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  • 4 min read
  • 29.09.2021

Cutting down trees on your own property

A tree in the garden creates a pleasant atmosphere, provides shade and, for many garden owners, is an essential part of the garden. But if it gets too big or if there are plans to change the garden design, you may want to remove it. There are perfectly understandable reasons for cutting down a tree on your property. Nevertheless, you should be mindful of the legal situation, because this is not always permitted. Depending on the country and region, there are varying legal regulations regarding the removal of trees, even if they are located on your own land.

According to the Federal Nature Conservation Act, it is generally permissible to cut down a tree as long as it is located entirely on your own property. Nevertheless, there are several aspects that need to be taken into consideration. This includes felling times as well as the circumference of the tree trunk. Felling times are also regulated by the Federal Nature Conservation Act, while the stipulations relating to the circumference of the trunk are set out in the tree protection statutes of the respective municipality or city council. A permit must be obtained if a certain circumference is exceeded. Exceptions exist if there is a risk to traffic safety, a pest infestation or a contagious disease, a risk of tree breakage or a risk to structures or persons. Dead trees may also generally be removed. There are also exceptions if the property can no longer be used without hindrance or if necessary construction measures, for example for the protection of historical monuments, cannot be implemented. 

Tree felling times

If tree felling is to be permitted, the federal felling times must be observed. The reason for this is to protect wild animals and plants. Wild animals use plants and trees as resting places and for mating. There is a protection period between 01 March and 30 September to ensure that they are not disturbed. It is not permitted to fell trees during this period. You can easily apply for a permit during the protection period, but the felling itself may only take place in autumn or winter. 

Tree circumference regulations

The regulations concerning the circumference of a tree trunk above which felling requires a permit may vary from municipality to municipality and from city to city. However, it is advisable to measure the circumference of the trunk before felling in order to avoid fines. Even though regulations may vary from region to region, there are certain guideline values that generally apply throughout Germany. In the case of deciduous trees this is a circumference of 60 or 80 cm, for conifers 100 cm and for fruit trees 150 cm. This applies for single-stemmed trees. If the tree has several trunks, the circumference of each trunk must be measured. Furthermore, some species are protected at municipal level or are exempt from this regulation altogether. It is therefore advisable to obtain concrete information from the responsible municipality or city authorities in advance. 

Fines for unauthorised felling

Felling a tree without a permit can result in hefty fines. The amount of the fines is regulated by each individual federal state. Depending on the applicable law and the type of tree felled, this can vary greatly from anywhere between 50 and 100,000 euros. The fine for cutting down a deciduous tree with a trunk of large circumference is more than that for a fruit tree with a thin trunk. 

Regulations outside Germany

The conditions in other European countries differ in some cases, which also affects the legal situation relating to the felling of trees. Areas that are more threatened by forest fires, for example Portugal or Spain, have special regulations that allow tree felling if there is an acute risk of forest fires. Felling times must also be observed in France, England, Spain and Portugal. The individual regulations in the countries can be found in the applicable laws.


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