Should I Cut Down Trees Growing Near my Home?

Kate Mitchell

September 7, 2023

As hurricane season comes around here in Florida, it's a good time to secure your property against any hazards that may come with the extreme weather. One of the most important things to do is to check up on any trees close to your property, to make sure they don't pose imminent danger in case of a storm.

What Are the Benefits of Having Trees Near Your Home?

There are many reasons why you might enjoy having trees as part of your landscape. One obvious advantage is the wide-reaching shade trees provide, giving you a pleasant spot to sit outdoors and in some cases also blocking some of the sun's heat from your windows.

Trees are beautiful, and many people find it peaceful and relaxing to have them around their house. Not only that, but air quality improves around trees as they soak up carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. Trees provide a great habitat for birds and other native species. Some trees will even give you fruit!

Reasons to Consider Cutting Down a Tree Near Your Home

With all that said, it seems unlikely that anyone would ever want to remove a tree! However, especially with the high winds associated with Florida's hurricane season, trees can sometimes pose a danger to residential property.

The last thing you want is a large dead or decaying branch breaking off during a storm - or even the whole tree coming down on top of your car or house.

There's also a possibility that tree roots could be undermining your house or driveway with the potential for structural damage. Diseased trees can attract pests, which may then cause trouble in your outdoor space or even make their way into your house.

A tree stump in a yard

Property Owner Responsibilities

If you're a Florida homeowner, you need to be aware of the regulations around pruning and tree removal. Although a government permit is no longer required to remove them, trees are still protected and a document from a certified arborist is necessary before a tree is cut down.

In most cases, pruning trees can be done without permission. However, some types of trees - such as mangroves - are protected by law as they are important to the ecosystem.

Legislation for tree owners across property lines in Florida is also not always clear cut.

Property Lines and Tree Ownership

Deciding who owns, and who is responsible for, a particular tree is not as straightforward as it may seem. If a tree is entirely on your own land, then it's your tree. You are responsible for its upkeep, and for removing it if it becomes dangerous.

However, if any of a tree's branches extend across the property line, the neighbor has the right to trim those branches right back as far as the line, as long as this does not threaten the tree's overall health.

If a tree is growing on the boundary line between two properties, and it is healthy, neither party should remove it without the agreement of the neighboring landowner. This could result in liability for loss of land value or ornamental value.

In the case of boundary trees, it is best to discuss these matters with your neighbor and see if you can come to an agreement that works for everybody!

These regulations are not always easy to understand! The University of Florida's Handbook of Fence and Property Law is helpful if you have further questions.

A large live oak tree with ferns and spanish moss on the branches

Local Tree Ordinances and Regulations

Until 2019, Florida state law required homeowners to obtain a permit from local government before removing any tree; failure to do so resulted in a fine.

However, new legislation means that rather than purchasing a permit, property owners only need a statement from a certified arborist to say that a particular tree poses a hazard. This document allows a dangerous tree to be cut down. Permits are still required to remove healthy trees.

Fines for Damaging or Removing Trees Without Permission

Fines for removing healthy trees without a permit in Florida range from $500 - $10,000. The reason these hefty fines are imposed is that everyone benefits from trees in the local area because they enhance air quality, provide shade and shelter, help to prevent soil erosion and provide homes for a range of native birds, bugs and animals.

Protected Trees

Mangrove trees growing at the edge of the water

Mangrove trees - along with sea grapes - are a protected native species in Florida. Removing them can cause significant damage to local ecosystems, so you'll always need a permit to cut one down and you may even need permission to trim them. This document from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has more information.

Assessing Your Tree's Health

Signs of a Sick or Dead Tree

A healthy tree is unlikely to be blown over, even in strong winds, as its extensive root system will support it to stand up. However, if a tree is sick or dead, it may be unstable and is therefore more likely to fall or to drop branches during severe weather.

To check tree health, start by looking at the branches. A dead branch, or one that is hanging down or broken, can be a sign that all is not well. Likewise a cracked or split tree trunk, or one that is hollow or leaning, is an indicator of danger. Finally, any damage to tree roots can also mean an unsafe tree.

Consulting with a Landscape Architect or Arborist

If you have determined that you would like to remove a tree from your property, your best move is to consult a certified arborist. They will be able to provide you with the document needed for removal of a dangerous tree. They are also qualified to remove the tree safely.

Removal of the Tree

A chainsaw with tree trunks in the background

Cost Considerations for Tree Removal

The cost of professional tree removal will vary depending on several factors. The size and type of tree, and its location on your property, will be taken into account. The area you live in can also affect the cost of tree removal. According to Go Tree Quotes, tree removal in Florida can cost anything from $560 to $2,615.

Hiring Professional Services vs. DIY Removal Methods

A tree surgeon working in a tree with ropes

It's not a good idea to try to cut down a tree unless you know what you're doing. Not only can the tree fall in an unexpected direction, it's also possible that loose tree branches will be dislodged and could fall down on you while you work.

It's safest to contact a professional tree service for help removing any dangerous or damaged trees. Bear in mind that, in Florida, even if you do decide to cut down the tree yourself you'll still need a certified arborist to provide a document stating that the tree is dangerous and needs to be removed.

Cleanup After the Removal is Complete

A tree trunk chopped into logs

Once the damaged tree has been removed, you have a few options for what you do with the area. You may want to completely remove the stump and level the area so it becomes part of your lawn. If so, Atlas Tree has a helpful tutorial.

Or perhaps you would like to re-landscape the area, with new trees or shrubs or other outdoor features such as a patio or arbor. If you would like help planning out the landscaping of your new backyard space, get in touch with your local professionals at LawnMore Gainesville, who will be happy to help!

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