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Subject: Tree Roots in Sewer Lines
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AugustinD


Posts:4160


08/03/2016 9:20 AM  
The Declaration states that (a) condo owners are responsible for the maintenance of all pipes, including sewer pipe, when the pipe serves /only/ her or his unit; (b) the HOA is responsible for maintenance of the landscaping; and (c) when damage is foreseeable, the HOA is responsible for damage caused by lack of maintenance.

The HOA removed a number of Chinese Elms in 2010, to protect sewer pipes.

Around 1.5 years ago, a sewer line serving at least one of the condo units in my HOA clogged. The condo owner applied to the HOA for either partial or full payment of the repair, attesting that it was trees on the common property that yielded the invading root. The HOA states that the two pine trees the condo owner planted in his patio are the problem. The HOA attorney and condo owner have been arguing about it since. The HOA has billed the condo owner for the cost of some or all of the HOA attorney's time.

The HOA has had some scoping of sewer lines done in the last year or so.

Last week the aforementioned condo unit's sewer line clogged again, this time backing up a second condo unit's sewer line. The plumber had to scope through the roof to find the location; remove flooring; and then break up concrete in the condo at two locations to get to the broken pipe (not merely clogged). Along with the plumber company, the owners hired a professional arborist to examine the roots. Photos were taken. Some of the roots found in the sewer line were over 2-inches in diameter, blocking and splitting a 3-inch sewer line joint. The arborist confirmed that the roots were from the cottonwood tree on the HOA common property. The tree is about ten feet from the condo unit, over two feet in diameter. Two large roots from it protrude to the surface of the ground just a few inches from the condo building. The arborist said the tree needed to be removed because of the reputation of cottonwood trees to continually cause damage. The bill from the plumber was for $4000, give or take.

Sound bite of case law in my state: Where a tree owner has notice of damage her or his tree roots are causing (e.g. past root invasions of other people's sewer lines), he or she will be responsible for paying for the repairs.

Where I live people have to get permission from the city to remove a tree. The City has written one of the members that, given the arborist's report and the photos of the roots in the pipes, permission to remove the tree would likely be granted.

The first condo owner is working with an attorney.

One member pointed out that winter is coming. We get snow here and temperatures can stay below freezing for a week or more. A backed up sewer line in winter will be many times worse.

All of us Members are reflecting on how next it could be our condo whose drain lines were being invaded by any of about a dozen large cottonwood trees on the HOA maintained common grounds.

What the HOA Members seem to be working with: This board appears to be inexperienced with regard to infrastructure. They're asked politely about this or that matter affecting members, and the board will not give information. People get more insistent, and then the board habitually digs in to defend any attacks on its decisions. It drags its feet on record-sharing, trying to exhaust people's patience in my opinion.


I am acquainted with tree removal from serving on a board in another HOA and making a similar emergency motion, though this time for large dead trees on the main artery of the HOA. Large branches were falling. I know the cost of this. It's worth a special assessment, worst case.

If this tree is not gone by the time of the January Annual Meeting, I intend to run for the board on this issue and one other. Both issues concern failure to maintain the grounds in a way that is costing the members more and more with every day that goes by.

For now, I would appreciate a reality check. Do people here think the clock is ticking, and so it is time for a letter of demand to remove the tree immediately? With sincere intent to take this to court for an emergency injunction yada if it's refused?

DouglasK1
(Florida)

Posts:1538


08/03/2016 10:15 AM  
I don't have any answer to your overall question, but if a backup affected a second unit, then at least part of the damage is not to a section that serves only one unit. That's assuming the second unit's problems weren't totally independent of the first.

Escaped former treasurer and director of a self managed association.
DonnaR5
(Virginia)

Posts:110


08/03/2016 11:33 AM  
In my opinion, the HOA is responsible for the trees. They need to pay for the damage.

It is possible that the roots invaded that pipe because it already had a small leak. But there really is no way to show that's what happened.

Water main leading to individual unit = owner's responsibility
Trees on common property & any damage caused by them = HOA's responsibility
JoyceR2
(Virginia)

Posts:156


08/03/2016 11:57 AM  
CAROLINA POPLAR (Cottonwood) (Populus deltoides Marsh.)

THE cottonwood, or Carolina poplar, is scattered widely but nowhere occurs in great abundance; it does not grow naturally in the mountains. The tree is easily propagated by cuttings and grows rapidly, hence it has been widely planted to get shade quickly. For this purpose, however, the tree is unsatisfactory, because it begins to shed the leaves by midsummer, the "cotton" from the female, or seed-bearing, tree is often a nuisance, the soft wood is easily broken by winds, and the rank growth of the roots often results in stopping drain pipes and cracking and lifting sidewalks.

Sounds like this was not a maintenance issue caused by normal wear or owner negligence. Obvious it was caused by property that the association has responsibility to maintain. Should have been addressed the first time. My view is that the association is responsible. The source reason for the clog has been identified. No doubt the lawyer will prevail for the owner. In the mean time request by certified mail to have the tree removed and state that the Association is responsible for any future damage not only because it is their responsibility but they neglect to remedy the problem.

You might want to know how these lines intersect and at what point. However, if the root was the cause it was not independent of the use of your line.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


08/03/2016 12:14 PM  
Thank you for your responses, Douglas, Donna and Joyce.

I want to clarify that I am not the owner of either of the two units described above. I am a concerned neighbor who has been unhappy with the Board's decisions for several months now. I had said to neighbors that, since the property overall was being maintained, I was not inclined to run for the board or take legal action on any of the other issues. Now the property is not being maintained, in my opinion.

