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VERIFY: Yes, you can trim someone else's tree on your property in Texas - but with one condition

If part of a tree has moved onto another property, the other property owner can trim the part of the tree up to the property line.

DALLAS — The winter storm that hit Texas in February caused a lot of damage to the environment, including trees. This left many trees dead on both public and private property.

This led to some WFAA viewers asking how tree removal laws work in their county, state and across the nation.


If I want to remove a tree on my property, do I need a permit?



In Texas, you do not need a permit to remove a tree that is planted on your property. 

If there is part of someone else's tree on your property, you can trim the part on your property, as long as you do not kill or damage the foundation of the tree.

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Credit: Texas A&M Forest Service
In 2021, many Texas trees like this one were hit hard during the February freeze. (Courtesy: Texas A&M Forest Service)


Tree removal laws and regulations differ depending on what state you live in.

The one overarching policy across the nation involves utility lines. If you plant a tree that is too close to power lines, there's a good chance a utility company or the city you live in will send someone out to trim the tree or remove it.

In Texas, state laws allow for city officials to deal with nuisance trees that can have an impact on other trees, whether it be on public or private property.

There are no state laws that prevent someone from removing their own tree that is on their property. Unlike other states, Texas also doesn't require a tree owner to get a permit to remove a tree on their property.

"Whoever has the trunk of the tree growing in their yard, they are the owner of the tree," Blevins said.

If part of a tree has moved onto another property, the other property owner can trim the part of the tree up to the property line. That person must stay on their property if they decide to do so.

"The property owner has the right to trim over their air space," Rotramel said. "That's been held up in court through the ages."

However, if pruning or trimming the other property owner's tree causes permanent damage to the plant, that is an issue that could be taken to court.

"You can do what you want, but if it's a live tree and you kill it, you could be liable for it," Blevins said. "There are no laws governing tree removal on private lands in the state of Texas."

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Local ordinances can vary based on where you live in Texas, depending on the type of tree, where it is planted and the livelihood of the tree - these are some of the factors that play into these regulations from city to city.

For example, in Dallas and surrounding suburbs, there are no regulations on removing a tree nor a requirement for a permit. However, in Austin, the city adopted a tree ordinance in 1983 that is under the land development code. 

Austin's law makes property owners, whether on private or public property, get a permit to remove a tree that has a circumference of 60 inches or more. There is certain criteria that must be reached for someone to get approval to remove this type of tree, if you live in Austin.

"It's very specific, according to where you live, and what state you're in, what county and what city," Rotramel said.

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