Outside the back door of my house, five steps descend from an eight square foot wooden deck. At the bottom of the stairs, a walkway connects to a paved parking pad for two cars. This is the route my wife and I walk many times each day on our way to and from the grocery store, post office, drugstore, bank, hairdresser, doctor, all the destinations of commercial and social life. Except when it is covered with sweetgum balls. If we try to walk on them, they might as well be ballbearings. As we get older and less sure-footed, this nuisance becomes an increasingly serious threat to our safety and health.
The sweetgum balls fall on my back porch, steps, walkway, parking area, rain gutters, and the roof of my house, even though the tree itself is not on my property, only the overhanging limbs. I found some legal advice on the internet:
“Your laws are probably local or possibly state laws. I once heard that a property owner had the right to trim a neighbor’s tree back to the property line but could not go on the neighbor's property to do it without permission. You might check with your town. Also, if it comes to it, I wouldn't be surprised to see that the owner of the property, once you notified them of the nuisance, could have some liability if something were to happen….”
The neighboring house with the sweetgum tree has been unoccupied for a couple of years, following a divorce and foreclosure. I searched the DeKalb County Property Records on the internet, but this information has not been updated since the former owner. I joined the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority on-line, paying $11.99 by credit card. This entitled me to view a more detailed search of county records. The most recent entry was a deed to secure debt dated 3/17/11, listing the National City Bank of Indiana as the Grantee and my previous neighbors as the Grantors. That makes the National City Bank of Indiana the current owner of the sweetgum balls all over my walkway, steps, and porch.
I started trying to find the National City Bank of
. Apparently I was not alone. The internet is full of complaints of unsuccessful attempts to contact them. An article in the Wall Street Journal reported the National City Bank of Indiana Indiana and its 29 branches in northwest Indiana had been purchased by PNC Bank of I thought maybe I was getting somewhere. PNC Bank has a website www.pnc.com that gives a local address 5775 Glenridge Dr NE, Atlanta, GA, 30328. Excited about discussing sweetgum balls, I drove to this address, an office park, where the management told me PNC has moved and left no forwarding address. However, they think there may be a PNC branch bank on Pittsburgh, Pa. Roswell Rd, near I-285. I actually found the PNC Bank branch. I waited my turn. When I described my sweetgum balls, the permanent smile on the face of the customer service representative froze. However the CSR announced like a recording, due to privacy regulations we are unable to discuss customer accounts. The CSR further took the opportunity to blame everything on Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd. I started over again and tried to clarify that I needed to talk to the current owner of the foreclosed house, the PNC Bank. The CSR was only a recording loop.
If I had $1,000 I would just go ahead and have the sweetgum tree cut down myself, as another neighbor suggests to me, and I think nobody would ever be the wiser. “If anybody ever asks, tell them the previous owner did it while he still lived there.” However, I do not have the $1,000. Additionally, I think the bank would be alert to their liability if they failed to abate the nuisance after I had notified them. I just do not have any way to notify them. Maybe that is just exactly how they like it. Occasionally, someone comes by and does yard work at the vacant house with the sweekgum tree. The grass is growing taller, and I am on the lookout for the PNC lawn service.