FPL crew hacks family’s backyard tree unannounced

(WSVN) - They had been working on their backyard to make it perfect for their family, and then they came home to find Florida Power & Light had cut half their tree and ruined their son’s playground. Even worse: FPL didn’t tell them they were coming on their property. That’s when they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you have ever bought a house, then you know the day you move in is the day the work begins.

Jessica Howard: “We’re working on our backyard, we’re working on the interior of the house.”

When Jessica and Cory bought the property, the backyard was a mess, but so far they have installed boxes for a vegetable garden, put in a trampoline for their 2-year-old son, are working on a rock garden and under a black olive tree they also built a small playground for Damon and covered it with rubber mulch.

Jessica Howard “We’re trying to make the backyard fun and inviting for our friends and family.”

Everything was moving along, and then Jessica came home from work one day…

Jessica Howard: “Someone came in our backyard and vandalized us. They cut the cable tie on the gate to get in here.”

It was not vandals. It was a crew from Florida Power and Light.

Jessica Howard: “I couldn’t believe it, that somebody just came in our backyard — without notice without telling us — and took half the tree down.”

Jessica says, not only was the black olive tree hacked, eliminating the shade over the playground. The branches filled with thorns were dropped in their son’s rubber mulch.

Jessica Howard: “I’m upset because I just stood back staring at the backyard, and I started to cry.”

Jessica called FPL and says she spoke to an arborist.

Jessica Howard: “And I asked them why, when then didn’t you give us any notice. Why didn’t you give us a chance to trim it ourselves? And he said, ‘We don’t have to. By law we don’t have to.'”

Now they have to start cleaning up the mess and replacing the mulch, which was filled with thorns.

Jessica Howard “It’s about $500 to replace all that rubber mulch. I want to be able to plant a new tree.”

They have to replace the tree because they are afraid a storm will knock it over. Plus, Jessica says, the arborist told her it will never shade their son’s playground again.

Jessica Howard: “They also said that they cut the tree so it won’t grow back. They don’t want it to grow back into the lines.”

The Howards want FPL to pay for the damage they caused. And they want an answer about the power giant.

Jessica Howard: “Can they come onto our property without any notice?”

Well, Howard, that’s Jessica’s question. And add mine: If they do enter and damage your property, do they have to pay for the repairs?

Howard Finkelstein: “First the simple question. If they damage your property, they have to pay for what they damage. Now, do they have to give you notice before they come on your property? The law doesn’t say they have to give you notice. It’s silent on that question. But on FPL’s website, they say they will let you know before they come on your property. However, in this case, they did not.”

In a statement, FPL said they send customers a letter about two weeks before the line clearing begins, but at the Howards’, a crew noticed the invasive olive tree growing into the power lines, which needed immediate attention. FPL wrote, “Their crew completed the work in a professional manner.”

FPL then met with Jessica and told her they would cut down this tree, help her pick a new one that will shade the playground and not impact their lines. And FPL agreed to pay to replace the rubber mulch.

Howard Finkelstein: “If you’re wondering why FPL can come on your property and cut your trees, it’s because they have what the law calls an easement. In other words, the right to use part of your property to remove anything near their power lines. The Florida Public Service Commission gave them that power.”

Jessica Howard: “I’m actually extremely happy that they decided to help us out.”

Now Jessica and Cory are back on track to make their backyard a relaxing place.

Jessica Howard: “As soon as you guys showed up, Help Me Howard, FPL listened and they called us right away. I’m extremely thankful.”

Now, if you are wondering how you can block FPL from coming on your property and cutting your trees, there isn’t. But you can talk to them and try to minimize the cutting. Can’t hurt to ask.

Feeling powerless to solve your problem? Ready to cut thru things to find a solution? Contact us. No one ever said we were electrifying, but we will branch out to find a way to help you.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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