Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Help Me Howard: No Hedge
OK, here is one of those reminders that South Florida is just not like the rest of the United States. A woman comes home to find a neighbor has hired someone to come into her yard and chop down her 50-foot-long ficus hedge. Unbelievable but true, and now the question, what can she do? Let's turn to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser for the answers.
WSVN -- Whoever said you never completely finish a house had to have owned a house.
Bertha Roman: "We have been doing that for the last 12 years. This is going to be the end of what we are going to be doing in the house."
The front of Bertha's home is done, the inside is finished. Now, it's the backyard.
Bertha Roman: "Finish the pool and finish the grass, and, of course, we wanted the hedge up to have our privacy."
The hedge. Oh yeah, their 50-foot-long hedge.
Bertha Roman: "And I looked to my backyard, and I didn't see my hedge, and we walked up to the hedge, and it had been cut down."
Bertha came home to find her seven-foot-tall ficus hedge whacked down to nothing. She called Robert right away.
Bertha Roman: "And I said, 'Are you like playing a prank on me? Did you cut the hedge?'"
He rushed home. He went over to the neighbor's house, on the other side of the late hedge.
Robert Cruzval: "She actually came out and said, 'Yeah, we cut the hedge,' and she was like laughing about it. 'Yeah, we wanted it down.'"
Their neighbor said there was a vine on the ficus hedge that her dogs were allergic to, so she hired a yard man to whip out a chainsaw and jump the fence.
Bertha Roman: "We didn't know anything. They never contacted us to remedy the problem, they just cut it down."
The yardman actually left the hedge laying in Bertha's backyard. Needless to say, she was not happy and called the police. "In this report, the neighbor admitted she had hired a yardman to do it and seemed to blame him for cutting it down. However, she agreed to haul away the branches and then replace the ficus.
Bertha Roman: "They said they were going to replace the hedge at least four-feet high and water it."
After the neighbor made the promise, Bertha decided to not file charges, but that was a month and a half ago.
Bertha Roman: "I attempted to speak with them numerous times, and they haven't been doing anything about it."
Instead, the neighbor spent the money to put up this wooden fence.
Bertha Roman: "Why they didn't put up the wood fence before they cut down my hedge if they wanted privacy, I don't understand why."
The good news, Bertha doesn't have to look at those neighbors. The bad news, she has to look at the back of their fence.
Bertha Roman: "I don't like their fence. I like my hedge."
So, Howard, what can Bertha do?
Howard Finkelstein: "Clearly the neighbor has to pay to replace the hedge, if she does not, Bertha can go to small claims court where she will win and get her money. She can also go to the state attorney's office, where they can file criminal charges. This could be a felony, and the neighbor could go to jail."
When I contacted the neighbor, she referred me to her attorney. He told me that Bertha had agreed to let his client cut down her seven-foot-tall hedge.
When I asked why someone would offer to do yard work for someone else, he said his client felt bad about damaging her side of the ficus and wanted to help replace it.
Of course, that is not exactly what she told the police, but her attorney said she is now willing to pay to put in a four-foot hedge. If she does, Bertha will not ask the state attorney to file criminal charges. Its all been a big headache for Bertha, which her neighbor could have corrected quickly and easily.
Howard Finkelstein: "Being a good neighbor means you need to speak to them, and if you do make a mistake, correct it because if you refuse, you can open yourself up to so many problems."
Speaking of headaches, the county building department told me they have no record of a permit being pulled for that wooden fence. Bertha's neighbor needs to take care of that quickly, if she had put up a four foot hedge right after she chopped it down, she could have saved herself a lot of trouble.
Deep-rooted troubles got you stumped? Don't sit on the fence. Hedge your bets and contact us. Hopefully our solution will grow on you.
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