Douglas, a few members have homed in on this clause in the Declaration. It seems to be a slam dunk for the two owners, as far as being reimbursed for this reason is concerned. (Both units' sewage back up problems began and did clear at the same time, once the plumbing company did its repair last week.)

Donna, yes, a small leak is possible but I too agree the other factors dominate and so on.

Joyce, I like your wording for the proposed letter of demand: The HOA is responsible for any future damage, and possibly prior damage, both because the tree is their responsibility and also because they failed to remedy a known problem. I think I might add that the next instance of clogging in this building will represent a failure to exercise reasonable and ordinary care, so the board is personally liable for the HOA's attorney's expenses. (Still thinking about the latter. They have had experts involved. Should they have known that removing the tree was needed?)


SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3512


08/03/2016 12:54 PM  
For a moment, I thought you lived in my community, as we’ve had the same problem!

(You say this is is happening to a condo owner in your building, but for some reason, this reads a lot like you're the owner. That's OK, but I also notice you always talk about suing people - sometimes that is necessary, but why can't you slow down a bit, take a deep breath and consider other approaches like alternative dispute resolution? If this goes to court, this will cost the association even more money, including you, because you're part of the association. Again, I''m not saying it might not become necessary, but please consider trying other options first. It may take more work, but the results could be more long lasting.)

Personally, I would encourage the Board to at least split the costs of repair. It’s unfortunate they didn’t bring in an arborist in 2010 to evaluate ALL the trees on the property after removing the Chinese elms. If they had, the problem might have been discovered sooner and the cottonwoods could have been removed before this homeowner had issues.

On the other hand, your documents say condo owners are responsible for maintaining the pipes - considering that the association removed several trees in 2010 to protect the pipes, one would think this homeowner would have taken the initiative and asked his/her plumber to check the system to see if it was at risk, especially if he/she planted pine trees. Yes, I know they didn’t cause this problem, but perhaps if he/she thought to ask the question at that time, the pipes could have been inspected sooner, saving everyone time, trouble and money.

Here’s my community’s story – go ahead and run for the board on this issue, if you want, but make sure you do your homework and educate yourself on this and other exterior issues. You don’t have to be an expert, but should have a general idea of what’s needed. Hopefully this will help you as you craft your pitch to fellow homeowners – if you don’t win, at least it’ll give them something to think about.

I’m told the original developer of my community sold townhomes partly on the promise that lots and lots of trees would be planted and they’d grow big enough to save on utility bills (which they do). However, all sorts of trees got planted all over the place – I’m certain the developer either didn’t know or care (maybe both) that some trees were planted too close to the building and might cause problems with pushing up concrete as well as sewer line disruption. At that time (early 1970s) clay pipe was used for the lines and as they age, they begin to deteriorate and are at high risk for tree root invasion, which is what’s happened.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s, after I moved in and some years after joining the Board, we began seeing several $4K and $5K expenses like yours, including two stints at one house, where the homeowner did contact her attorney (we settled it by splitting the cost of the second breakdown and got rid of the tree). that prompted me to suggest that we bring in an arborist to look at all our trees because I was also worried about some that had large branches hanging over the roof and I was worried about icicles falling and damaging them. After I left the board, it did hire one and several trees did get chopped down last summer – one board member later commented, we’ll probably have to chop down a few more because those trees are coming to the end of their lives anyway.

While on the board, I also spoke to a few friends with similar problems (not all of them lived in a HOA), not knowing a lot about this issue either. Everyone suggested we do some preventative maintenance by pouring root kill down the sewer cleanout – one friend was treasurer of his HOA and they did this every year. That led to another problem – about half of the cleanouts in our community (including mine) are covered with grass, flower beds and maybe an air conditioner.

A previous board president and I walked the entire community and wrote down the number of the houses where we didn’t see a cleanout and we later ran an article in the newsletter encouraging everyone to look around their property for the cleanout (some are flush to the ground) and make sure they’re accessible, because the Board was considering hiring a company to come out once a year to rot out the lines (I’d rather pay $5K a year for that than $5K or more for one repair that could have been avoided). Unfortunately, people read the article (or not) and I’ll admit it, there wasn’t any follow through by the board.

So, don’t be too hard on your board – yes, ,they could have done more thinking on the subject, but I suspect they aren’t the only ones inexperienced with infrastructure (too bad the property manager didn’t say something – or perhaps he/she did and was ignored – you may want to ask about that). In any case, this is yet another example of what happens when people believe the nonsense about “just pay the HOA a monthly or annual fee” and go on about your business.” Homeownership isn’t a spectator sport – maintenance has to be done regardless of whether it’s you or you pay someone or pool your resources with other homeowners in a condo and hire someone to do it for you. Even if you aren’t hiring the people directly, it doesn’t hurt to consider the big picture and ask questions, especially when you have one or two or several repairs running $4k a pop. Many homeowners don’t know that tree roots are twice as long as the tree is tall and they’re always growing to find water sources, which is why you have to watch where the tree is planted and consider how big it will be when it’s fully grown.

This will cost your association some money to fix this long term and I wouldn’t just focus on this one tree. And before you start demanding that said tree be gone by January, you might want to take a good look at the association’s finances and consider the costs of removing these trees – I believe it cost us at least $500 per tree last year, because you can’t just cut them down – as you know, you have to haul away the branches (if you aren’t crushing them into mulch) and then get rid of the stump.

