Can You Cut Trees Before Hurricane?

(WSVN) - If you have big trees in your yard, you probably appreciate them. Of course, when hurricane season arrives, you may wish you could cut them down before they fall and damage your house. But can you do that? It’s why one couple called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When you are looking for a house, you first have to pick the city. The DuBoses chose Hollywood.

Martin DuBose, wanted tree removed: “I like Hollywood. It’s a small town. I’ve lived in this house for 18 years.”

Part of the allure of this property were the pretty trees, but 18 years later, as they tower over the house, they have become pretty painful.

Martin DuBose: “They gave me a violation for my sidewalks.”

The roots of the two black olive trees have lifted up their sidewalk.

The roots of the oak tree are spreading under the house breaking through the pipes.

Carole DuBose, fears trees will damage house: “We got a plumber to put a snake in and came out with roots.”

And of course, every summer the concern many homeowners with big trees by their house have…

Carole DuBose: “I was scared of them falling during a hurricane.”

Three years ago, the DuBoses asked the city for permission to cut down all three trees. Their request was denied.

Then…

Martin DuBose: “April, May, a tornado blew through there and blew my gate off the back. What it did is, that one big limb fell off to another limb and treaded off that limb.”

The storm reminded them of the damage the trees could do to their house in a hurricane. They again asked the city for permission to cut the trees down. This time the city said, “You can cut one black olive, but not the other one or the oak tree by the house.”

Carole DuBose: “I felt that the trees were more important than human life.”

We first talked to Martin and Carole weeks before Hurricane Irma was even formed, but they knew then that if a hurricane hit, cutting one tree and leaving two would not solve their problem.

Carole DuBose: “I would have had hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, because it would be the roof. The whole house would be affected; I wouldn’t be able to live in it.”

Martin is willing to plant new smaller trees, willing to do whatever the city requires. He just wanted these gone before a storm roared in.

Martin DuBose: “It just baffles me. I’m trying to do the right thing.”

Well, Howard, you fear a hurricane will bring trees like these crashing into your house. Do you have the right to cut them down?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “No, not unless the government gives you permission. Cities and counties want to protect what’s called the canopy, which benefits everybody. That’s why they make you prove the tree is either unhealthy, damaging your home or threatening the structural integrity of the house. If you can’t show that, odds are the city won’t let you cut it down.”

We talked to Hollywood and give them credit. They checked into the trees again.

When the DuBoses showed documentation of the damage the roots have caused, the city gave them permission to remove all three trees.

The DuBoses hired a crew to do it.

Carole DuBose: “They came three days before Irma hit.”

The men only had time to cut the two black olives down before Irma arrived, but they trimmed back the oak limbs hanging over their house.

Howard, Hollywood let the DuBoses remove the trees. If you are blocked from removing your trees and during a storm they damage your house, is the government responsible for that?

Howard Finkelstein: “No, they are not. It’s considered an act of God and financially no one has to pay for it.”

Carole knows what where the trees would have been today if they were not cut down.

Carole DuBose: “It would have been on the house, for sure!”

Irma hit. With the trees taken care of, the DuBoses house had no damage at all.

Carole DuBose: “Thank you very much. Saved my life, saved my house, saved my family.”

Glad it all worked out for you, Carole. Now, if the city or county refuses to let you cut a tree down and you say, “Heck with it, I am going to do if before the hurricane hits,” watch out. You will probably be fined, usually around $500 or, if the government agency really comes after you, you can get 60 days in jail. Although we have never heard of a judge sending someone to jail for cutting a tree down.

Got a problem you fear is gonna come crashing down on you? Ready to see it blow away? Contact us. We aren’t very good with a chain saw, but we can branch out and clean things up for you.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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