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Indiana Property Owners Have New Rights

Indiana Property Owners Have New Rights

Postby Happy Mom » Sat Jul 23, 2011 8:18 pm

Guideline gives Indiana property owners new rights
Tree trimmers must first obtain permission from homeowners.


12:16 p.m. EDT, July 23, 2011

If you own a home and live in Indiana, you now have new rights when it comes to protecting your trees from power companies.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission recently issued an order saying utilities can't just enter onto private property and trim trees unless they have your permission. It means that while power companies need to be able to limit service interruptions, property owners have rights, too.

The trees that sit along Bryan Cline's property line in South Bend didn't grow lopsided.

"They bring the bucket here occasionally; I have seen the bucket here twice," Cline said of his power company. "And you can just see, the trees lack symmetry ... from the back it looks ridiculous."

The trees were trimmed by the power company, and Cline believes it did a bad job. But the trees were getting too close to the power lines, making it more likely for power to be lost in a damaging storm.

"I'd say the utilities probably have precedence," Cline said. "They are not going to reroute their power lines just because someone wants to keep their crab apple tree."

But not everyone feels that way, and even Cline has his limits.

"If they started taking the tops off, I would have a problem with that," Cline admitted.

That's why the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission recently issued an order requiring utility companies to get permission from property owners before trimming trees.

"We want to make sure this process is a collaborative effort," said Danielle McGrath, IURC spokeswoman.

The 111-page order requires a utility to notify the property owner no later than two weeks before the tree is trimmed.

"The utilities are prohibited from topping trees or removing more than 25 percent without the customer's consent," McGrath noted. "If an agreement can't be reached, the utility has to offer an alternative, and that would be handled on a case-by-case basis."

Meanwhile, some power companies already have started following the new guidelines.

"Oh, yeah, they came and sent a general notice around," said South Bend homeowner Richard Holloway. "You could object to it if you wanted to."

Holloway's big pine was trimmed last year. And while it may look different now, he said, it's better than the alternative.

"They took a little bit more off than I wanted them to. But still, it is better than having your power lines broken," Holloway said.

McGrath said that most importantly, the utility and the property owner need to work together to determine the best option. If property owners still say no, there will be a resolution process. That process is still being worked out by the commission and will be on a case-by-case basis.

According to a spokesman for Indiana Michigan Power, "When situations arise where the customer is concerned about trimming, I&M does everything possible to help the customer understand the need to trim or remove trees."

An agreement between the customer and property owner exists that, under condition of service, "we are permitted to access and operate our facilities (lines, poles, transformers, etc.)," the spokesman continued. "There may be gray areas at times with this kind of agreement, so when it comes to tree conflicts, we exercise that agreement through negotiations with the customer. With the majority of these situations, the customer recognizes the need and agrees to the necessary work."

Should there be a disagreement, the utility noted, I&M will further negotiate, and try to help the customer understand why the work needs done. If that negotiation fails then the situation may go to litigation, at which time a judge would rule on whether or not the work is legitimate. ... 2511.story
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Happy Mom
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Re: Indiana Property Owners Have New Rights

Postby South Bender » Sat Jul 23, 2011 9:56 pm

that's why they have these things called "easements". If there is not a legal easement, the utility companies cannot legally enter private property to begin with and need to gain permission from the land owner or else it is at the very least trespassing.
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