Tree on foreclosed property - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Tree on foreclosed property

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WSVN -- When Thomas bought his home 10 years ago, it was no prize.

Thomas Cotton, Troubled by Tree: "Completely redid everything. When I first came here it was a complete wreck."

Today his house is nice, but at any moment it could become a wreck again.

Thomas Cotton: "And this tree now, if it falls right it will fall on my house and take down the roof."

The tree looming over Thomas' house is on the property next door. A towering Sapodilla, 50-feet across, four or five stories high, and rotten to the core.

Thomas Cotton: "The carpenter ants came and ate the tree so already we have limbs falling off on the far side."

As the ants chewed away, the branches on one side fell. Now all that remains is the side of the tree over Thomas' house and the ants are working hard.

Thomas Cotton: "This is not an if. It's when."

The man who owned the home passed away. The mortgage holder took over, but Thomas can't get them to take action.

Thomas Cotton: "I have no idea, no clue what will happen."

Broward County tried to help, sending out an arborist who wrote that the tree is "at high risk for future potential failure." The mortgage company responded to the arborist, "We will have the tree removed ASAP." That email was sent on August 17th, 2011.

Thomas Cotton: "They all agreed it's an emergency and here I sit six months later and the emergency is apparently not that big of an emergency."

Not only is the tree hanging over Thomas's house, some windows are busted, and the place, to put it politely, looks like a dump. But the good news- the wildlife in Wilton Manors are happy.

Thomas Cotton: "The rats, the squirrels, the raccoons, they all live there because the grass in now knee high."

Well Howard, the property went into foreclosure became an eyesore and a danger. But if the mortgage holder is dragging its feet, what can a neighbor living next door do?

Howard Finkelstein: "Complain, complain, complain. You can go to the mortgage holder but ususally it's a big company and slow to move. Legally your city or county code enforcement department has the power to cite the mortgage company, and if they don't act quickly, cut down the tree and then place a lien on the property so taxpayers eventually get their money back."

When I spoke to J. B. Nutter & Company, which is foreclosing on the property, they told me they were waiting for approval to remove the tree from HUD, which they say oversees the loan on the property.

The mortage company wants the federal agency to pay to remove the tree.

However, a spokesperson with HUD told me they had no record of that loan or a request to pay to remove the tree.

Now the progress. Wilton Manors code enforcement has citied the property for the broken windows and the dying tree, ordered them to clean up the problems and I was told if they don't, the city will do it and slap a lein on the property that the eventual owner will have to pay.

Howard Finkelstein: "The reason to get the city and county involved is to get it resolved quickly because not only is an abandoned property like this a danger, it's an eyesore and if Thomas wanted to sell his house, would you buy a property next to that house?"

It now seems likely the drying tree with be cut down and the property cleaned up within the next few days, and no one will be happier than Thomas.

Thomas Cotton: "I don't feel safe here. I feel like this is an accident waiting to happen, but one that can be avoided."

Patrick Fraser: "Now between the mortgage company and the city, it's pretty likely that tree will be cut down quickly. But what if the tree fell tomorrow? Would the mortgage company be responsible? The law isn't clear on that since it's in foreclosure. But if your neighbor's tree is dying, you notify them and it falls on your house, your neighbor is in trouble. So if you have a bad tree, get a chainsaw out there."

Towering troubles about to topple you? Don't risk life or limb?

Branch out and call us. We will get to the root of the problem and leaf you satisfied.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

EMAIL: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)

REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

MIAMI-DADE: 305-953-WSVN

BROWARD: 954-761-WSVN

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