Cutting down a tree in the garden: when it is allowed

In principle, trees in the garden may be cut all year round. However, the country and the municipality can make different regulations as to when felling is allowed. So it’s important to do your research before picking up a saw or axe.

All tree care measures, i.e. both gentle shaping and maintenance pruning as well as felling, may in principle be carried out all year round. However, no state law, no municipal tree protection statutes or no points relevant to nature conservation may speak against it.

The often quoted period 1. March to 30. September refers only to hedges, living fences, bushes and other woody plants. They must not be pruned during this time. However, experts advise felling in the winter months between November and early February, because that is when the wood is driest and can be used as firewood sooner.

When trees may be felled

The Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG, § 39 para. 5 No. 2) Since 2010, it has been stipulated uniformly throughout Germany that trees located in domestic or allotment gardens may in principle be felled or radically pruned back. However, tree owners should clarify beforehand whether there is a tree statute in their municipality that prohibits felling or whether the tree is allowed to be cut down. requires a permit for this.

These statutes can vary greatly from state to state and from municipality to municipality. And if birds have chosen the tree as a nesting site, felling is initially taboo anyway. Because according to § 39 Abs. 1 BNatSchG it is forbidden to "impair or destroy habitats of wild animals and plants without reasonable cause".

Almost every municipality has its own tree protection statutes that restrict or even prohibit tree felling. In Saarbruecken for example only trees may be felled, which do not have yet 80 cm circumference in a meter of trunk height. In Cologne, for example, only trees with a trunk circumference of more than 100 cm at a height of one meter above the ground are safe from the axe. And in Bremen, trees with a circumference of 120 cm or more are considered worthy of protection. In most cases, some tree species are also exempt from the protection of the statute.

In some communities, amateur woodcutters even need a permit before they are allowed to touch the bark of the tree. Those who do not comply must expect hefty fines. In this way, sometimes up to 50.000 euros – as in Dusseldorf, for example – and in some places – such as Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – even up to 100.000 euros fine if a tree is felled without permission.

Be sure to check: Tree on the property line

If tenants in apartment buildings have a right to use the garden, this does not include the cutting of trees. Even if it is common property of a condominium owners’ association, an owner may not take an axe on his own authority, but must wait for the majority decision of the owners’ meeting.

If a tree stands directly on the property line, the following applies: The neighbor must give his permission before the tree can be cut down. If you take action against the will of your neighbor or co-owners, you may be liable for damages.

To the person

Tobias Klingelhofer is a lawyer and has been working as a legal expert for ARAG for many years. As a guest columnist for FOCUS Online, he informs consumers about their rights and obligations in different life situations.

Instructions for felling trees

Whoever picks up the axe or chainsaw must of course be careful that the tree does not bury objects or people under it when it falls. Chainsaws are not for beginners, rather appropriate knowledge is required for working with this equipment.

A helmet with ear protection, protective gloves and safety goggles are required, as are work trousers and sturdy shoes. If the wind is too strong, tree felling should be postponed to another day, as gusts can affect the planned direction of fall.

Fallen is with few cuts. On the side to which the tree is to fall, a 45-degree notch is cut into the trunk or. sawn. The notch should be about a quarter as deep as the diameter of the tree trunk. The so-called felling cut is made on the opposite side of the trunk.

If you want to make sure it falls in the desired direction, you can attach a strong rope high on the trunk so that helpers can pull the falling tree in the right direction. Finally, the tree stump and its roots should be removed, otherwise it could sprout again.

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