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Can I remove a tree on private property?

If there is a tree on your property, do you really need anyone’s permission to remove it? Well, it turns out that as a property owner, you don’t have absolute freedom as far as tree removal is concerned.

Generally, it will depend on the local laws in your state or city, but generally for larger trees you will need a permit before removal. There are a few exemptions that seem to apply almost universally.

  • You can remove a tree on private property without a permit if;
  • It is dead
  • Already fallen over
  • Is an invasive species to the region
  • Is not considered a “significant” tree. (this is based trunk diameter and varies from state to state)
  • Poses an immediate danger to persons or property
  • Is within 10 feet of your homes foundations.

You will need to check the local tree ordinance here first to make sure, or you can just contact a local friendly tree service who will be up to ate on all the local laws and can advise you.

Here is everything you need to know.

Can you remove a tree on private property without a permit?

Whether you can remove a tree from your property without a permit largely depends on the following factors.

The type of tree

Some tree species are considered native to an area. Others are considered to be invasive.

Generally, native trees are usually protected. As a result, they can’t be removed, even from private property, without a permit.

However, one can remove any trees that are categorized as being invasive without having to ask for permission from the local authority in your area.

Tree height

Generally, you will need to apply for a permit if the tree in question is considered to be of a significant height. This is because such trees tend to play a more significant role in the environment, and hence their removal is controlled in order to reduce the potential environmental damage from such removal.

Tree health

If the tree in question is diseased, and if it poses a risk of spreading the disease to nearby trees, then you can remove it without necessarily having to seek permission from the local city.

But if it is a healthy tree, chances are that you will need a permit before removing it.


Generally, you don’t need to apply for a permit before removing hazardous trees. This includes the following types of trees.

  • Trees that are poisonous.
  • Trees that have developed a significant and dangerous lean,
  • Trees that have a significant number of dead or dying limbs

If the tree creates an imminent danger or risk, then you don’t need a permit before removing it. This is in spite of whether it is a significant or protected tree.

A tree is considered to pose an imminent risk if it fulfills any of the following circumstances.

  • It has suffered significant damage from a storm
  • It has a split trunk or split branches
  • It is showing advanced signs of root decay and loss of structural stability
  • The soil around it is showing visible and significant signs of heaving and cracking

However, in most jurisdictions, just because you are allowed to remove the tree without seeking a permit first does not mean that you don’t have any obligations if a tree falls under the imminent danger category.

You typically have to provide:

  • evidence, whether videos or photos, of the tree’s condition, clearly depicting the risk it posed
  • proof that an arborist inspected the tree and determined that it was an immediate risk
  • A statement describing the state of the tree and why it had to be removed
  • A statement affirming that the actions that you took or are about to take, were necessary and that they were not excessive given the circumstances.

Distance from a home

The distance from a home is something that also plays a role in determining whether a tree can be removed without a permit or not.

Generally, you can remove the tree if it is within 3 meters of your home’s foundation. This is so especially if it creates a fire hazard or any other kind of danger to you or your property.

Can you remove trees without a permit?

Yes, you can remove a tree without a permit.

In general, you can do so under the following circumstances.

  • The tree has been damaged by a storm to such an extent that it poses an imminent falling risk
  • The tree has been riddled with pests or diseases and they pose a danger to other trees nearby
  • The tree is fallen or uprooted
  • The tree is already dead
  • The tree poses a serious risk to your home’s foundation and is also within less than 10 feet of foundations
  • If it is a palm tree

What do you need in order to get a tree removal permit?

While the specific requirements for a permit may vary from city to city, in general, you will need the following in order to successfully apply for a tree removal permit.

  • A cover letter detailing the reasons why tree removal is necessary
  • A completed tree removal application form. In most cases, these forms are available on official local authority websites. Physical copies are also often available in their offices.
  • The application fee for the permit
  • A site plan detailing the tree’s location and distance relative to other areas or structures in your home

Which trees are you not allowed to remove without a permit?

As a general rule, you will need a permit before you can remove a tree even if it is on your property. This is especially so when it comes to trees that fall in either one of these categories.

Trees with historical significance

Most areas have trees that hold historical significance. These trees are often protected by the law against removal. As a result, any attempt to interfere with their existence often attracts huge fines and penalties simply because they are deemed to be significant to the community.

