How Buying a House on the Wrong Side of the Street Cost Me $5500

Already I have an update on our adventure in homeownership, and it’s only getting worse. The problem: the City of Los Angeles is broke and always has been. They can’t afford to maintain the things they’re responsible for, and now it’s costing me $5500. Sadly, if I’d bought a house across the street, I wouldn’t have this problem.

City Trees = Homeowner Headaches
When we bought our house, we didn’t notice that the tree maintenance on our street was lopsided. The city planted trees on the parkway between the street and the sidewalk. Those trees are owned by the city, not us.  The houses on the side of the street with overhead power lines have one-story trees. The houses on our side of the street have three-story trees. It’s the city’s policy to trim the trees near power lines regularly, and trim the other trees once every 7 years. Except they don’t even have the budget to do that anymore, so who knows when the trees will get trimmed.

This causes several problems:

1. Dropped limbs sometimes result in homeowner lawsuits. We have a lot of apartment dwellers parking on our street. A limb fell from an untrimmed city tree and hit one of their cars. They waited too long to sue the city, so instead they sued the homeowner. The homeowner isn’t responsible, but still had to get a lawyer to defend the lawsuit.

2. Untrimmed trees can damage our homes. I live in fear that a strong wind will break off a huge limb and send it crashing into my house. Sure, I could sue the city at that point, but it will take a while to get paid.

3. The trees drop leaves all fall and clutter the sidewalk with droppings in spring. Whose responsibility is it to clean that up? Ours.

4. The trees destroyed the sidewalk. Unmaintained trees break sidewalks. The city has a program where they’ll pay half the cost to fix the sidewalk if we pay the other half, but why should we pay $1300 to fix one small portion of our street when it’s the city’s fault in the first place?

5. The trees destroy the sewer pipes. And that brings me to our story.

Trees vs. Sewer Pipes = Huge Costs
Trees spread as far underground as they do above ground. So, the roots find their way into the sewer lines. The city has determined that homeowners are responsible for the sewer lines, even if they’re on city property (under the sidewalk and street).

Our story went like this:

We knew we had roots in the pipes so we called a plumber to roto them.

The plumber discovered that the pipe from our house is partially collapsed from the roots. So, that was $1775.

They dug a big hole in the yard and discovered that the house line and the city sewer line had been sealed together with concrete.

They then discovered that the sewer line is split in more places and could collapse beneath the street at any time. The problem? The city tree is planted right next to the sewer line and is crushing it.

We have to line the sewer pipe under the street, at a cost of $3720. The upside is that the liner will prevent crushing and future root intrusions. And it will have a 20-year-warranty, so if there is a problem, someone else has to pay for it.

We considered just taking the tree down, but the city requires us to prove repeated repairs before it will permit us to cut down trees they refuse to maintain. They’re considering making us maintain the trees at our cost, but we still wouldn’t be able to cut them down! I’d rather cut it down and plant a new tree in a better location, but it’s not my land.

The Moral of the Story
If you’re looking for a home, inspect the tree heights of the street where it’s located. If the trees on one side are significantly taller than the rest (on average), you may live in a city that doesn’t adequately maintain the trees. Save yourself a headache by buying on the side where the trees are maintained.

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