Surrey resident Debora Ferrero says the City of Surrey won’t accept responsibility after a “huge” fir tree that was on city property fell and smashed her 88-year-old mom’s heritage house in Whalley late Monday afternoon.
The three-storey brown and white house at 10024 Whalley Blvd. is rented to tenants, who were not injured. It took out part of the chimney, and some power lines. “That saved it from going through the house. It landed on top of the roof, it’s damaged the side of the house, it’s damaged the chimney.”
Ferrero says the tree was on the corner near the front of the property, on city land. She said the tenants called late Monday afternoon to tell her what happened. They’d been standing in the living room when the tree fell.
“They just freaked. They thought it was going to come through the house,” she said.
Ferrero said she called the City of Surrey’s engineering department, an employee came out, had a look and told her the city doesn’t “touch anything” on private property and that she’d have to deal with the aftermath through her insurance carrier.
“I said I don’t think so,” Ferrero told the Now-Leader. “It just blew me away because all the guys in BC Hydro are going, ‘Are you kidding?’”
“So they admitted it, it’s their’s. We saw it on COSMOS, where the property line is, it’s their’s.”
(COSMOS is the City of Surrey’s online geographic information system, through which residents can access information about any property in the city).
She said her mom won’t be tapping into her house insurance to deal with the ordeal because it will raise her premiums. “They’re going to raise the rates for something the city is responsible for,” Ferrero said. “She’s very upset.”
“I don’t think my mom should be responsible to be claiming it, I don’t think she’s responsible to be paying for it.”
Ferrero said her sister got someone to come chop up the tree. “It’s costing us $4,700 to remove that tree that belongs to the city, and the city worker told me they don’t come on private property. If it was fallen across the road then they would have to but they don’t come on your property, and I said, ‘It’s your tree…”
“I’m like, it’s your tree and it’s not your problem? I can’t cut a tree, I’m not allowed to touch it, but your tree falls on my property, now if it had been a neighbour’s tree falling then the neighbour’s responsible, so why isn’t the city?”
She said the house originally belonged to her grandparents, who were “pioneers.”
“That house had been moved from where King George Highway sits, that used to be all their land and then all those small houses behind the street that their house sits on now used to be my grandfather’s property and then he sold the property in behind there and he put a road in so that people had access to all those small homes there,” Ferrero said. The house, she said, is “probably over 100 years old.”
On Wednesday, she said, a representative from the City of Surrey’s risk management office instructed her to fill out a claim, pay for the repairs , and then the city will have somebody investigate.
“I’m like what do you need to investigate? Your tree fell on my house,” Ferrero said. “They’re just doing a big circle around it. She said to me after, ‘Well, there’s no guarantee that your claim will be accepted.’”
“She said I have 80 submissions so I don’t know when I’ll get to yours.”
On Thursday, Amber Stowe, communications and media relations lead for the City of Surrey, issued a response on behalf of the city’s engineering department.
“At this time, the City is unable to comment, as the matter is under investigation,” the statement reads. “Insurance is there to deal with losses to policyholders covered under the policy. If an insurer believes another party is responsible for the loss, they will seek damages against that party on behalf of their policyholder.”