Therefore, if you have an old tree on your property, it is a good idea to find out whether it is considered to have any historical significance before attempting to remove it.

Boundary line trees

If your property shares a boundary with land that belongs to the city or any public entity, you will need a permit before you can remove it. This is because the law often holds that boundary trees are owned jointly by the neighbors.

And so since the tree is partly owned by the public, you will need the city’s approval before you can tamper with it.

Native trees

Trees that are native to an area are usually protected by various vegetation management laws and programs.

These laws and policies require that native trees be protected against indiscriminate removal. Oftentimes, they require a homeowner to get a permit before he or she can be allowed to remove the tree.

Trees resulting from government programs

Local or national governments often establish tree planting programs. This is usually in a bid to revegetate parts of the country. Such trees are often protected by various laws and regulations.

Consequently, any tree that is established as a consequence of a subsidy, grant, or government program cannot be removed without a permit.

Endangered tree species

Most trees that are endangered enjoy an incredible degree of protection under the law. These are trees that belong to species that are under a severe threat of going extinct. Therefore, if such a tree exists on your property, you don’t have the right to remove it unless you get permission from the local authority in your area.

Some of the trees that fall under the protected or endangered species category include:

  • Silver mallet
  • Cider gum
  • Burdett gum, and
  • Mukinbudin mallee


Who owns the tree?

Trees are owned by the community. This is so even in cases where they are on private property and were planted by the owner of the property. And it is because of this reason that you generally need a permit to remove a tree from your property.

Is it illegal to remove trees from your property?

It is not illegal to remove trees from your property if the tree is:

  • dead or dying
  • completely disease-ridden and poses a health risk to other trees and plants
  • posing an imminent risk of falling and injuring loved ones or damaging property
  • storm-damaged and shows no sign of recovery
  • classified as an invasive tree species by the local jurisdiction

However, it is illegal to remove a tree from your property without a permit if the tree is:

  • classified as an endangered or protected species
  • considered, under local or national laws, to be a significant tree by virtue of its height, circumference, or species
  • part of a government program aimed at revegetation

What should I do if my neighbor’s leaves blow into my yard?

If the leaves of your neighbor’s trees blow into your home, you should do any of the following.

Talk to the neighbor

If there is something that your neighbor can do about the leaves, then talking to them is a good idea. This is because it is always easier and cheaper to solve boundary-related problems in an amicable way.

Use community mediation services

If you cannot approach your neighbor amicably, then using a third party is a great idea. And a good place to start is to use Community Mediation Services. You can also approach private companies or firms that provide mediation services.

Take action

You can also install or erect a barrier that contains the leaves and keeps them from blowing onto your property.

How do you get a city to remove a tree?

A city can remove trees on public land if the trees:

  • Fall
  • Develop a dangerous lean
  • Become a pest magnet
  • Overhang private property.

To effectively get a city to remove a tree, you need to

1. Contact the city. For most cities, the easiest way to do so is to go to their website and fill out an online form. You can also write to them directly. And can also visit them physically.

2. Accompany your request with an explanation of why you need the trees to be removed or trimmed.

3. Attach evidence of the circumstances that necessitate removal or trimming. And also an explanation of why the city’s immediate attention is often required.

4. Follow up on your request

Can the city remove a tree on private property?

Yes, a city can remove a tree on private property. In fact, it can remove it, and then charge the owner of the property the costs of the removal. This usually happens in cases where the tree is:

  • Obstructing visibility at an intersection
  • Is posing an imminent falling risk
  • Is disease-ridden and poses the risk of spreading the disease to nearby trees
  • Is poisonous

In most cases, the removal usually occurs after a complaint from members of the public. However, in some cases, it is as a result of an assessment from an arborist or other experts employed by the city.

Why do you need a permit to remove trees from your property?

You need a permit to remove a tree from your property because of two main reasons:

1. The first is that the tree belongs to the public, even if you planted it and it is on your property. This is thanks to the fact that trees play a significant ecological role. Therefore, in most areas, as long as a tree is considered to be significant – by virtue of its height or circumference, you are not allowed to cut it without a permit.

2. The second is that there are laws that protect various species of trees.

These trees may fall under the protected tree, indigenous tree, or endangered tree banners. And in order to avoid getting on the wrong side of the law, seeking permission from the local authority is prudent.