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Cutting down trees is a complex matter. If they are not felled according to regulations, high fines can follow. You can find out here whether you need a permit to fell trees on your property.

In a nutshell

  • It is possible to fell trees on private property
  • Permit-free only outside of the closed season
  • Approval required depending on the tree protection statute
  • depending on tree and trunk thickness

Private property: tree felling allowed?

If you want to fell a tree on your private property, there is nothing wrong with it at first glance. According to the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG), you may fell trees as long as they are completely on your property. However, there are certain points you need to keep in mind to avoid trading illegally:

  • felling times
  • trunk circumference

While the period for felling trees is specified by the BNatSchG, the tree protection statutes in your community determine the extent of the tree trunk and above which a permit is required. If you do not observe these points, you may not cut down trees, even if they are on your property. An exception are trees that fall under the following criteria:

  • Danger of tree breakage
  • Danger to structures and people
  • road safety
  • contagious diseases (e.g. fungal infestation)
  • pest infestation
  • tree dead
  • Land use no longer ideally possible
  • necessary construction measures (e.g. monument protection) not executable

You may fell these trees outside of the specified time periods and regardless of the dimensions with permission if you can present evidence. In most cases, after the application has been submitted, an expert will visit you to take a closer look at the tree.

Felling times at a glance

The nationwide felling times are important so that your application for a felling is even possible. On private property, you are only allowed to cut down trees during a certain period of time, which gardeners will probably be aware of. This is identical to the legal pruning. According to the 2nd sentence in the 5th paragraph of Section 39 (General Protection of Wild Animals and Plants) in the BNatSchG, you may not fell any trees from March 1st to September 30th. The reason for this is the protection of wild animals, which use the plants for the following purposes:

  • reproduction
  • resting places

Outside of this protection period, you may safely fell trees on your private property if you have obtained prior permission, if one is required. You can either submit an application during felling times or submit it ahead of time and wait until the fall or winter to complete it.

Notice: If wild animals use trees on your private property during the felling period, you may not fell them.

Note tree species

As already explained, it is in any case necessary to obtain a permit for the felling of trees over a certain trunk circumference. These are listed by cities and municipalities in the corresponding tree protection statutes. You must therefore check beforehand whether a permit is required for the trunk thickness. The specified trunk thickness is dependent on categories under which the corresponding tree species fall. Despite the regional differences in regulations, there are guidelines that apply to most of the country:

  • Deciduous trees: 60 or 80 cm
  • Conifers: 100 cm
  • Fruit trees: 150 cm

The above values apply primarily to single-trunk trees on private property. If you want to fell multi-stem specimens, you must measure the thickness of each individual trunk. If only one is larger than the specified value, for example 50 centimetres, you must obtain permission. You should also note that some species may be exempt from the regulations. This is decided by each municipality and should be checked by you beforehand. Some trees are considered specially protected in the respective communities, so you may only fell them in an emergency.

Tip: Note that walnut trees (Juglans regia) and sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) fall under the deciduous tree regulations, although they are commonly cultivated as fruit trees.

frequently asked Questions

What are the fines for illegal felling?

If you cut down trees without a permit, you have to expect high fines. Depending on the federal state, these can amount to between 50 and 100,000 euros, depending on the regulations of the state and the tree felled. For example, if it is an old deciduous tree with a large trunk, you usually have to pay more than for a fruit tree.

From where is the trunk thickness of the trees measured?

If the application for the felling permit is filled out, you absolutely need the trunk circumference. To avoid problems after submitting the application, you have to measure at the right place. This is the only way to be sure that the measurement result is not incorrect. You measure the trunk thickness from the base of the trunk one meter above the ground. If the trunk is shorter, measure just below the crown.

What should be considered when felling?

When cutting down trees, you must consider the safety of local residents, neighbors, buildings and other structures. Small trees can be felled by a layman, for large specimens with thick trunks you should hire a specialist company. They have to be removed piece by piece so that they do not become a source of danger.

What about boundary trees?

If there is a tree on the property line, you must consult your neighbors or the owners' association before felling it and obtain permission. This applies even if you have a special right of use for the said position. If the tree is felled without prior agreement, it is considered illegal.

What is replacement planting?

Depending on the municipality, after felling a tree on your property, you may need to perform replacement planting. This involves planting a new tree to compensate for losses. If this is not possible, many municipalities offer alternative areas or a compensation payment. The size of the tree to be planted depends on the applicable tree protection statute.

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