Hollywood halts covert home inspections — for now

The city rapidly found 5 code violators after undercover inspections began.
The city rapidly found 5 code violators after undercover inspections began.

Code officers in the city of Hollywood have stopped posing as potential buyers of homes to uncover building-code violations. But the city may revive the controversial tactic.

City spokeswoman Raelin Storey told the Sun-Sentinel, “We’re not using this technique at this time, but that’s not to say we’ll never use it again.”

Real estate agents criticized the undercover effort to enforce Hollywood’s building code.

Howard Elfman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors, told the Sun-Sentinel the practice is dishonest.

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“If the inspector is coming in, represent yourself as an inspector,” Elfman told the Sun-Sentinel. “Don’t do these covert operations where you’re pretending to be a buyer just to get information.”

City code officers posed as people shopping for homes to inspect them for evidence of remodeling work done without city permits. After launching their undercover crackdown, city code officers rapidly found five homes with code violations. The violators got 60 days to become compliant or pay fines as high as $500 a day.

Hollywood resident Oren Hilel is one of the home owners whom the city charged with making  property upgrades without required permits.

Hilel told the Sun-Sentinel that a man claiming to be an affluent currency trader told him he was interested in buying an Emerald Hills townhome that Hilel renovated. The man was actually a Hollywood code officer.

“He told me he was a cash buyer,” Hilel said. One week later, the city cited Hilel for failing to pull permits for rewiring and remodeling work at the townhome. [Sun-Sentinel] — Mike Seemuth