Do You Need a Permit to Cut Down Trees on Your Own Property? 2023 Laws

Do you need a permit to cut down trees on your own property a man wonders while looking at a tree and holding an ax while on his right, he thinks about a permit to cut down trees with yes and no check boxes.

Do you need a permit to cut down trees on your own property?

Most people think that legally, a tree on your property can be cut down without any problem. However, that’s not the case in all states.

Various cities and states have rules about tree cutting in the woods and on private property, and it is crucial to know do you need a permit to cut down trees to avoid fines and court actions.

This complete guide explains the laws that determine do you need a permit to cut down trees in your state, and indicates the trees that are protected so that you can avoid legal problems.

Can I Cut Tree Down on My Property?

Many people wonder, can I cut down a tree on my property? You can cut down trees on your private property, unless the city or state laws protect it. Living in your home doesn’t guarantee ownership over it; in most cases, cities regard them as part of the community.

They have several benefits to the people around them, like air cleansing and being home to wildlife. Therefore, states have tree protection laws or regulations to guard against unnecessary tree removal.6

The local laws dictate which tree species to remove from your home and whether you need a permit to cut down trees. These guidelines vary based on the region’s ecosystem and climate, which varies across states.

Do You Need a Permit To Cut Down Trees?

If you know how to stop climate change, you understand how vital trees are to the ecosystem, explaining why governments relentlessly battle to end deforestation.

Permit requirement to cut down trees depends on your state’s ordinances and the current laws of your state. If your region lists it as a protected species, you must seek a permit to remove it from the forest or your private property.

However, this only applies to healthy-grown trees that benefit the community. You will not need a permit for removal if the tree is dead, has already fallen due to a storm, or an arborist regards it as dangerous.2

How Much Is a Permit To Cut Down a Tree?

You can find a permit for tree removal in your city by applying online and paying a minimal fee, but first, it is best to confirm if you need one from your city’s ordinances. Depending on your state and location, you may remit $20-$150 for a permit.

The rate will also vary depending on how many trees you want to cut and the species but on average, most places in the US charge a maximum of $50 for a permit to cut three trees.

Do I Need a Permit To Remove a Tree if It Is a Danger?

You don’t have to wait for a permit to remove a tree that is dangerous to you, others, or your property. You can tell whether the tree is hazardous by checking for broken or dead branches, damaged roots, cracked or leaning trunk, and general weakness or hollowness.1

Alternatively, you can ask an arborist to help you determine whether the tree is safe and if it needs cutting down immediately.7 If you are confident that you must remove it, you can take pictures and obtain a report from the professional to avoid penalties.

What Happens if You Cut Down a Tree Without a Permit?

In most cases, owners can remove trees without permits in private properties if nobody sees them. However, if a neighbor notifies the local authorities, they can come to investigate if you followed the correct channels.

Photo of a man with black gloves cutting a huge bark of a tree using a chainsaw for easier transportation.

(Image: HansLinde13)

If you don’t have permission to remove the tree or a valid reason citing that it was dangerous to you or your home, they will either fine you immediately or summon you to appear in court. Therefore, the best way is to seek a permit or take pictures to prove it was a dangerous tree.

What Are the Tree Removal Regulations by State?

Tree ordinances are the city’s laws regarding do you need a permit to cut down trees, especially when dealing with protected species. These regulations outline the particular or heritage trees that need guarding and the pests you can cut down.

If the tree is significant for the state or old, you need a license before cutting it, and various states have particular ordinances. For instance, some dictate that you cannot chop down an oak tree, but you can remove Eucalyptus, honeySuckle, or other species.

What Trees Can Be Cut Down Without Permission?

There are a lot of trees that don’t need a permit before you cut them down. Generally, they may be non-native species to the state or considered pests or nuisances, but before you rule one out, it is still best to confirm from your state or city laws.

For instance, you cannot cut a palm in California or Florida because it is a cherished tree in the region, but it is rare to find it in states like Colorado, and there may not be special laws preventing it.

Is It Illegal To Cut Down a Tree on Public Land?

You will need a permit to cut down a tree on public land or the woods as long as the city or state protects it.4 If it’s a heritage, endangered, or native, you must seek permission to remove or prune it regardless of whether it grows on public or private land.

Photo of a park with many trees planted for effective shading of several spots.

(Image: 62738914)

Cutting will sometimes attract hefty fines or jail terms if the laws prohibit it. Therefore, it is best to check your local state laws to determine the rules of your region regarding tree cutting.

Do You Need a Permit To Cut Down Trees?

