Marco Island Code Compliance: Seller's failure to connect to sewer becomes buyer's problem

Members of Marco Island’s Code Compliance Board listen Tuesday to Liz Carr, the city’s code compliance supervisor, explain actions taken thus far on cases before the board. Seated from left are chairman Lou Prigge, Dick Adams and Debra Shanahan. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Members of Marco Island’s Code Compliance Board listen Tuesday to Liz Carr, the city’s code compliance supervisor, explain actions taken thus far on cases before the board. Seated from left are chairman Lou Prigge, Dick Adams and Debra Shanahan. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Marco Island Code Compliance Board Tuesday cited a property at 1657 San Marco Road for this concrete sidewalk saying it created a safety hazard. The city will repair the sidewalk and bill the property owner. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Marco Island Code Compliance Board Tuesday cited a property at 1657 San Marco Road for this concrete sidewalk saying it created a safety hazard. The city will repair the sidewalk and bill the property owner. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

A neighbor complained that this debris filled dumpster has been sitting on a property at 1615 Ludlow Road for too long. Marco Island’s Code Compliance Board agreed Tuesday and ordered the dumpster to be emptied or removed. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

A neighbor complained that this debris filled dumpster has been sitting on a property at 1615 Ludlow Road for too long. Marco Island’s Code Compliance Board agreed Tuesday and ordered the dumpster to be emptied or removed. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Attorney Ron Webster explains to Marco Island’s Code Compliance Board Tuesday his views on the city’s complicity regarding a failure to connect to city sewer violation at 130 Leeward Court. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Attorney Ron Webster explains to Marco Island’s Code Compliance Board Tuesday his views on the city’s complicity regarding a failure to connect to city sewer violation at 130 Leeward Court. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

— 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.

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Comments » 13

Brisla writes:

The ***holes who voted for it should pay.

1Paradiselost writes:

To the new owner..... Welcome to Marco Island!

garyOfTheGulf writes:

Typical Gov. You people are suppose to represent the People..

OldMarcoMan writes:

Sewer, thats the first question I ask.
If the sewer lines haven't gotten there yet or if the sewer wasn't paid already, and paid in full, as far as I'm concerned the house is worthless. This just isn't me either I know a lot of residential and rental buyers who believe the same thing.
THATS one of the reasons Marco Real-estate has almost three times the average number of days on the market as comps in the rest of Collier.
Thanks Keister and Forcht for warning everyone, shame on us for not listening.

gladesgator writes:

Why not blame the realtor and the lawyer? Shouldn't the lawyer know the limits of an estoppel letter. Did anyone bother to check to see that the sewer was connected?

JohninMarco writes:

Just my 2 cents, from what I read and saw , Liz Carr did the marco island two step. It was the city who screwed this up. After she talked to the city attorney she deflected her mistake. Watch for another court case.

gladesgator writes:

.What a buch of babies posting here. If the sewer charge was not paid, what are the chances that the home was indeed hooked up to the sewer system? It is not like the city was imposing a fine for not being hooked up. It is not the cities responsibility to make sure the new buyer understood he was required to be hooked up to the sewer system. Most of you posters here do not understand the story, or are idiots, or have a grudge against the city and want to take every opportunity to bash someone.

OldMarcoMan writes:

"gladesgator Most of you posters here do not understand the story, or are idiots, or have a grudge against the city and want to take every opportunity to bash someone."

So ? Whats your point ?

gladesgator writes:

in response to OldMarcoMan:

"gladesgator Most of you posters here do not understand the story, or are idiots, or have a grudge against the city and want to take every opportunity to bash someone."

So ? Whats your point ?

The point is that there are so many whiney babies posting here ready to jump on the City even when the city did nothing wrong. The city properly answered the estoppel letter revealing the amount of fees due the city. Had any fee been omittied it would be waived due to the listing and the letter.

The city was not required in the estopppel letter to give notice of any outstanding violations. If the letter had included violations perhaps it would not even be considered responsive. Did the attorney ask about any outstanding violations? Apparently not, There is nothing in this story to tell us that.

Interestingly, a different attorney went before the board. The attorney doing the closing did not appear. Why? The realtaors and attorneys were appaently very experienced and did not bother to check on the sewer hook-up or outstanding violations and yet want to blame the city! Where are all of you people that believe in personal responsibility.

OldMarcoMan writes:

Ohhhh Ok, I see now,,,you work for the City Building Dept., sorry if I hit a nerve.

gladesgator writes:

in response to OldMarcoMan:

Ohhhh Ok, I see now,,,you work for the City Building Dept., sorry if I hit a nerve.

I do not work for the city. I is quite clear, however, that there is a gaggle of posters ready to pounce on the ciy now matter who is at fault.

OldMarcoMan writes:

Well,,,,,, maybe if I lived in a Condo, referred to going North after Easter as Going Home, voted for becoming a City, and wasn't here 12 months out of the year trying to make a living I'd think the City Administration was pretty nifty too.

2themoon writes:

I think all unpaid back fees from the STRP should be billed to Monte Lazarus , Celebrate Marco..,et al.

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