Hollywood puts stop to city employees posing as home buyers

Mayor doesn't support 'using deception' to check for code violations

By Jeff Weinsier - Investigative Reporter

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - The city of Hollywood has put a sudden halt to a controversial practice after a Local 10 News investigation.

As Local 10 first reported last month, code compliance officers were posing as potential home buyers to get access into residents' houses to look for violations. Homeowners were outraged that they were being lied to, and the Miami Association of Realtors said the practice was illegal.

Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober said it never should have happened in the first place, and it won't happen again.

"I have seen the stories," Bober said. "I am aware of the conduct. The conduct has stopped."

Bober called it government intrusion.

"I don't support the city using deceptive means to get access to people's properties, even if it turns up some permits that have not been applied for," Bober said.

It happened to Mildred Leon. Her Emerald Hills house is for sale.

She said a Hollywood code compliance officer posed as a potential buyer to get into her house and, once inside, looked for violations. Leon was slapped with citation for a list of unpermitted work.

"I'm upset (by) the way they are conducting business in the city," Leon said.

The officers have no city identification and don't arrive in a city vehicle.

Realtor Leo Mignut had no idea the man he spent 45 minutes with at a showing was a code compliance officer looking for violations.

"The most surprising thing is to have a representative of the city lying," Mignut said.

John Chidsey, the head of Hollywood Code Compliance, told Local 10 in August that unpermitted, shoddy work is a serious safety issue. The mayor agrees.

"If there is a real serious issue, the city should be applying to a court to get a warrant or something like that," Bober said. "But using deception to get access and fooling realtors to get into the home is not the idea of the type of administration that I like to be running."

The mayor said it's up to a home buyer to have inspections done and to search the city's website to see what permits have been pulled for new work when someone closes on a home.

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