Ocoee homeowner's association may chop down trees over liability

HOA says tree roots are damaging sidewalks, causing injuries


OCOEE, Fla. – Homeowners are up in arms after an Orange County homeowner's association said it may to cut down hundreds of trees lining the neighborhood's streets.

The HOA said the tree roots are damaging sidewalks and causing injuries at Westyn Bay, a gated subdivision in Ocoee. Since it's a gated community, the HOA is responsible for maintaining the sidewalks and not the city, meaning if someone trips and gets hurt, the HOA can face lawsuits.

"People trip and fall, they sue the association," said HOA attorney James Gustino.

Nearly 455 trees located between the streets and the sidewalks may be cut down because the roots are causes the sidewalks to pop up. Gustino said at least one person has already been hurt on the damaged sidewalks.

The HOA board spent more than $5,000 smoothing over the bumps and replacing entire sections of payment, an expense they say they believe will only grow.

Gustino said such large trees should have never been planted in small spaces.

"This is going to be a problem that is going to penetrate virtually every community that's been developed within the past 15 years in Central Florida," Gustino said.

Some homeowners tell Local 6 the HOA's plan to save money will hurt their property value.

"The reason we moved into Westyn Bay was because of the trees," said Myra Couzo, who has lived in the community for nearly 10 years. "I think they're important for shade, they're important for the birds, they're important to our earth."

If a homeowner wants to keep a tree on the parkway outside of their house, the HOA says they can, but the homeowner would responsible for maintaining the sidewalk if it breaks.

The homeowner would also be responsible for paying the liability insurance in case someone gets hurt.