Q: We bought our house in 2004. It’s 30 years old and there has always been an empty lot bordering our lot on the north.

A gentleman from Europe also bought that lot in 2004, but due to hurricanes, no construction began until 2007. On our side of the property line (but with a root system extending north) there was been an ancient sea grape tree (which is environmentally protected at the beach). The builder bulldozed this tree when clearing their lot.

I’m not upset with owners as they are out of country. I’m very distressed that ancient tree was destroyed, and that the builder had to trespass on my lot to do it.

What are my options for restitution? Do I have to sue the owners, I hold the builder responsible?

A: You should talk to the local municipality’s building department about what happened. Show them photos and ask them if they want to take action against the builder for tearing down a protected tree.

If the local municipalities decline to press charges, you should contact the owner and explain what happened. The owner may simply offer you a cash settlement. If not, then you can consult with an attorney and decide whether to pursue the owner and/or the builder in court.