What are the fines for illegal tree removal?

Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa take illegal tree removal very seriously. The fine for removing a protected tree varies depending on the severity of the violations.

If the tree was small and you mismeasured the DBH and it was 1 inch larger than what was legal the fine would be small, but if it was a 100-year-old mammoth Oak tree then the fine would reflect the offense.

Just last year a homeowner was fined $420,000 for removing 27 trees from their property.

Do I need a permit to remove a tree?

If your tree is protected because it is larger than a certain size (see tree removal rules for Hillsborough county below) you will need a permit.

Remember though, there are species of trees that are considered a local pest and will not need a permit no matter the size. Those species are also listed below. If you are not sure what kind of tree you have, contact a local tree removal service in Tampa to come and identify the tree prior to removal.

How to make a permit application

You will need to pay the application fee of $81.65 or for parcels over 5 acres: $24.93 per acre additional fee.

Upon application you will need to also include the below information:

  • Tree type
  • Trunk diameter (measured at diameter at breast height (DBH), which is 4.5 feet above ground)
  • Number of trees to remove
  • Reason for removal
  • Property access restrictions
  • Number of existing trees 1” DBH and larger (residential only)
  • Property size
  • Year home built
  • Property address

You will also include any drawings or photographs to assist with the application.

Can you remove an oak tree in Hillsborough County?

Oaktree removal is not illegal, but it will depend on the size and location of your tree.

If the tree is has a 10” diameter at breast height or less, it can be removed without a permit.

Also if the oak tree is dead, you may remove it.

Anything larger than that will require you to submit an application to the county for tree removal works permit.

Tree removal laws & permits HIllsborough FL

You do require a permit to remove some trees in Hillsborough where other trees can be removed without a permit.

Permits cost $35 and can be obtained by filling in the application form here.

Hillsborough County Logo og

When can I remove a tree without a permit?

Certain trees are exempt from needing a permit for removal

  • Dead trees do not require a permit
  • trees with tree trunks measuring 5″ DBH or larger (Residential & non-residential properties, developed, vacant or under construction)
  • trees with tree trunks measuring 12″ DBH or larger (Residential properties on which the principal dwelling exists)

Trees species that don’t require a Tree Removal Permit

Though many species of trees require a permit if you want to remove them, a permit is not required for all species. Certain trees have features which are not good for the local environment, so we have made it easier for you to remove them.

The trees in the list below may exhibit one or more of the following traits, so are exempt from permit requirements:

Scientific NameCommon Name
Acacia auriculiformisEarleaf Acacia
Albizia lebbekWoman’s Tongue
Auracaria araucanaMonkey Puzzle
Bauhinia veriegataOrchid Tree
Broussonetia papyriferaPaper Mulberry
Casuarina spp.Australian Pine
Citrus spp.Citrus Tree
Dalbergia sissooIndian Rosewood
Enterolobium contortisiliquumEarpod Tree
Eucalyptus spp.Eucalyptus
Eugenia unifloraSurinam Cherry
Grevillea robustaSilk Oak
jacaranda acutifoliaJacaranda
Leucaena leucocephelaLead Tree
Melaleuca ouinquenerviaPunk Tree
Melia azedarachChinaberry
Mimosa pigraCatclaw Mimosa
Prunus carolinianaCherry Laurel
Sapium sebiferumChinese Tallow
Schinus terebinthifoliusBrazilian Pepper
Syagrus romanzoffianaQueen Palm

Tree removal ordinance information

Additional information on exempt species

Tree removal permit application form

quick dummary download PDF long2

Tree removal laws & permits Tampa FL

All trees five (5) inches and over in trunk diameters are protected in the City of Tampa, which means permits for removal must be obtained prior to removal.

All cypress and mangrove trees, regardless of size, require a permit for removal. This applies to private property and public right of way.

Tampa city logo

Trees that do not require a permit to remove

The following trees do not require permits for removal:

  • Eucalyptus tree
  • Ear tree
  • Punk tree
  • Chinaberry tree
  • Cherry laurel tree
  • Brazillian pepper tree
  • Monkey puzzle tree
  • Silk oak tree
  • Mimosa tree
  • Queen’s palm
  • Wild cherry tree
  • Citrus spp.
  • Chinese tallow tree
  • Lead tree
  • Rosewood tree
  • Earleaf acacia tree
  • Surinam cherry
  • Carrotwood tree
  • Golden rain tree
  • Schefflera tree

Trimming or removal of trees in the right of ways

Trees that are located on private property, but overhang public property or streets, will only be pruned by the City of Tampa if they are interfering with access or emergency vehicle height clearance.

Pruning will also occur if there has been a branch failure that is blocking access to a public street, sidewalk, or driveway apron off the public street.

Please contact the Tampa Parks and Recreation Department, Urban Forestry Division at (813) 274-5744.

To request the trimming and/or removal of trees within medians, City-owned empty lots, and alleys, please contact the Neighborhood Enhancement, (813) 307-5513.

To request trimming or report trees on overhead power lines, please contact Tampa Electric (TECO) Line Clearance office at (813) 223-0800 or (813) 228-1111.

Note: for information on the cost of cutting a tree down, check our tree removal cost guide here.

Grand or significant trees

Trees over 34 inches in trunk diameter may qualify for grand tree designation.

Grand trees have elevated protection requirements and may only be removed under certain circumstances. In addition, permits are required for pruning grand trees.

Permit fees for pruning grand trees are $116.00
Permit fees for hazardous tree removal are $150.00
Permit fees for non-hazardous grand tree removal request, $601.00

Please contact Planning and Urban Design Division, Natural Resources Section at (813) 274-3100, Option 4, for additional information.

Tree removal ordinance Tampa FL

https://www.tampagov.net/planning-division/info/tree-removal-information

Tree removal permit application from Tampa FL

https://www.tampagov.net/sites/default/files/public%3A/additionalfiles/tree_removal_and_pruning_permit_application_6_2018.pdf

City of Tampa Construction Services Center
1400 North Boulevard
Tampa, FL. 33607
Tel: 274-3100

quick dummary download PDF long2

FAQ's

Like tree removal, you will need to apply to trim a tree of a certain size. In most cases, your local county will approve the pruning of any tree up to 10% per annum. Cases, where a permit will not be required, are when the tree branch broke during a storm, building clearance or power line clearance.

Tree cutting permits are $81.65 for parcels greater than 5 acres you will pay an additional $24.93 per acre.

This is a complicated question because all counties of Florida have different tree protection laws. Some tree protected in one county, may not be protected in another. The best way to go about it is to go to your specific county tree removal laws here for more information.

The price to cut down a tree will vary greatly depending on the job at hand. You could pay as little as two hundred dollars for a small tree that is an easy job. Or you could pay closer to two thousand dollars if the tree is particularly large and difficult, or the job is deemed very dangerous. The average cost currently stands at around seven hundred dollars per tree removal.

This will totally depend on the company you use, some companies offer their services on finance and others don’t, so if you need a finance option always check first before going ahead with the work.

You will need to check individual insurance policies but as a general rule, the answer is no. If the tree has fallen and caused damage, then the person whose land the tree fell from is usually responsible for the clean-up and damage repair.

Ben McInerney
Author: Ben McInerney - Ben is a qualified arborist with 15 plus years of industry experience in Arboriculture. He ran a successful tree service before turning to writing and publishing. Ben is dedicated to providing users with the most accurate up-to-date information on everything trees.