Better Call Behnken: Tree roots on foreclosed property clogging plumbing in neighbor’s home

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Roberta Palumbo used to love the mature oak tree in her neighbor’s back yard in Clearwater. But not anymore.

“It’s actually lifting up my house, as we speak,” Palumbo said.

The massive tree has massive roots, and those roots traveled underground to Palumbo’s house. Video, taken by a plumber, shows how the roots grew up through Palumbo’s bathroom pipes. When the toilet was removed, roots shot up from the base.

The toilet, sink and bathtub were all clogged with tree roots.

“The tub has to come out, the plumber said, the sink has to come out because it might all be in the pipes,” Palumbo said.

And it’s not just the bathroom. There are cracks in other walls, and experts tell Palumbo that just fixing the bathroom could cost $15,000

Outside, there are more cracks, and she hired a company to sever the tree roots at her property line. But that fix is temporary.

“If I do get it fixed on the inside, the problem is, it’s still  here, and the roots are going to re-grow. the arborist said this root cutting will only last four years,” Palumbo said.

Her insurance company is paying for part of the amount to fix her bathroom, but it’s not nearly enough. Plus, the insurance company won’t pay for any of the repairs needed outside. She plans to move sewage lines, to get away from the tree.

The home is in foreclosure limbo after her neighbor passed away last year. She can’t do anything with the tree because it is on the neighbor’s property. 8 On Your Side sent photos and video of the tree roots to the Bank Of New York. Officials there are reviewing the case. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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