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Proper maintenance of trees helps utility company workers

April 1, 2011

Q: Bob, this is not a question about (real estate - houses) but I would like it acknowledged. Thanks for your insights on hiding utility poles. I find your columns practical and generally enjoyable reading.

As I am a full-time technician for a local telephone company, the subject was amusing. Part of the fulfillment of our job comes from working in people's yards and among their trees and gardens.

Proper placement and maintenance of trees near utility poles can mean the difference between enjoyable surroundings or annoying, dangerous obstacles. The poles are not, unfortunately, put in place to set and forget. They are implements of our jobs, and we need to ascend them daily. We must be able to see the steps. Even more critical are the poles without steps, for these require the use of foot-hooks and intimate contact with the wood all the way up and down.

We often find trees growing nearby, even into the utility easement (the 5-foot space allowed for walking around the pole). Of course, some trees planted 20 feet away will, with time, spread limbs in all directions.

This is normal and may need pruning.

The problem trees are those so close to the pole that they block the climbing space. Such situations usually result in the following.

We do minor pruning on the spot, which may or may not please the owner, or we stop the job until the owner can arrange proper pruning, telling the neighbor his telephone service cannot be installed or repaired until then.

In extreme cases, the utility company may invoke its easement rights and have the tree removed. This can get ugly, literally and figuratively.

Thanks for mentioning that vines growing on a pole do get in our way and will usually be torn down. Hopefully your readers who plan ahead will be able to enhance our ugly poles while still leaving work space. In such arrangements, utility workers will hardly need to come in contact with the trees, leaving all pruning decisions to the owner.

Thanks again

- G.G.

A: You are right it isn't, I hope my readers understand.

Q: Our homeowner association is not operating according to the governing documents. No budget was distributed this year, and the board has not held a meeting for more than six months. Money is spent without board authorization, and then we are given the excuse that the expenditure was an emergency.

Our association is managed by a management company. Does the manager or the management company have any liability if the manager allows the association board to operate without concern for the law and the association's documents? Are the management companies regulated by the state?

A: A professional manager should be very concerned about a board that is not operating properly. Technically, the manager takes his or her direction from the board; however, the manager often educates and takes the responsibility to convince the board members that they must operate the association in compliance with legal requirements, including the association's governing documents, state and federal laws.

In my opinion, a manager has a duty to protect the association and its board from liability. The association's management fees are being wasted if the manager does not provide the guidance and stability that the association needs.

Property management companies are regulated by the state if they manage apartment complexes and other forms of commercial property. Community association management companies must follow certain procedures when handling the association's funds, but penalties are nonexistent or ineffective.

Managers who voluntarily belong to the Florida Association of Community Managers agree to abide to certain standards of care and a code of ethics. These standards that managers will comply with association documents and state law in providing management services to their association clients.

The self-regulatory organization provides statewide education for managers so they can learn about the state laws that govern the community association industry.

I suggest you write to the board and management company, telling them that their actions are putting the association's property values at risk. Mortgage lenders examine the association's financial records and often require copies of board meeting minutes in screening and qualifying a unit for financing.

As usual, consult your attorney.


Have a real estate question? Write, call, fax or e-mail:

Bob Jeffries, Realtor,

Century 21 Birchwood Realty, Inc.

4040 Del Prado Blvd., Cape Coral, FL

239-549-5724 Office

239-542-7760 Fax



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