Monday, June 11, 2012
Help Me Howard: Tree through the Roof
It took mother nature 300 years for the cypress trees to make it to their height. It took Citizens insurance company one quick decision to force a homeowner to chop them down till the city said, OK you have to pay $18,000 for permission to cut them down. What legal rights do you have when you are in an impossible situation? Only one solution in South Florida, call Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When you first look at this house, two things catch your eyes.
Jennifer Hill: "These trees are cypress trees they are protected species in the state of Florida."
45 foot tall cypress trees growing through the the Hills patio roof, two incredible trees.
Jennifer Hill: "They say approximately 200-300 years old."
They are beautiful, they are towering and they are truly trouble.
Jennifer Hill: "Because we are right at the point where citizens, nobody else will write us a policy."
No company will insurance the house with the trees growing through the roof even though the Hills had no problem getting insurance for the 20 years they have owned the house.
Jennifer Hill: "They are very beautiful trees but losing our house insurance and loosing our house over two trees is very disheartening."
Citizens told the Hills they would reconsider insuring the home if the trees were cut down, so they contacted Oakland Park to get the permits to remove them and found out they have to pay the city a fee to get permission to cut them down.
Jennifer Hill: "Its approximately $18,000."
That's right an $18,000 penalty plus the cost of permits, plus the cost cutting down the trees.
Jennifer Hill: "We would love to remove the trees but we can't afford what they want from us in the city to remove them."
Jennifer notified the bank that they couldn't afford to cut down the trees, and couldn't get insurance to cover the house.
Jennifer Hill: "The bank says that once the cancellation goes through it will go into a ghost policy basically."
Basically, a ghost policy wont cover much and will cost an outrageous amount.
Jennifer Hill: "It will insure us out of our house where we can not afford our mortgage payments."
The insurance company says cut down the trees. The city sets a penalty fee so high they cant cut down the trees. There are a lot of words to describe the situation. The Hills are in, and a lot of them aren't nice.0
Jennifer Hill: "Its very disheartening. I feel extremely defeated. I'm exhausted. I've been battling this battle this battle 21 months out of the last 24."
Well Howard, I like to think every problem has a solution, but legally what do you do if you are penalized no matter what you do?
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, legally a company can refuse to insure a house and legally the city is supposed to protect trees like this. But the city also has an obligation to allow homeowners to protect their house. In this case, that means letting them cut the trees down without financially destroying them."
Once we contacted Oakland Park, the city came up with a idea. That the hills hire an independent arbors called earth advisors to offer an evaluation. Earth advisors came up with a compromise and the Hills and the city agreed. Oakland Park then dropped the $18,000 fee they wanted for cutting down the cypress trees in return the Hills agreed to pay $100 for a permit and plant four young cypress trees.
Jennifer Hill: "We cant thank Channel 7 News for everything you guys have done."
The Hills got the cypress trees cut down they are now gone, but the good news Jennifer and her husband will be able to insure and stay in their home.
Jennifer Hill: "We were able to remove the trees get the holes patched and get a brand new inspection, and hopefully everything is good to go. We should be renewed without any problems questions."
Patrick Fraser: "Why are 300 year old trees that have not been a problem for an insurance company for years suddenly a problem? Insurance companies will claim its a risk. Guess the trees weren't a risk five years ago or 20 years ago. To be blunt, today insurance companies want to collect your money but if there is a chance they have to pay they walk away.
Troubles towering over you? Need someone to whittle them down to size? Contact us. We aren't good with a chainsaw, but we will try to uproot the problem and insure it stays away?
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