Tree Cutting Permits – All You Need To Know

Trees are lovely, they clean up the air and beautify your surroundings at the same time. However, for one reason or the other, you may want to cut them down.

You may ask yourself – Do you need a permit to cut down a tree? Yes.

Do You Need A Permit To Cut Down A Tree?

The answer to this is YES! You need to put in a tree removal application.

Although this depends on a range of situations. Different cities have different laws and guidelines regarding tree cutting.

The size of the tree you plan to cut would also play a role in determining whether you need a permit or not.

Most cities have Tree Preservation Ordinances with clearly detailed guidelines regarding tree cutting and trimming.

This is to control the number of trees cut down daily.

Can I Cut Down A Tree On My Property Without Permission?

In most cities, cutting down trees without first obtaining permission from the relevant authority is illegal.

Municipalities have dedicated hotlines so that homeowners can reach out to them if they find their neighbors cutting down trees without permits.

Penalties For Cutting Down Trees Without Permission

Trees that are subject to a Tree Preservation Order, or are over 5 cubic meters, or are in a conservation area, cannot be cut down without relevant approval.

Those found guilty may pay fines as high as $20,000. More serious offenses can result in court trials and an unlimited fine may be charged.

In some cities, it doesn’t stop paying fines. An offender could be served a notice instructing him or her to replace the felled tree.

To work out the amount an offender has to pay as a fine, the court considers the financial benefits that have accrued, or will later accrue due to the offense.

When Is Cutting Down A Tree Permitted?

You are permitted to cut down a tree when you’ve obtained a permit to do so.

In other instances, you can cut down a tree if the tree is dead or poses a threat to the people in its immediate surroundings. Although this has to be outlined in your city’s ordinance that you can remove without a permit.

Your city’s ordinance on tree removal will indicate specially regulated trees.

These include –

  • Significant Tree – This is if they are above a certain height or are special specimens
  • Heritage Tree – These are trees believed to have reached a significant age

Keep in mind that applying for a permit doesn’t guarantee that you will be granted permission to remove any of these trees.

How Do I Apply For A Tree Removal Permit?

With your phone or computer, you can do a quick internet search on how to obtain a tree removal permit in (your city).

The search result should provide you with a PDF form that you can download and fill out, then submit and start the process.

Do I Need A Permit To Cut Down A Hazardous Tree?

The thing is, obtaining a permit could take weeks. So you should cut down the tree immediately you notice the danger it poses.

However, you will be required to document the issue with the tree and it has to be verified by a certified arborist.

An example of a tree that can be classified as “hazardous” is a leaning tree that may have been struck by lightning.

If such trees aren’t quickly dealt with, they could fall and damage your house.

Also, it would be a great idea to take pictures of a hazardous tree before you cut it down. The pictures would serve as evidence.

Do I Need A Tree Removal Permit For Dead Trees?

In most cases, you don’t. All you need to do is to find an arborist around your area to handle the removal.

The expert will first find out if the tree is indeed dead.

Do I Need A Permit For Tree Trimming?

As long as the tree is not on the street, is on your property, and the tree is not significant or heritage, then no, you don’t need a permit to trim your tree. Not taking more than 25% of the tree’s foliage is also a factor.

Depending on your city of residence, other rules come to play.

These include –

To get more detailed information, you can consult with your city’s Tree Ordinance, just to be sure of what you can and can’t do.

Generally, you will not require a permit for this.

Will The City Cut Down A Tree On My Property?

If the tree is deemed to be a hazardous tree then the city will have it cut down.

In many cases, the city will bear the cost of taking the tree down, but that is if you notify them early enough of the danger the tree poses.

If the authorities find out about a hazardous tree on your property before you inform them, you may be forced to pay for the removal.

This all depends on your city of residence and the Tree Ordinance guides.

Why Are Trees On My Property Protected?

The trees are indeed on your land, but they are still considered to be the property of the community.

Trees have several advantages to the people, not just you. They help clean out the air, they provide coolness during the summer, they prevent erosion, and they serve as homes for birds.

For the sake of enjoying these numerous benefits, the authorities have taken it upon themselves to protect the trees within their jurisdiction.

Without the need for permits, we can all agree that the environment would suffer, since trees will be cut for both the right and wrong reasons.

Can I Trim A Tree On The Street?

You may have a tree close to your house and you may feel obligated to trim it. Doing that would be an offense since all trees found on public land are strictly out of bounds.

The only trees you are allowed to prune are the ones planted on your private property.

If you notice any tree around your neighborhood that requires pruning, simply inform your local arborist. They are in the best position to handle the matter.

Can I Trim Trees Around Utility Lines Without A Permit?

In most cases, you are not required to have a permit to do this, as it is a routine maintenance thing. It is also in the interest of the general public.

Be advised to use a certified arborist when you do.

Can I Have My Tree Cut Down For Free?

Understandably, you’d be worried about the potential cost you’d have to bear to cut down your tree.

Free tree removal isn’t common, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

If you want to have your tree removed, and you don’t want to incur the cost, then consider these options –

  1. Tree Removal Grants

In cases where local businesses may be negatively affected, the city council can offer to remove the tree for free.

For instance, a fruit tree that harbors pests can be problematic for other fruit trees around. They could infest the healthy trees with pests and this will reduce local fruit production.

Such a tree can be removed for free by the city council or other organizations. They can also provide grants that will be used for the same purpose.

Generally, tree removal grants are awarded in cases with problem trees.

  1. Pensioners

If you’re on a government pension, then you may benefit from certain service privileges, free tree removal inclusive.

To be sure of the privileges you’re entitled to, be sure to visit the government body responsible for pensions.

Your local council office is a great place to start.

Another person you need to talk to is your local arborist. Why not? Since they are tree removal experts and could benefit from such privileges.

They would most likely have some useful information for you.

  1. Your Insurance Company

Are you surprised, don’t be? Your insurance company may be in a position to pay for your tree removal. Ask me how!

It’s pretty simple – If your house is insured, and the tree has caused some damage to your property or keeps being a threat to it, then you can claim the cost of its removal as part of the insurance claim for the damage.

Also, in a case where the tree falls and blocks access routes to your home, you can have it removed for free by your insurance company.

Be sure to study the details covering your policy and ask customer support what your options are regarding the matter.

You could also visit the FAQ section of your insurance company’s website to get the info you need.

Please remember, if the tree poses no threat to your building and you just want it removed, then the cost of doing so will fall solely on you. Your insurance doesn’t cover trees that aren’t threats or obstacles to your building.


I hope this article has been able to answer the question – do you need a permit to cut down a tree?

Also, the penalties for cutting down trees without permission vary from state to state and city to city.

I’m glad to be of help.

Take care!

Leave a Comment