You may also run into people like one neighbor of mine, who interrupted a board meeting last year, upset because the Board was planning to remove “his” tree for the same reason. He backed down after being reminded of the repair expense and that the Board has to consider the ENTIRE community (and remember, this guy didn’t plant the tree nor has he done any direct maintenance of the same). Not only that, this tree was beginning to cause foundation problems in the man’s townhouse (he said he’d pay for repairs – obviously he doesn’t know how expensive THAT can run).

While you're talking to the board - actually bring your neighbors with you so they can express their concerns, all of you might consider getting your lines checked right now. some may have problems, others won't, but all of you will have a start in addressing your concerns instead of sitting there and waiting for the next sewer line disruption. Finally, talk to your individual homeowner's insurance about water/sewer line coverage - standard policies usually don't have this and even though it'll add to the cost of your policy, having it could save you several thousand dollars if the worst should happen (something we recommend our homeowners consider when we discussed the sewer line cleanouts)

AugustinD


Posts:4160


08/03/2016 2:48 PM  
There are several buildings where I live. The two condo units who have experienced this twice in the last few years are not in my building. The first unit's owner tried time and again to get the board and HOA attorney to settle this, over many months. The HOA attorney dug in, either on instruction from the board or because he gouges us. Only when it was clear the HOA was not going to move on this did the owner hire an attorney. The attorney tried to settle this but no go. The owner's attorney will send a letter of demand within the next several days. I had a long talk with the first unit's owner. He explained how the sewage flooded the floors. The plumbing crew had to destroy the floor and dig down six+ feet. The smell was everywhere. Everything had to be sanitized. I do not blame them for hiring an attorney. Shelia, I think I answered several of your other points in my first post.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3512


08/04/2016 11:03 AM  
You want a reality check - here's one person's opinion.

Regarding the demand letter, that's up to the people who are currently having the problem. If I was dealing with a board like this, I would have already told my attorney to pull the trigger and send a nastygram to the board and association, demanding this be fixed, my expenses be paid by X date. If it wasn't done, off to court we go and we'll see how the judge sorts it out. I never said suing is NEVER appropriate - in some cases (like this one), you have no choice.

As far as the rest of it - the clock has been ticking and it's getting louder, so the next move is up to the homeowners. I wouldn't wait for January because you don't know if or when the next sewer line disruption will occur. Your board doesn't seem to have the guts to do what's necessary - they will need to spend the money, but either don't want to and won't say why. Not being honest with the homeowners is unacceptable; I guess they're praying nothing else will happen or the money isn't there.

Since they don't seem to be addressing the problem, it's time for the rest of you to stand up and decide if you want these folks to continue in their posts until next year. If not, start the recall and make sure there are people willing to take over (starting with you). But remember, even after these folks are gone, the homeowners will have to spend money to fix this - if anyone's thinking this won't be an issue until raw sewage backs up into their living room, forget it.

Your homeowners are already talking, so you don't need to wait until January - all of you need to get to the meetings for the rest of the year and demand answers. Do you want the association to keep paying $5k two or three times a year for disruptions, or do you get a new board that will fix this problem and then hire an arborist and maybe a good plumber or two, to help develop a long term maintenance plan, complete with educating homeowners on what THEY can do to watch for problems (e.g. a gurgling sound from the drains).
AugustinD


Posts:4160


08/04/2016 12:58 PM  
Hi Shelia, thank you for the elaboration. It helps to know your viewpoint, your experience (as shared in your first post here), and that you agree this is pretty urgent, so stand up and be counted at meetings and so on. I indicated in my first post that I plan to run for the Board. Several of us are now strategizing on how to get a majority of like-minded folks elected. It does beat going to court, from where I and other members are sitting. As for the unit owners who suffered the failed sewage drain lines, you and I are in agreement on their actions. Take care.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


10/21/2016 2:05 PM  
Update:

The tree remains. The unit owners whose sewer lines backed up are in limbo. The HOA attorney has been seeking reimbursement from the HOA insurer, but so far, after about two months, no go. To me this just about amounts to an admission that the HOA is responsible for the repair costs.

I tend to think the HOA attorney uses significant delay as a tactic of brutality. It has added great negativity to the community. The HOA attorney thinks he's saving the HOA money. I think he's a fool, since he does not take into account what he bills the HOA and the cost of the negativity.

After much publicity by non-board members (no demands; just discussion and postings to a web site), the Board wisely moved up a scheduled camera-ing of sewer lines by a few months. Numerous breaks in the sewer lines were found, with the cause unclear. Tree roots had penetrated the sewer pipes at several points. The bill for repairs will run around $27k. I think this will come out of reserves, but I believe the expectation is for some plan to be implemented to replenish the reserves.
AllisonD
(Florida)

Posts:447


10/21/2016 5:10 PM  
Most HOA's have tree issues, mine sure did. Until we could come to an understanding with our homeowners, I told them that cutting down the tree was not the only option. They can cut the offending roots and at least buy some time. I believe there is a chemical you can apply to the cut root that will prevent it from growing any further.
LarryB13
(Arizona)

Posts:4099


10/21/2016 9:22 PM  
If your building was built between 1945 and 1973, the sewer line may be a product often referred to as "Orangeburg," named for the town in New York where the largest manufacturer was located.

Orangeburg sewer pipe is kind of like a large toilet paper tube impregnated with tar. It was lightweight, easy to handle, and cheap. By now, most of it has been replaced due to its high failure rate. The most common reason for failure seems to be tree roots either grow through the pipe or grow around it and make it collapse.

