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Miami Sued For $76M Over Allegedly Overcharging For Building Permit Fees

Miami City Hall

A property owner has sued the city of Miami, alleging it has been overcharging commercial real estate owners for building permit fees and illegally hoarding $76M that should be refunded.

In a lawsuit filed this month in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, the owner of a small retail property in Little Havana sued the city, claiming it has been charging owners unwarranted building permit fees over the span of 10 years, the Miami Herald reports.

The overcharging originated during the Global Financial Crisis, the suit claims, and targets entities that need permits in order to build or renovate apartment complexes, office buildings or high-rise condos. 

Attorneys Alexander Fox (whose uncle owns the LLC behind the suit), Simon Ferro Jr. and Benjamin Weinberg of law firm Leon Cosgrove Jimenez filed the suit and hope to draw other plaintiffs as part of a class-action lawsuit.

The suit claims a new calculation metric system introduced in September 2010 resulted in overcharges as much as fourfold the previous fee.

One properties the suit gives as an example is at 465 Brickell Ave., and Icon Brickell condo tower, where the developer of the $180M building would have paid a permit fee of $400K prior to the ordinance change in 2010. After the changes were made, the permit fee for the same property ballooned to over $1M. 

“It’s money the city has that they know they shouldn’t have,” Fox wrote in the lawsuit. “We’re talking about thousands of people who are entitled to get their money back.”

The Florida legislature passed a law in 2019 that stipulates that local municipalities have to limit how much cash they can hold from one fiscal year to the next to avoid “any amount exceeding the average” of each local government’s building code enforcement budget.

Additionally, the statute, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, specifically states that excess building department cash should be allocated “rebate and reduce fees.” 

“The lawsuit is right,” one of the bill’s sponsors, state Rep. Michael Grieco told the Herald. “If the allegations are true, I think the city has big problems on its hands.”