Is your lawn too tall? $500 fine in Cincinnati

Posted at 6:12 PM, Apr 25, 2016

Bill Franey showed off the notice that showed up on his mom's front door last week, in her home just off Cincinnati's Central Parkway.

"She came out and this was applied to her door. Nobody knocked or anything," Franey said.

His older mom, who is on disability and struggles to get around, had not trimmed her yard yet this spring. The grass was tall, and weeds were sprouting all around the small, Clifton Heights homes.

But what he thought would be a simple warning was anything but a slap on the wrist. "No warning whatsoever," he said. "Just a ticket taped to her door."

And what a ticket it was: a citation for $500 from the City of Cincinnati.

"I am borderline enraged," Franey said. "It feels like a cash grab suddenly. $500 for someone on a street like this? Clearly no one on this street could make a $500 payment.

New Law, Tough Fine

So what's going on here? Can you really be fined $500 for letting some weeds grow too tall in your yard.

We went to Cincinnati City Hall for some answers. But no one wanted to speak on camera.

City Manager Harry Black  referred us to spokesperson Rocky Merz, who explained by email this is part of a new law passed by council last year, to fight property blight, which has become a serious issue all over the city.

He says the city received "a formal complaint about the property" and found grass and weeds "exceeding 10 inches," which violates the law.

Result: A $500 fine, though it will be reduced to $250 if the yard gets trimmed. The fine will be eliminated if the property is owner occupied and the owner is a first-time offender.

Why No Warning?

Bill Franey, though, thinks his mom should have been warned, at which point he would have rushed over to her home to take care of the lawn immediately

He says he did not realize it had grown so long the past couple of weeks.

"At the very least, if you don't want to talk to her, at  least tape something that says 'fix it in 7 days or we will fine you; not it's $500 and if you don't pay it in 7 days it goes up," he said.

What do you think? Feel free to post your thoughts on the Don't Waste Your Money Facebook page.

We plan to share our report with some city council members in the coming days, and will let you know if they think the fine fits the crime.

Meantime, cut your lawn, so you don't waste your money.