TAMPA, Fla. — During hurricanes, tropical storms and even severe thunderstorms, trees come down around Tampa Bay. They fall on homes, cars and cause massive amounts of damage.
Right now, tree service companies say they are flooded with calls from those who waited until the 11th hour to take care of potentially dangerous trees.
New mom Lauren Seaman is glad she didn’t wait. She booked a month ago to have a tree service remove two big trees that a licensed arborist says present danger.
One tree is right next to her 1-year-old daughter’s bedroom.
“We of course just didn’t know that there was a storm coming," Seaman said. "It’s awesome because the window around the corner is actually her room and so this branch overhangs the master bedroom and her bedroom so you know just in case you know it is a concrete block house but it’s an awesome peace of mind knowing that they’re going to be gone."
Not everyone planned to have their trees taken care of before hurricane season.
Jonathan Lee is a licensed and I.S.A. certified arborist with Miller & Sons Tree Service. He says his company is already slammed with jobs already slated to be finished.
A new state law gives tree service companies and homeowners flexibility.
H.B. 1159 took effect July 1, 2019. It doesn’t require property owners to get prior permits or approval to remove, replant, prune or trim trees if it’s determined to be dangerous by a licensed arborist.
The City of Tampa, known for its strict tree ordinances, has said it wants documented proof first or it could cite property owners who remove trees.
Lee says if a tree is deemed dangerous by a licensed arborist and the homeowner agrees that the risk is too great, it needs to come down. He never notifies the city but always provides proper documentation to homeowners.
“If everybody removes a tree that theoretically could fall and hit their house, we wouldn't have a lot of trees. So, that's not what we're trying to encourage here. What we're trying to encourage is that we have to acknowledge the risks that trees pose, and we have to acknowledge that people have rights as property owners,” Lee said.
10Investigates asked if the city will give a pass to homeowners scrambling to get rid of dangerous trees. Can they do that without first showing documentation from a licensed arborist?
A city spokesperson says yes, but they still want proof the tree was indeed considered to be a danger by the correct professional.
“Fla. Stat. §163.045 prohibits the City from requiring notice or an application to prune, trim or remove a tree utilizing the statutory exception. However, in order for the City to determine whether the tree removal qualifies under the statutory exception (to avoid issuance of a code citation), the property owner can provide the City the documentation required under the statute whenever reasonably possible to do so (i.e., after the storm)” the City of Tampa said.
Lee says homeowners need to realize that right now is too late to try and get a reputable arborist or to remove a tree.
“We’re at the 11th hour. You’re really not going to get anything done of value to protect yourself between now and the time that this storm comes and hits, but there’s going to be more storms. So, this isn’t just take your eye off your tree because you got away with this one. Keep this in mind for the next time that we’re not so lucky and we get a direct impact,” said Lee.
The Better Business Bureau says there are things to keep in mind when hiring a tree service company.
Check the company’s track record. You can check the business profile at bbb.org. You should also check to see if they’re a member of professional organizations such as The International Society of Arboriculture, American Society of Consulting Arborists or Tree Care Industry Association.
Get quotes from several companies. The BBB recommends getting at least three quotes in writing, comparing those based on the same specifications and make sure they have the proper equipment to perform the job quoted.
Ask for references. You want to speak with customers from the company’s last three jobs and hear their experiences.
You’ll find more advice and red flags about tree service companies by clicking here.
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