PVC pipe began replacing Orangeburg in the early 1970's.

A more detailed dissertation on Orangeburg pipe can be found at:
http://www.sewerhistory.org/articles/compon/orangeburg/orangeburg.htm

As to a camera inspection: I believe that Harbor Freight sells a camera for sewer pipe inspections. It was many months ago when I saw one advertised and the price was about what I would expect to pay a plumber to do an inspection. You might want to look into this.

AugustinD


Posts:4160


10/22/2016 7:36 AM  
AllisonD, thank you for the reinforcement on how to present the issue of taking a tree down. If I am elected to the board, I plan to motion to dedicate a part of a board meeting to hearing residents thoughts on taking out this particular tree (and probably all cottonwood trees over several years) vs. facing sewer line backups. Ultimately I think a director may have to weigh whether a tree's aesthetic value outweighs the expense and inconvenience of sewer line repairs and damage from sewer line backups. Especially when the tree is known to be of the kind that has aggressive tree roots. In this instance, I think it's fair to call the tree a nuisance.

Larry, the pipe is all PVC, as confirmed by the plumber when camera-ing. Construction was in the early 1990s. Where I am, clay pipe was common in the 1970s. A nearby townhome community has had lots of tree root destruction of these clay sewer pipes in recent years and has been re-lining them with a resin yada. I too noticed some of these inexpensive sewer line snake-camera devices. I think they are an option for any HOA to consider, especially if the HOA has a maintenance crew.
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:1029


10/22/2016 7:54 AM  
Talk with the individual condo owners, see if someone in your area offers x-ray imaging services
to scan the floor following the sewer pipes into the unit and to the street.
ground penetrating x-ray can give you images of rebar from post mention slabs, pipes and even
roots from trees without having to tear up the floor.
This way the owners can get a look to see if they are "next"
Perhaps this can be grouped into one large service call saving some money.
MarkM31
(Washington)

Posts:494


10/22/2016 8:40 AM  
Actually ground penetrating radar. X-ray's require a target under the medium being x-rayed.
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1559


10/24/2016 5:16 AM  
This is a $250 auger job where the plumber clears the line. I cannot believe a property owner and an HOA board would let a root-clogged sewer line to reach a point where a second property suffers damage but not miss the opportunity to hire a lawyer at about the same rate per hour.

This is an emotionally driven, neighborhood issue at the point.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3512


10/24/2016 12:54 PM  
Posted By KellyM3 on 10/24/2016 5:16 AM
This is a $250 auger job where the plumber clears the line. I cannot believe a property owner and an HOA board would let a root-clogged sewer line to reach a point where a second property suffers damage but not miss the opportunity to hire a lawyer at about the same rate per hour.

This is an emotionally driven, neighborhood issue at the point.




Preventative maintenance isn't a strong suit of some folks - some of what's happened in AugustinD's community is a remix of what happened in mine. Like you, I agree it's better to spend a little at the front end if it prevents you from spending oodles of moolah at the back end.

Although the trees appear to be an association issue, I would also suggest that individual homeowners strongly consider adding water/sewer backup insurance to their homeowners insurance policies. That would help them cover costs the association isn't responsible for and if a backup turns out to be homeowner responsibility (e.g. tossing grease down the sink), they'll have a ready resource. It would also help to establish a policy requiring homeowners to make sure their cleanouts are visible and accessible for preventative maintenance. Even if the association is responsible for something, the money comes from the homeowners, so anything they can do to reduce damage risk would be beneficial
AugustinD


Posts:4160


10/25/2016 1:31 PM  
Thank you for the suggestions, LetA and MarkM31.

KellyM3, what you said is about the size of it. But the current board has been getting quite an education.

SheliaH, your sharing of your HOA's experience with all this continues to be valuable and something I fall back on in my thoughts about addressing the situation at my HOA. I too have thought about getting the word out to members that the HOA will pay for pipe repair, but damage to a member's unit has to be covered by the member's insurance. Also you got it, regarding visibility of cleanouts. Several were not obvious as the plumber went around camera-ing in September. The plumber went in through roof vents in some cases, as I understand it. At this point, perhaps because the HOA maintenance person is on top of it, I am seeing cleanout tops appear where before, they were buried.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


03/18/2017 11:10 PM  
Update:
I won election to the board in early February, with a record turnout, and with my campaign based on my concern about the tree roots invading sewer lines for one of the several buildings at my condo and the board's appalling response to this. The HOA attorney resigned a few days after the new board took office. By late February, per the new Board's direction, the HOA had removed the tree believed to be causing the sewer line backups. Prospective HOA attorneys were interviewed. During interviews, all the prospective attorneys were asked about the tree root situation. All went directly to the maintenance responsibility of the HOA for the trees. The new HOA attorney studied all the plumbing bills and attorneys' exchanges in more detail and concluded firmly that the HOA was liable for the damage the tree roots caused. She added that this was a case that a first year real estate law student could get right. She said to get this settled quickly with the members asking for reimbursement for the repairs, adding that the HOA would not win in court. She was surprised that this was not already in court. The new HOA attorney advised not to tarry over details during negotiation, because the costs of evaluating details could exceed the cost of just making repairs. She said we did not have to use an attorney to negotiate. This has been a two year nightmare for several HOA members in the building affected. I believe at least $12,000 was spent on the former HOA attorney on this matter. I estimate the cost of the repairs by themselves was about $12,000. Battling with illiterate board members and an incompetent attorney was draining. I remain grateful for this forum and all of you who participated in this thread, helping keep me grounded from afar with your substantive experience.
MarkM31
(Washington)

Posts:494


03/19/2017 7:43 AM  
Thanks for the update
BobD4
(up north)

Posts:918


03/22/2017 6:39 AM  
Thanks for an outcome showing that enough really hard work & persistance sometimes CAN move mountains. Good for you & the voters who joined the solution.
JanetB2
(Colorado)

Posts:4211


03/23/2017 7:29 PM  
CONGRATULATIONS!!! If the prior attorney had not resigned I would have recommended firing them. Sounds like you have a new attorney who is smart and considerate of various costs. It's too bad the prior attorney cost the HOA as much as the repairs ... would have been better to just fix the problem but he was busy lining his pockets.

