on Jan. 7, but the couple had not complied by Tuesday’s meeting. The board cited the couple with a violation and required cleanup within 10 days. Failure to comply within 16 days will result in fines of $100 per day until compliance and a one-time $150 administration fee.