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Sometimes it happens that a disturbing tree in the garden has to give way. But not everyone can simply remove it, because normally the Tree Protection Ordinance regulates which trees may be felled and when. Are there any trees that can be felled without a permit?

In a nutshell

  • Observe legal felling and closed seasons for trees
  • private fellings are usually limited to certain sizes
  • Trunk diameter as a guide
  • Obtaining a permit or consultation with the responsible office for security is always recommended
  • Don't forget to replant

Felling trees without a permit

First of all: Unfortunately, we have to disappoint the readers who expect a list of trees here that can be felled without permission, because unfortunately they don't exist. Instead, we encourage readers who are considering felling a tree to consider the following:

  • felling times
  • trunk thicknesses
  • Obtain approval or reinsure at the responsible office

felling times

The Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) regulates when trees may be felled or cut back. In the period from March 1st to September 30th it is generally not allowed to fell a tree. This is to protect animals that breed there or provide food for the flowers and leaves.

If you want to fell a tree on your property without permission, the trunk diameter is one of the decisive criteria.

Conversely, private tree felling work - i.e. felling on private property - may be carried out outside of this time. In exceptional cases, a tree may also be felled within this period, for example if there is a special need. This applies in particular to damaged trees that pose a threat to people or objects.

Notice: Depending on the region, the rules can be individual, so to be on the safe side, you should always obtain a tree felling permit or at least consult the responsible office.

Note trunk diameter

Whether private tree felling is permitted without a permit also depends on the trunk diameter of the tree. Due to Germany's federalist structure, tree protection ordinances are not regulated nationwide. Different legal requirements apply from state to state. It is therefore possible that regional trees may be felled at any time, regardless of the diameter of the trunk, without a permit.

However, even in those regions where there are no such determinations of size, the trunk diameter is an important indication of whether it might not make more sense to turn to a professional. If you overestimate yourself when felling a large tree and thereby endanger people or cause damage, you risk a high fine.

The local regulations regarding trunk diameters are subject to strong fluctuations. As a guide, you should use the following measurements:

  • Deciduous tree: maximum 80 cm (multiple trunks maximum 50 cm)
  • Fruit tree: maximum 150 cm (multiple trunks maximum 100 cm)
  • Conifer: maximum 100 cm (multiple trunks maximum 60 cm)
Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa)

Notice: Although commonly cultivated as fruit trees, walnut trees (Juglans regia) and sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) fall under the deciduous tree regulations.

get approval

If it is a tree that may not be felled privately, then permission must always be obtained from the office. Many garden owners only dare to take this step with great hesitation, and the authorities understand these concerns.

The following reasons have justified permits in the past:

  • Tree does not fulfill any ecological function
  • inhibition of site development
  • Obstruction of monument restoration measures
  • Impairment of the permitted land use
  • negative impact on other trees
  • Felling is in the public interest
  • Felling serves traffic safety

If, for example, a spruce tree reduces the yield of a fruit tree due to its shading, this is reason for a tree felling permit. The felling of so-called border trees becomes difficult. These are trees whose trunk is located on two properties. In order to be able to submit an application at all, the neighbor on whose property part of the tree is located must agree.

Apple tree on property line

Notice: It is not uncommon for such intentional felling of border trees to end up in court. Although the neighbor has the right to keep the tree, the other party also has the right to have the border tree cut down.

imminent danger

If there is imminent danger, a tree felling permit will be issued in most cases. This is not only the case when the tree has been damaged after a storm and thereby poses a danger to people or property, but also when the tree is diseased.

Notice: In the case of illnesses, however, many offices often require confirmation from an expert. This is especially the case when it comes to diseases that cannot yet be recognized from the outside.

Plant a new tree

It doesn't matter whether you fell the tree with or without permission, in the rarest of cases you will get away without planting a new one, because most ordinances also stipulate that trees that have been felled must be replaced. Anyone who disregards such regulations faces a penalty that can be severely high. Depending on the offense, up to 50,000 euros may be due. The felling of a tree usually does not go unnoticed, so you should always comply with the applicable laws.

Cherry and apple trees (here one of the 'Bramley' variety) are considered easy-care fruit trees.

Tip: Here it is advisable to choose an easy-care wood for the new planting, which will cause little or no problems in the foreseeable future.

frequently asked Questions

Where can I find out what the tree felling ordinances are?

As a rule, the responsible environmental and nature conservation office in the place of residence provides information about this.

What can I do if I have a tree felling permit but birds breed in the tree?

In this case you should contact the Environment Agency. Basically, felling a tree that is inhabited by animals is always prohibited. Sometimes, however, work can be postponed or animal residents are relocated by professionals.

How much does a professional tree felling cost?

The price depends on many factors, such as how difficult it is to cut down the tree due to nearby houses or the size of the tree. It can range from a few hundred to several thousand euros. If you have the clippings removed and disposed of, there will also be costs for this.

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