Wish you the best of luck in the future
JanetB2
(Colorado)

Posts:4211


03/23/2017 8:49 PM  
Keep in mind you need to probably set aside money to remove other Cottonwood trees in your common area. As you found out the roots of these trees are nasty and evasive ... grrr dealt with one in a past home evading sewer lines. They will send their roots towards ANY type of water source. They are also "self trimming" ... I bet a lot that every time there is any high winds that you are picking up fairly large branches in the common area. Hopefully one of the branches does not break off and injure anyone. We just purchased a new home and I have already informed the HOA that the couple of Cottonwood trees will be removed. One if not soon removed will start to cause us issues because prior owner planted too close to the home.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


03/24/2017 12:45 PM  
You're welcome, Mark and Bob. Thank you, Janet. Prior to being elected, one of my co-candidates and I agreed we had to cut the attorney loose. The (now former) attorney added so much unnecessary negativity to the HOA, with vicious letters to members going beyond, say, a plain vanilla cease and desist letter or demand letter, and typically as a first communication from HOA to member. I feel he promoted argument between the board and members. With an unstudied board, this of course increases legal costs. Janet, understood about how large branches doing damage to above-ground property along with the damage the tree roots have been doing, must be kept in mind. With myself and my co-candidate on the board, all three directors agreed on beginning a program of cottonwood tree replacement. The HOA intends to take out two more cottonwoods soon. With board approval and some input from some members, I picked out the first replacement tree today.
TiffanyK
(California)

Posts:2


08/19/2017 4:56 PM  
Question...I Live in California & last winter my backyard flooded. I had a plumber come out & snake my lines, he basically said that roots had destroyed my pipes. I don't really have any trees, but on the other side of my wall the HOA has 50 foot trees. Obviously the roots are coming from those trees. Would the HOA be responsible for replacing these pipes? The plumber didn't give me a dollar amount, but said it was going to be thousands of dollars...
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3512


08/19/2017 6:17 PM  
Have you gone to the HOA board with this issue If so, what did they say? You may also want to contact your insurance company - it can duke it out with the association's insurance. Of course, if you don't have sewer/water damage coverage, you may have to tackle the HOA on your own (contrary to what many think, it's usually not a standard part of homeowner's insurance)
AugustinD


Posts:4160


08/19/2017 6:39 PM  
Posted By TiffanyK on 08/19/2017 4:56 PM
Question...I Live in California & last winter my backyard flooded. I had a plumber come out & snake my lines, he basically said that roots had destroyed my pipes. I don't really have any trees, but on the other side of my wall the HOA has 50 foot trees. Obviously the roots are coming from those trees. Would the HOA be responsible for replacing these pipes? The plumber didn't give me a dollar amount, but said it was going to be thousands of dollars...




-- Review the section of your HOA's Declaration that speaks about what the HOA's maintenance responsibility is. Chances are good that the HOA is responsible for maintaining the Common Elements such that nothing from the CE trespasses onto an owner's property (such as the owner's sewer pipes).

-- Write the board a letter about the tree roots "trespassing and being a nuisance." Request the HOA repair the damage or reimbursement for any payment you made for repairing the damage.

-- Talk with neighbors and see if anyone else has had sewer line problems from common element trees. If so, the Association had plenty of notice of the problem.

-- Anticipate that the trees may be removed. The HOA has the right to do so, to keep costs down.

-- When the HOA first knew of the problem may come into play here, possibly reducing the compensation you are due.

-- What you are owed will likely depend on California case law.

TiffanyK
(California)

Posts:2


08/19/2017 6:45 PM  
Thank you for your response. I spoke with my insurance agent and although I do have additional coverage it does not cover damage from tree roots. A couple of years ago I had a slab leak & the HOA insurance covered that, there was a 10k deductible but my own personal insurance covered 9k of that. I haven't addressed it yet with the HOA because I just found out the HOA maintains these large trees. At first I thought it might be the city because it's on a very busy Main Street, but the city has informed me they do not maintain these trees the HOA does. I'm just really freaked out because I live in California & with the drought we had to let our lawns go & today I received a violation from the HOA saying I need to install drought resistant landscape. So, I can't do that until I figure out what to do about all new pipes. Ugh!!! I don't want them to throw me into foreclosure but all this is going to cost a lot of $. I'm a single mom who isn't working right now so this is definitely going to keep me up at night.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


08/19/2017 6:54 PM  
You may have to hire an arborist to confirm that the roots are from trees not on your property. Keep all receipts and a log of every communication you have on this with the HOA or other professionals.
PitA


Posts:0


08/20/2017 5:59 AM  
Posted By DouglasK1 on 08/03/2016 10:15 AM
I don't have any answer to your overall question, but if a backup affected a second unit, then at least part of the damage is not to a section that serves only one unit. That's assuming the second unit's problems weren't totally independent of the first.




