One question I frequently receive from homeowners concerns whether it’s against the law to fell trees on their own land. I figured it would be beneficial to address this query for anyone else curious about the same issue.

It is NOT illegal to remove a tree on your property IF the tree is not protected by the city.

Every city and county has what is called a Tree Protection Ordinance1 which is a list of Regulations/ laws for the removal of trees.

There are a couple of ways to find out.

  1. Go here and select your state > city to be directed to the local laws for tree removal.
  2. Speak to an arborist in your area and ask them if it’s okay to remove your tree.
tree climber removing a tree

Universal Exemptions:

There are some cases where a permit is not required in most cities. You will need to double-check, but if the tree is one of the following you will not need a permit to remove it:

  • Dead trees
  • Fallen trees
  • Dangerous trees
  • Non-protected trees
  • Local pest species

Again, you will need to refer to your city or county’s Tree Protection Ordinance to see whether you can remove your tree without a permit.

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Where can I find the rule on tree removal for my city?

Follow this link to see a full list of states and cities. Select your city to view the Tree ordinance.

Having trouble Understanding it?

This is pretty normal as lawyers write them, and most of the time, they are clear as mud.

Another way would be to go to your local city or county‘s website and search for;

“rules on tree removal permits [your city here]”.

You may have to search for words such as “Tree Removal Ordinance” and “Tree Removal Permit”.

Also, visit our homepage for links to cost guides on arborists and tree removal and compare prices from local pros online for free.

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Do I have legal authority over trees on my property?

Surprisingly the answer is no. All trees within your city are actually considered community trees.

You do not “own” the tree just because they happen to reside on your property. The reason for this is that trees bring a huge benefit to the community as a whole such as cleaning the air we breathe, reducing the heat island effect, and creating habitat for local wildlife.

Cities regulate what trees can be removed or trimmed. Plus other guidelines regarding the ideal number of trees that should be planted and maintained on a property of a certain lot size.

As each city has different trees, local climates, and ecosystems, the regulations surrounding the tree removal laws vary greatly from state to state.

arborist trimming oak tree
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