(WSVN) - Someone else planted the tree, and it’s not on your property. Now, the tree is causing problems and you have to pay for the repairs or do you? It’s why one homeowner called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

With South Florida real estate prices just crazy, you hear a lot of people say, “Thank goodness we bought our house decades ago, when prices were sane instead of insane.” Put Alina in that category.

Alina Alvarez: “Yes. I purchased pre-construction in 1997, because it was the most economical place that we could afford at the time.”

It’s called Summerset Country Club Estates in Miramar.

Alina Alvarez: “It is. It’s a very nice neighborhood, nice landscaping.”

Well, the trees were nice in 1997; 25 years later, it’s a different story.

Alina Alvarez: “Absolutely, the tree is a burden.”

The streets are lined with tall mahogany trees.

The one in the swale in front of Alina’s home is now buckling her driveway and cracking her sidewalk– a tree planted by the developer on a swale owned by the association.

Alina Alvarez: “I don’t think it has anything to do with me. I didn’t put that tree there.”

But the property manager sent her a notice that says, “Please repair raised street swale within 30 days.”

Alina Alvarez: “I think it’s horrible. I don’t think it’s my responsibility. I don’t understand why they feel that they can put that blame on me and that burden on me.”

The trees are splitting several of her neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways. They have just patched up the concrete to satisfy the association.

Alina says that won’t work for her.

Alina Alvarez: “Because the problem is that the tree continues to break through, so it’s just going to be a patch, not a real solution.”

Alina was told she could remove the tree, the stump and the roots if the city and association approved it, but that will cost several thousand dollars.

Alina Alvarez: “I don’t have the money to get that out of there and repair all that.”

It’s not her tree, it’s not her swale, but it’s her expensive problem.

Alina Alvarez: “They are putting that burden on me, and I don’t think that’s not really my responsibility, but you know, how do I prove that to them, that it’s not?”

Well, Howard, is Alina responsible for a problem created by someone else?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “It’s certainly not fair, but that’s how most association rules are written. Was it a bad idea by the developer to plant those trees? Absolutely, and the association could cover the damages, but then they would have to do it for everybody, and other homeowners would argue they should not have to share the cost. It’s the price of living in an association.”

We went through the association documents looking for a loophole.

We found one, but it’s a long shot and would require an expensive lawsuit, meaning it’s not worth it.

Plopping this problem back in Alina’s lap.

Alina Alvarez: “It is wrong. It’s absolutely wrong.”

Alina says the city and the association will now let her cut the tree down, but that doesn’t help because she can’t afford everything that needs to be done.

Alina Alvarez: “I need somebody to take care of this problem because it’s a burden that’s been put on me, and it’s really not my problem.”

When you buy a home, you feel like you are on top of the world, and then sometimes you feel like you are at the bottom of the totem pole being squashed. One reminder, while the city almost always owns the swale, in many cases they maintain the sidewalk, so if you have a cracked sidewalk, contact the city to see if they will repair it.

A problem left you cracked up? Ready to drive away? Maintain your cool and contact us to see if we can uproot a solution.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

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

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