CASE CLOSED AS PER THE 'DOCUMENTS'
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:662


10/11/2020 11:54 PM  
Posted By AugustinD on 10/25/2016 1:31 PM
Thank you for the suggestions, LetA and MarkM31.

KellyM3, what you said is about the size of it. But the current board has been getting quite an education.

SheliaH, your sharing of your HOA's experience with all this continues to be valuable and something I fall back on in my thoughts about addressing the situation at my HOA. I too have thought about getting the word out to members that the HOA will pay for pipe repair, but damage to a member's unit has to be covered by the member's insurance. Also you got it, regarding visibility of cleanouts. Several were not obvious as the plumber went around camera-ing in September. The plumber went in through roof vents in some cases, as I understand it. At this point, perhaps because the HOA maintenance person is on top of it, I am seeing cleanout tops appear where before, they were buried.




We have this issue as well. I googled the issue and wound up here!

Why would owners need to have their insurance dinged for damage caused by an issue that is HOA responsibility?

I like how diplomatic you are, an art I seemed to have lost here recently, but could perhaps regain reading posts like yours.
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:662


10/12/2020 12:03 AM  
Posted By DouglasK1 on 08/03/2016 10:15 AM
I don't have any answer to your overall question, but if a backup affected a second unit, then at least part of the damage is not to a section that serves only one unit. That's assuming the second unit's problems weren't totally independent of the first.



Agree, of course, but I don't think it matters in the case of trees being the problem, which are under the responsibility of the HOA.

My neighbor accepted that she's responsible, and that is her decision, but I do not agree. She cannot maange tree roots that belong to the association.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9649


10/12/2020 4:26 AM  
This is an old thread. Please do not open old threads. Open a new one if you have an issue to be addressed.

Former HOA President
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:662


10/12/2020 5:46 AM  
Posted By MelissaP1 on 10/12/2020 4:26 AM
This is an old thread. Please do not open old threads. Open a new one if you have an issue to be addressed.



I didn't realize it was old. I say 10/21 update and didn't notice the year. But it's ok to respond to old threads. The issues are the same for OP as they are our association.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:3279


10/12/2020 6:07 AM  
Again, wow.
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:662


10/12/2020 6:51 AM  
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 10/12/2020 6:07 AM
Again, wow.



Wow back at ya.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


10/12/2020 8:06 AM  
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/11/2020 11:54 PM

We have this issue as well. I googled the issue and wound up here!

Why would owners need to have their insurance dinged for damage caused by an issue that is HOA responsibility?

I like how diplomatic you are, an art I seemed to have lost here recently, but could perhaps regain reading posts like yours.
I think the issue of tree roots (and sometimes, tree limbs) causing damage comes up enough here that reviving an old thread is fine. For the record, it's been over three years, and I have not heard of any sewer line backups from the owner of the unit that got the worst of the backups. Other large trees were removed subsequently on account of lifting and breaking up common area patio concrete.

JenniferG1, if you describe how bad the tree root damage is, then maybe sometime this week I will take a look at Texas case law on this subject.

Thank you for your kind words.
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:662


10/12/2020 9:19 AM  
Posted By AugustinD on 10/12/2020 8:06 AM
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/11/2020 11:54 PM

We have this issue as well. I googled the issue and wound up here!

Why would owners need to have their insurance dinged for damage caused by an issue that is HOA responsibility?

I like how diplomatic you are, an art I seemed to have lost here recently, but could perhaps regain reading posts like yours.
I think the issue of tree roots (and sometimes, tree limbs) causing damage comes up enough here that reviving an old thread is fine. For the record, it's been over three years, and I have not heard of any sewer line backups from the owner of the unit that got the worst of the backups. Other large trees were removed subsequently on account of lifting and breaking up common area patio concrete.

JenniferG1, if you describe how bad the tree root damage is, then maybe sometime this week I will take a look at Texas case law on this subject.

Thank you for your kind words.



That is nice of you, thank you. The owner feels that it's nature, the tree did it. Our HOA insurance said no way would they cover it. I said I think it's still on HOA, but she doesn't, and that is what matters if it isn't affecting anyone else. So she is paying for the repairs herself. But if you think of a way for me to move forward on my excessive damages problem, I'll take any help you might be willing to offer!

Congrats on your win and the actions you've taken to remedy your tree problem. Especially the proactive removal of other trees. This was an instructive thread.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


10/12/2020 10:24 AM  
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/12/2020 9:19 AM
The owner feels that it's nature, the tree did it. Our HOA insurance said no way would they cover it. I said I think it's still on HOA, but she doesn't, and that is what matters if it isn't affecting anyone else. So she is paying for the repairs herself.
If the source of the damage to the Owner's home (be it sewer line damage; damage to the foundation; or similar damage) is a tree that is located on condo-owned common area, then it appears Texas case law does generally assign liability to the owner of the land on which the tree is planted. The two main Texas cases on this are:

-- Martin v. Martin, 246 S.W. 2d 718. From the 1950 case "Owners of real property also may protect injury of same from a nuisance." Martin cites as one of the legal remedies suing for "damages to real property, 13 Tex.Jur. p. 160, Sec. 73." The Tex.Jur. citation explains the legal reasoning in Texas courts over the years.

-- Allen v. Virginia Hill Water Supply Corp., 609 S.W. 2d 633. It cites Martin v. Martin.

