City could bill woman for neighbor's tree trouble

Created: 08/07/2014 9:52 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A northwest Albuquerque woman learned a hard lesson on home ownership.  The city wants her, in part, to fix damage caused by her neighbor's large tree that's overgrown its yard.

"And if I don't pay the bill, then they'll put a lien on my home," Jo Ann Torrez said.

The tree's roots have buckled the sidewalk in front of her home and her neighbor's home.

Torrez said she initiated contact with the city fearing the roots would damage underground utility lines.

Indeed, the city helped her address those concerns, but she said she was astounded when she received a certified letter in the mail holding her partly responsible for the tree.

"I was not a happy camper, I called the city immediately and I really-- I went over the top, I did, I was really mad," Torrez said.  She explained "that it wasn't my responsibility because the tree's not on my property."

Unless her neighbor agreed to fix the problems himself, she learned the city would hire an on-call contractor who could charge her as much as $2,000.

Wilfred Gallegos, the acting deputy director of Albuquerque's Municipal Development Department, said city code requires his staff to not blur property lines.  He said if a problem on one property extends into another property, staff holds both property owners accountable.

"Certainly, we do empathize with people in these kinds of situations, I mean it's not fun for anyone in the city to do it, but the ordinance is specific, it is in there," Gallegos said.

Torrez initially said her neighbor didn't appear willing to make the repairs.  But in a conversation with KOB on Thursday, the neighbor said he was in the process of hiring a concrete contractor and tree removal company.  He said he would "be a good neighbor" and take care of the damage in front of Torrez's home.

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