Your state’s laws will always determine the steps to take when you want to cut down a tree, and the following are the guidelines to follow.8

These are the states where you don’t need a permit to cut down a tree on your own property:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut 
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada 
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma 
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Dakota 
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington 
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming


Do You Need a Permit To Cut Down a Tree in StateRules for tree removal
CaliforniaYou need a permit to cut oaks and heritage trees on private properties in Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Fresno
ColoradoYou have full ownership over private trees but need a permit to remove public trees in Denver
FloridaYou need a permit to cut unique trees in residential and public areas [3] 
GeorgiaYou need a permit to remove a tree on private property
IdahoYou need a permit to remove an elm tree on private property in Boise
IllinoisYou need a permit to remove a tree on private property
KentuckyYou only need a permit to remove encroaching trees growing on city land
LouisianaYou need a permit to remove a tree on private property
MarylandYou need a permit to remove a tree on private property
MinnesotaYou will need a permit to remove a tree on private property
New HampshireYou will need a permit to remove a tree 50- 150 feet from the shoreland
New JerseyYou will need a permit to remove a tree on private property
North CarolinaNo regulations, but you need a license in Charlotte
OregonYou will need a permit for certain tree species in Salem, but there are no other regulations
Rhode IslandYou will need a permit to remove massive trees
South CarolinaYou will need a permit to remove grand trees
Tennessee You will need a permit to remove massive trees in Nashville
UtahYou will need a permit to remove indigenous trees, but there are no regulations in Salt Lake City

Will The City Cut Down a Tree on My Property? Instances Where Tree Cutting Is the City’s Responsibility

If a tree is on your private land, you bear the cost of caring for and removing it even when some parts hang over the streets or city land. In this case, the city or local authorities do not own the tree unless the ordinances state that it is a community tree that needs protection.

Photo of a big house with trees around its lawn.

(Image: Pixabay15)

In contrast, if the tree is standing in the streets and its branches are hanging into your private property, you will not be responsible for it.

If it is a danger to your home or your family and property, the right call will be to call the relevant authorities to determine whether the tree needs removal, and they will bear all the costs.

What Is the Penalty For Cutting Tree Without Permit on Your Own Property?

It is an offense to cut down trees unless they are on private property, depending on state laws. The states below require a permit before you cut down trees on personal property, and violating this regulation may lead to heavy fines.

The following states have no clear regulations for cutting down trees, and therefore no penalties listed in the statutes:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
California$1000- $30,000
Colorado$500- $10,000
FloridaUp to $500
Georgia$500 for the first offense and $ 1000 for subsequent offenses per tree
IdahoUp to $5,000
IllinoisAt least $150 per diameter inch or up to $750 per offense
LouisianaA maximum of $500 per tree
MarylandUp to $1000
Minnesota$1,000- 30,000
New Hampshire3-10 times the value of the removed tree
New Jersey$10- $100 per tree
OregonAt least $300 an inch diameter
South CarolinaAt least $100
Tennessee $500- $ 10,000
UtahUp to thrice the tree’s value

Can You Sue Someone For Cutting Down Trees on Your Property? What Does the Law State?

The law is clear on cutting down trees on another person’s property or it falling on your neighbor’s home.10

Although you need a permit before removing certain trees, they are still under your care, and you can sue anyone who cuts, injures, or damages them without your consent.

Image of a man wearing safety vest and gloves cutting a tree using a chainsaw.

(Image: Pixabay17)

If a neighbor accidentally or intentionally cuts your tree, you can pursue a trespass case and seek compensation for property damage. Trees are expensive to maintain and replace, and you will be within your rights to obtain monetary compensation.

How To Apply for a Tree Trimming Permit

Applying for a tree trimming permit is relatively simple, depending on your state’s guidelines. Generally, the first step is to complete and then submit the application form online or in person, and some laws require attaching a site map based on how many trees you want to remove.

The region’s arborists will review the application and check for compliance with the city’s regulations. Afterward, they may approve and give conditions and, if successful, hand you the license but remember that it usually has an expiry date.

Who Is Responsible for Fallen Tree Removal in Your Home?

Who is responsible for fallen tree removal? If a tree from your property falls into your yard or a neighbor’s property, you are solely responsible for its removal because it is under your care.

It will be easier to have insurance to cover all the cleanup and damage costs.

Photo of a massive tree fallen on the ground.

(Image: Joshua Tsu16)

On the other hand, if the tree is from a neighboring property and has fallen over a shared fence, it will be the owner’s duty to remove it and pay for cleanup and damages. Similarly, the city will pay for the repairs if the tree is from public property.

Tree Removal Cost Calculator: How Much Does It Cost To Remove a Tree?

If a tree in your yard is dangerous or inconvenient, you can hire a professional to remove it. Usually, the service costs $150-$ 2,000, but the prices vary based on the tree’s height and other related factors and whether you know how to negotiate tree removal.