These are probably the first two cases a Texas attorney would find when looking for relief for this neighbor or yours and, as needed, sending a demand letter.

The Owner would need evidence that the tree was the source of the problem. For example, a plumber's report and an arborist's report. As I think I noted earlier in this thread, plumbers and arborists are generally well-versed in these problems and generally agree on the best solution: Remove the tree. As desired, replace with a tree with less invasive roots.

Practically speaking, the cost of tree removal is far less than the cost of attorneys for both sides exchanging letters. A prudent board would remove the tree and then discuss with its attorney whether it should pay for damages caused in the recent past.

Just saying.

Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/12/2020 9:19 AM
But if you think of a way for me to move forward on my excessive damages problem, I'll take any help you might be willing to offer!
You are referring to your other thread where you claim the HOA overcharged you for repairing damage you cause, right? If I have more to say on this, then I will post to this other thread, so as to keep things organized.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


10/12/2020 10:30 AM  
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/12/2020 12:03 AM

My neighbor accepted that she's responsible, and that is her decision, but I do not agree. She cannot manage tree roots that belong to the association.
Correct. In fact, if she tries to inject a toxin into the tree roots encroaching on her property, and the toxin kills the tree, the HOA/condo could sue her with a good chance of success.

See the 2006 Texas case Withdraw v. Armstrong, 2006 WL 3317714. Here's a summary from https://assets.recenter.tamu.edu/Documents/Articles/1074.pdf: "[Withdraw v. Armstrong] involved tree roots intruding on Neighbor A’s property. The tree was located entirely on Neighbor B's property. Instead of cutting the roots at the property line, Neighbor A drilled holes and injected poison killing the tree. Neighbor B successfully sued Neighbor A for $5,000 in damages. The primary issue was whether the injection of poison constituted a trespass. The appellate court held it did."

But it sounds like your neighbor does not want to pursue making the HOA/condo remove the tree and pay for the damages the tree caused. Oh well.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:4133


10/12/2020 1:04 PM  
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/11/2020 11:54 PM
We have this issue as well. I googled the issue and wound up here!

Aren't we lucky.
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:662


10/13/2020 12:04 AM  
Posted By AugustinD on 10/12/2020 10:24 AM
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/12/2020 9:19 AM
The owner feels that it's nature, the tree did it. Our HOA insurance said no way would they cover it. I said I think it's still on HOA, but she doesn't, and that is what matters if it isn't affecting anyone else. So she is paying for the repairs herself.
If the source of the damage to the Owner's home (be it sewer line damage; damage to the foundation; or similar damage) is a tree that is located on condo-owned common area, then it appears Texas case law does generally assign liability to the owner of the land on which the tree is planted. The two main Texas cases on this are:

-- Martin v. Martin, 246 S.W. 2d 718. From the 1950 case "Owners of real property also may protect injury of same from a nuisance." Martin cites as one of the legal remedies suing for "damages to real property, 13 Tex.Jur. p. 160, Sec. 73." The Tex.Jur. citation explains the legal reasoning in Texas courts over the years.

-- Allen v. Virginia Hill Water Supply Corp., 609 S.W. 2d 633. It cites Martin v. Martin.

These are probably the first two cases a Texas attorney would find when looking for relief for this neighbor or yours and, as needed, sending a demand letter.

The Owner would need evidence that the tree was the source of the problem. For example, a plumber's report and an arborist's report. As I think I noted earlier in this thread, plumbers and arborists are generally well-versed in these problems and generally agree on the best solution: Remove the tree. As desired, replace with a tree with less invasive roots.

Practically speaking, the cost of tree removal is far less than the cost of attorneys for both sides exchanging letters. A prudent board would remove the tree and then discuss with its attorney whether it should pay for damages caused in the recent past.

Just saying.

Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/12/2020 9:19 AM
But if you think of a way for me to move forward on my excessive damages problem, I'll take any help you might be willing to offer!
You are referring to your other thread where you claim the HOA overcharged you for repairing damage you cause, right? If I have more to say on this, then I will post to this other thread, so as to keep things organized.




It's an old Oak tee, I tend to doubt they'd remove it. I forgot to ask what, if anything, they will do to mitigate further root damage. Surely something can be done other than removing a grand old oak tree, here way before we were?

Seems to me that though my neighbor says 'It's not the fault of the association, a tree' that the next owner would not feel the same since they know about it now. I don't think an arborist came. I agree with you one should. We're once again dealing with a very penny pinching board. IMO this is going to lead to problems like past penny pinchers have, refusing ounces of prevention and then paying pounds in cures.

Her insurance denied the claim, the HOA insurance said they wouldn't cover it, and our contractor said in times past this sort of thing is on the owner, per the HOA. I disagree, but that is what they have been telling people, apparently, when others have made similar requests. Not sure why she wanted to use their insurance, since we have a 10K deductible, but. Perhaps she momentarily forgot about that.

This was a $3500 problem.

MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:9649


10/13/2020 4:19 AM  
Oh no surprise there that you disagreed so everyone else must agree with you now. That 10K deductible isn't paid by the person making the HOA insurance claim. It is paid by ALL the members. Plus it puts the insurance at risk of raising or leaving altogether. Plus the damage has to equal 10K BEFORE insurance will even touch it.

It's just the way things are sometimes. No one plans when a tree is planted that it will one day cause possible damages to water lines or sidewalks. People want trees for multitude of reasons many of which are beneficial. If the HOA planted the tree, then can see where HOA would be responsible for removal of the tree. If the owner planted it, then I would say it is on them. If it is a "Natural" occurring tree where it existed at development, then that is a pre-existing condition. That could go either way. The owner did buy knowing tree was there.

