A.C. from Central Florida writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I live in a lovely condo community. Roots from an oak tree that sits 7 feet outside my patio, in a common area of the HOA, have come under my patio and cracked and lifted it. My patio is solid slab with a small 4inch X 6 inch ‘cutout’ next to my condo wall. I can reach in this space and grab many tree roots. Also from this cutout, gas lines were rerouted for (I am guessing) previous owner to have a barbecue.
The whole patio slab was covered in tera cotta tiles. For the last year or so cracks, lifted and raised areas have been getting worse. I have asked for assistance on this matter for about the last year. It was a challenge but they finally allowed a claim to be submitted for tree root damage. Claim was denied because there was no proof of negligence on behalf of HOA. There is a V ditch in between the tree and my condo patio that has lifted about an inch and HOA is fixing this. Our HOA’s arborist stated that lift was from oak tree root.
HOA sent out same construction company that will do v ditch repair to do some exploratory tile removal and/or look for tree roots under my patio. Not only were oak tree roots found, but the construction co. stated that the slab that was under the tiles was improperly poured; no rebar, etc. I asked HOA for info on this job (contractors name). I was told there are no records of this slab being poured (apparently right on top of the original slab) and that it is now my (HOA term) my ‘inherited problem’.
Question: if any work like this is done on any unit (including the rerouting of gas lines) isn’t there supposed to be permits, or at the very least something submitted to the Architectural review board? Could it be possible that HOA was negligent in allowing this improper concrete pour and or gas line reroute? Lengthy question, sorry. And thank you for your help.
Mister Condo replies:
A.C., as a central Florida resident of a community endowed with many large, older, root-invasive oak trees myself, I can relate to your situation. The oak trees are beautiful and create a park-like setting but, oh, do those roots cause damage! I have never heard of any major work such as excavation and/or pouring of concrete slabs being done without the proper work permits being filed. I am also unaware of an association-owned asset (the oak tree) not being the responsibility of the association. It is time for you to speak to an attorney about the responsibility for the damage caused by the oak tree. Typically, you should have homeowner’s insurance that would cover damage inside of your home. The fact that the HOA’s claim was denied by their insurance doesn’t absolve them from the responsibility. However, it doesn’t appear that they are going to volunteer to pay for the tree root removal so you need to act. It’s not like you have the right or the ability to manage the tree yourself. It’s not your tree! I am fairly certain that you will find that the responsibility of the tree maintenance is the association’s. Once you confirm that to be true, you can look at filing suit against the association for failure to maintain the tree. This can be a long, drawn out process but I think you will prevail. All the best!