Osceola County to refund residents for overcharged building permits

The Osceola County building department will be issuing refunds to county residents who were overcharged for permits during 2022.

The Osceola County building department will be issuing refunds to county residents who were overcharged for permits during 2022.

Herald Review file photo

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Some Osceola County residents will be receiving a refund of charges billed to them from the county building department.

The county board of commissioners approved a recommendation from board member Sally Momany and building department head Aaron Holsworth during its recent meeting to issue refunds up to $25,000.

Momany told the board that after receiving several complaints, she and Holsworth decide to audit the records at the building department and discovered several discrepancies in the charges billed over the last six months.

“We met and spent a lot of time going over various building permits, and what we found is that in the first six months of 2022 we found $2,770 in charges that should not have been charged,” Momany said. “In the last six months of 2022, we found $20,396 in charges that should not have been charged. The total for 2022 so far is $23,166 that we are going to reimburse.”

Momany explained that there were multiple discrepancies in the records, including charges that should not have been billed, various charges for demolition and various charges for pole buildings.

“There have been people charged $1,700 to put paint on the walls. They were assessed penalty fees because they had not gotten building permits," Momany said. “One individual pulled a brick building permit, the permit was over $4,000. They didn’t get the project done in time, so they were charged over $4,000 in additional fines, when it should have been a $75 extension fee.

"Our county charges $100 for demolition of a building. One person was charged $100, the next was charged $150 and another $250, and some were charged nothing. We found three separate pole building charges — one was 41 cents per square foot, another was 23 cents per square foot, and one was 18 cents per square foot. They are pole buildings, they are all the same, they should be the same charge.”

She added that in some instances when permits that were billed, the customer did not even need a permit.

“They were given incorrect information at the building department,” she said. “They were made to get permits to sand floors and put paint on walls. You don’t need a permit for that. You don’t need a building permit to remodel if you are not doing anything structurally different.”

Commissioner Timothy Michell questioned whether the former building inspector contractor should be responsible for some of the reimbursements since he received 55% of the fees and fines.

“That was his wage,” Momany said. “We (the county) received all of this money within the building department. Yes, we paid the employees out of that money, but we did accept the money.”

Commission chair Mark Gregory added they need to get the situation taken care of and use what they learned from the audit to improve things going forward.

“The county over billed these folks, and we have to make it right with these folks,” Gregory said.  “We shouldn’t make these people that have overpaid wait months and months for us to do it when we know it was wrong. We can actually take the situation and create a better policy by it. If we are billing them properly, we are not going to have to look at refunds short of the lack of somebody deciding not to build.”

Holsworth, who was hired as the building official/inspector following the termination of the former building inspector contract in December 2022 and serves as the building department head said he agreed with the refunds and will work to implement a more equitable fee policy going forward.

For more information regarding building permits visit osceola-county.org.