Overall it seems if Jennifer disagrees with something then it is so. The REALITY is not so clear and cut. IMO the neighbor here is doing the right thing and it's just the way things are. Jennifer on the other hand wants to stir the pot and spend money that isn't all theirs with the other.

Former HOA President
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:662


10/13/2020 5:05 AM  
Posted By MelissaP1 on 10/13/2020 4:19 AM
Oh no surprise there that you disagreed so everyone else must agree with you now. That 10K deductible isn't paid by the person making the HOA insurance claim. It is paid by ALL the members. Plus it puts the insurance at risk of raising or leaving altogether. Plus the damage has to equal 10K BEFORE insurance will even touch it.

It's just the way things are sometimes. No one plans when a tree is planted that it will one day cause possible damages to water lines or sidewalks. People want trees for multitude of reasons many of which are beneficial. If the HOA planted the tree, then can see where HOA would be responsible for removal of the tree. If the owner planted it, then I would say it is on them. If it is a "Natural" occurring tree where it existed at development, then that is a pre-existing condition. That could go either way. The owner did buy knowing tree was there.

Overall it seems if Jennifer disagrees with something then it is so. The REALITY is not so clear and cut. IMO the neighbor here is doing the right thing and it's just the way things are. Jennifer on the other hand wants to stir the pot and spend money that isn't all theirs with the other.



You have an active imagination.

I did not say an insurance claim should be made. I said I don't know why she would ask after an insurance claim, since the deductible is 10K. She probably wasn't remembering that atm, because that would make any sense.

The HOA is responsible for the common grounds. Trees are part of the common grounds. They are responsible for the care and maintenance of them, they are responsible when they case damage. It isn't 'their fault' when foundations shift either, but the maintenance of them is their responsibility regardless. As is any damage to individual units from foundational problems/repair.

I'm discussing that here, not stirring any pots in my community. If the neighbor wants to pay for it, that is her choice. I stated that. Once again you are just making things up.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


10/13/2020 7:01 AM  
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/13/2020 12:04 AM
It's an old Oak tee, I tend to doubt they'd remove it. I forgot to ask what, if anything, they will do to mitigate further root damage. Surely something can be done other than removing a grand old oak tree, here way before we were?
If the problem the roots are causing is sewer line backups, then your HOA/condo can arrange for the sewer lines to be cleaned out every few months or so. Though of course, if the Board is really stupid they will say something like, "the unit owner owns the sewer lines up to x point. The Association will only clean up to x point."
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/13/2020 12:04 AM
our contractor said in times past this sort of thing is on the owner, per the HOA. I disagree, but that is what they have been telling people, apparently, when others have made similar requests. [snippage]
This was a $3500 problem.
Other condos in my area have said what your contractor said. But these condos have not had sewer line backups into individual units and owners who checked with an attorney on the point, with said owners' attorney writing demand letters.

Given the age of the tree, I believe your board should start at least an annual program of cleaning out and camera-ing sewer lines. The camera-ing is to check for both root intrusion and pipe breakage.

Though again, I realize your Board is listening to none of this.

Wait until a half-inch of raw sewage backs up into a unit and destroys flooring. Then some owner will understandably want the condo assoc to do it's friggin' job, and things will get interesting legally.

The $3500 sounds like a good start to a few years of discord on this issue.
AugustinD


Posts:4160


10/13/2020 7:03 AM  
Posted By AugustinD on 10/13/2020 7:01 AM
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/13/2020 12:04 AMOther condos in my area have said what your contractor said. But these condos have not had sewer line backups into individual units and owners who checked with an attorney on the point, with said owners' attorney writing demand letters.
Clarification: I mean other condo associations have said what Jennifer's condo association's contractor said.
JenniferG11
(Texas)

Posts:662


10/13/2020 9:32 AM  
Posted By AugustinD on 10/13/2020 7:01 AM
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/13/2020 12:04 AM
It's an old Oak tee, I tend to doubt they'd remove it. I forgot to ask what, if anything, they will do to mitigate further root damage. Surely something can be done other than removing a grand old oak tree, here way before we were?
If the problem the roots are causing is sewer line backups, then your HOA/condo can arrange for the sewer lines to be cleaned out every few months or so. Though of course, if the Board is really stupid they will say something like, "the unit owner owns the sewer lines up to x point. The Association will only clean up to x point."
Posted By JenniferG11 on 10/13/2020 12:04 AM
our contractor said in times past this sort of thing is on the owner, per the HOA. I disagree, but that is what they have been telling people, apparently, when others have made similar requests. [snippage]
This was a $3500 problem.
Other condos in my area have said what your contractor said. But these condos have not had sewer line backups into individual units and owners who checked with an attorney on the point, with said owners' attorney writing demand letters.

Given the age of the tree, I believe your board should start at least an annual program of cleaning out and camera-ing sewer lines. The camera-ing is to check for both root intrusion and pipe breakage.

Though again, I realize your Board is listening to none of this.

Wait until a half-inch of raw sewage backs up into a unit and destroys flooring. Then some owner will understandably want the condo assoc to do it's friggin' job, and things will get interesting legally.

The $3500 sounds like a good start to a few years of discord on this issue.



Luckily, this wasn't a sewer line. !

It was a pipe that feeds her washer or drains water from it. Something caused the washer to flood.
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