Palms Cut Down - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Palms Cut Down

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You have probably seen it before. FPL sends its crews out to cut the limbs that are in the power lines, but how about this? Cutting down nine palm trees, some in the yard, not near a power line. Can they do this? It's why one South Florida homeowner called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- When Luis Sanchez and his wife were looking for a home, this yard caught their eye.

Luis Sanchez: "And one of the things we saw in this particular property was the amount of trees it already had. It was just very appealing to us in the regard."

Many palm trees, luscious shade trees. And so they bought it.

Luis Sanchez: "Because many times I will sit out there with my family and pitch a few towels out there, do a little picnic and just enjoy the beautiful trees and everything the beautiful trees provide."

Then earlier this year Luis came home.

Luis Sanchez: "I took a double take and I realized that all my palm trees were missing. I was in disbelief. Nine full grown palm trees that we have enjoyed for many years."

Six palm trees in the swale, three in the yard gone.

Luis Sanchez: "Not trimmed. Chopped to the bottom, completely destroyed. Those trees will never come up. Probably over 30 years worth of growth and they are never going to come back."

Luis immediately suspected it was an FPL crew which dumbfounded. him. For example, Luis has this picture of the palms in the swale. The trees appear to be 8-10 feet below the power line. In the background you can see taller palm trees in his yard that were cut down. They are 10-15 feet from the power lines.

Luis called an FPL arborist who said they had permission to cut them all down.

Luis Sanchez: "Said that he had gotten the OK by a woman here who I believe happens to be our cleaning lady and does not speak a lick of English."

The cleaning woman told Luis she signed a piece of paper that said they could trim the trees under the power lines, but never gave them permission to cut down the trees in the swale or the yard.

Luis Sanchez: "So I think FPL should respond and pay for the damages."

Luis asked FPL for the piece of paper the cleaning woman signed, but they wouldn't show it to Luis. But, the power company did offer him $4,000 to replace the palms. Luis got some estimates to do the work.

Luis Sanchez: "Over $20,000 later on I got two more proposals both at about $13,500."

When Luis sent the estimates to FPL, they told him to go after the tree service. The tree service said they only did what FPL told them to do.

Luis Sanchez: "I just think they don't want to be accountable for something that maybe the contractor did and blaming it on the contractor. I think they are the ones responsible since they are the ones that hire the contractor."

When Luis refused to accept the $4,000 asking for at least the $13,500 from the lowest bidder to replace the trees, FPL withdrew their offer, leaving Luis with no trees, and no money to replace them.

Luis Sanchez: "I'm furious about this and everyday when I wake up I see this. It makes me more angry."

Well Howard, FPL's crew cuts six palms in your swale and then comes into your fenced yard and cuts down three more. Legally are they allowed to do that?

Howard Finkelstein: "They can trim the six palms in the swale and if the trees are endangering the power lines they can cut them down. But they absolutely cannot cut down the trees in your yard without the permission of the homeowner. And permission from the housekeeper, if they got it, is not enough."

We first contacted FPL. A spokesman told us a person in Luis's home contacted the property owner and they gave permission for the crew to cut dow the trees. Luis said the housekeeper actually called Luis's Spanish speaking friend who said to let them trim the trees, not cut them down.

FPL said the housekeeper signed a piece of paper backing up their side. We asked the FPL spokesman to see it, but FPL would not show it to us.

When I asked why they withdrew the offer to pay Luis $4,000 to replace the trees, I was told they made a "fair and equitable offer which the customer rejected."

We also contacted the tree cutting company which referred us to their insurance company. They wouldn't talk to us.

Howard Finkelstein: "Luis has done everything you should do. The last step if FPL wont pay for coming onto Luis's property and cutting those three trees down is to sue them and the contractor. Legally it seems like a clear cut winner."

Luis will now sue FPL to force them to pay for the trees they destroyed, not that the nine trees can be replaced.

Luis Sanchez: "Gorgeous tall trees filled with coconuts. It hurts. It hurts."

Now Howard said Luis could go to court to force FPL to pay for the three trees they chopped down in his yard, and Howard believes a judge could force them to pay for the six trees in the swale if those trees did not need to be cut down to protect the power lines. Luis says they didn't reach the power lines, so he might win there as well.

Towering troubles uprooting your life? Ready for someone to cut thru the mess? Contact us. We can plant an idea with you and hopefully it will grow on you.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com

Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN

Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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