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Trees, Waste, Fees, Fees

What Happened

Mr. C had an elm tree that was pushing up against his neighbour’s garage, causing some damage. The neighbour called Municipal Licensing & Standards (MLS), whose inspector decided there was no imminent danger. The neighbour then approached Urban Forestry, whose arborist gave the neighbour a permit to remove the tree, with Mr. C’s consent or a court order. Mr. C did not consent and the neighbour continued to ask MLS to re-investigate. MLS subsequently issued an order about a second tree. From the description in the order, Mr. C did not know whether he had to remove the tree or just prune it. Meanwhile, the neighbour also complained about waste left outside the house, and the inspection fees were beginning to pile up for Mr. C — more than $800. One day, a crew cut through the fence and hedge into Mr. C’s backyard and removed the first elm tree. They refused to identify themselves and showed Mr. C a copy of the permit to remove a tree. Mr. C called our office, complained about their actions, and said that the MLS inspector was harassing him and told him to “pay the order or else.”

What We Did

We called a senior MLS manager. Much information was missing from the file and photograph labels lacked detail — critical in a case involving more than one tree and several inspections. The inspector had not contacted Mr. C, even though Mr. and Mrs. C, being in their 80s, were almost always home. Some inspection dates were too close together, suggesting over-enthusiastic enforcement. MLS had no involvement with the tree removal. The MLS manager took the complaint seriously. He discussed the errors with the inspector and reviewed with the entire team the need for good communication, clear orders and notices, and proper file management.

The Result

The MLS manager visited Mr. and Mrs. C at their home to explain and apologize. He looked at the remaining tree and explained exactly what Mr. C had to do. He also promised to review the fees and reverse some or all of them. Mr. C was very pleased someone finally listened.