To help estimate the cost, you can use a tree removal cost calculator.

On average, you will need $700- $750, but it can go higher if the tree is too big, is a unique species, or is hanging dangerously and requires special skills to remove. However, the rate can be lower if it is a small tree or is already dead or damaged, making it easy to remove.

Can I Cut Down a Tree on My Property if It Is Dead?

In most cases, it is not illegal to cut down a dead tree in your home unless your local laws state otherwise.11 If the tree has been dead for a long time, the law regards it as a danger to the people and property around it, and it is okay to remove it.

If maintained on the property, there are high chance that the wind will blow it over due to the rotting roots and cause massive damage.

However, if it is not near your home and won’t be risky, you can keep it intact and let it fall naturally.

What To Know About Planting Trees on Property Line

Trees hanging over property lines can lead to conflicts between neighbors, but the following are some general rules you should know.

  1. If a tree is near a boundary line, it grows on whoever owns the ground the tree stands on, regardless of who planted it.
  2. If the trunk is directly between a property line, the two neighbors share ownership and responsibility for its care or removal.
  3. If the tree’s branches encroach into another person’s land, they can trim it, but it should not be excessive and damage the tree in the process.
  4. The tree owner is responsible for the repairs and clearing costs If the tree damages another person’s property.
  5. If the leaves from a tree blow over into a neighbor’s land, the owner is not responsible for clearing them, but they can offer to rake them.

Deforestation is a grave issue, and states have ways to protect their native and indigenous trees. In most cases, trees are the community’s property even when you are the owner and need a permit before cutting down one.

Unless there is no precise regulation about it in your city or state, it is crucial to seek a permit before removing a tree unless it is dead, broken, or a danger to you and your property. Therefore, if you are wondering do you need a permit to cut down trees on private or public land, you now know the steps to take to avoid fines and court cases.

Frequently Asked Questions About Do You Need a Permit To Cut Down Trees

Is It Illegal To Cut Down Trees on Your Own Property?

Cutting down a tree on your property is only illegal if the state or city laws protect it and regard it as a native or heritage tree, and you will need a permit before interfering with one. Otherwise, you can cut down pest trees encroaching on your land or remove dead or broken trees that are a danger to you or your property.12

Can I Cut Down a Tree in My Yard, or Do I Still Need a Permit?

Any tree growing on public or private property is generally considered a community tree, given its several benefits. Therefore, you will have to apply and obtain a permit before cutting one down, even if you are the owner. However, if there are no rules protecting it in your state and it is not a native species, you won’t need a permit unless it is dangerous.

Do You Need a Permit To Cut Down Trees of Some Special Species?

Some tree species are unique to the state and are natives of the region; therefore, the state laws protect them against logging, even when they grow on private property. Otherwise, cutting them down can lead to heavy fines or court summons.

Tree Broke in Half Can It Be Saved?

A tree can survive with a broken top by healing and developing ways to recover from foliage loss. The branches will develop later, and the tree will thrive under the right conditions. There are also chances of saving split trees, and experts use methods like bracing using steel rods to help the tree recover naturally. However, if the damage is severe and there is no way for the tree to recover, it will eventually die.

What Types of Tree Cutting Are Illegal?

It is an offense to cut down any tree protected by local laws, including old heritage, native or endangered species. It is also illegal to cut community trees on public land or national forests unless you have a permit. Local state laws specify which tree species are protected and which ones you are free to cut, and you can check your city’s ordinances to confirm before the authorities fine you.


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3Hillborough County. (2019, December 17). Curious About Florida’s Tree Removal Law? Hillborough County. Retrieved November 12, 2022, from <>

4The Cold Wire. (2022). Is It Illegal To Cut Down A Tree In The Woods? (What To Know). The Cold Wire. Retrieved November 12, 2022, from <>

5Wallis, J. (2021, July 14). VERIFY: Yes, you can trim someone else’s tree on your property in Texas – but with one condition. WFAA. Retrieved November 12, 2022, from <>

6Seattle Department of Construction and Inpections. (2012, October 29). Tree Protection Regulations in Seattle. Seattle Department of Construction and Inpections. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from <> (2022). Arborist. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from <>

8Cornell Law School. (2022). 18 U.S. Code § 1853 – Trees cut or injured. Legal Information Institute. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from <>

9Vermont General Assembly. (2022). The Vermont Statutes Online. Vermont General Assembly. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from <>

10Orlando, J. (2017, October 31). Trees Falling onto Neighbor’s Land. Connecticut General Assembly. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from <>

11University of California. (2022). DEAD OR DYING: HOW CAN YOU TELL. UC ANR. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from <> (2022). Parasitic Flowering Plants. Retrieved November 18, 2022, from <>

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