Do I Need a Tree Removal Permit?


The fact you are asking this question is a great first step. The Atlanta area is home to a number of tree ordinances, and most of them regulate tree removal on private property, in one way or another.  This article will concentrate on the City of Atlanta’s regulations.  If you live outside of the city limits of Atlanta, you should consult our list of tree ordinances.


Determine the size of the tree
Any tree that has a trunk diameter of 6” or greater, will require a permit to remove.  If it is a pine tree, the minimum diameter requiring a permit is 12”.  The diameter of the trunk is measured at 4.5 feet above soil level.  This measurement is called Diameter at Breast Height.


What if the tree has multiple trunks?
To measure a multi-trunked tree, add the diameters together.  For example a multi-trunked tree with trunks of 6, 8, and 10 inches, would have a cumulative diameter of 24 inches.  However, if the multiple trunks originate from a point above 4.5 feet from the ground, you only take one measurement the at the narrowest point below the trunk split.


Determine the Tree’s Condition
All trees that meet the minimum diameter requirement will need a removal permit regardless of wether they are dead or alive.  If the tree is obviously dead, meaning there are no leaves or green at all, then obtaining a permit will be a fairly simple matter.  Many times the tree could be in a state of distress or in the process of dying.  Perhaps the canopy is comprised of mostly dead limbs, or the leaves suddenly turned brown.  Here, the tree may be considered dying, and permitting will still be straightforward.  If a tree is imminently dangerous or high risk, a permit will be granted.  All trees that fall into these categories are called DDH, meaning Dead, Dying, or Hazardous. 

Be aware that believing a tree to be dangerous, is different from a professional assessment of risk.  If you are unsure as to whether a tree is high risk, or if it qualifies as DDH, don’t worry.  When you apply for a DDH permit, the City Arborist Inspector will visit the tree and make a determination as to whether it is DDH or not.  Simply being concerned that a tree could fall is not enough.  All trees could fall.  To approve a permit, the City requires that the tree meet standard definitions of risk.


What if I Simply Don’t Want the Tree?
Maybe the tree is in the way of a new play area you are building.  Maybe the tree is too close to the house.  Or maybe the tree is shading your lawn and soil is eroding from your yard.

The are countless other reasons you may wish to remove a tree.  But it is important to understand that the City of Atlanta has a ‘no net-loss canopy’ policy.  If the tree is reasonably healthy and does not pose a high risk to persons or property, a DDH permit will not be approved.  In these cases, we recommend you consult with us on other options for permitting.  A Landscape Plan with proposed live-tree removal can be submitted, but this is a longer process and usually requires replanting and recompense payment to the city.


How do I get a tree removal permit?
Tree removal permitting is done through the Arborist Division of the Office of Buildings, if the tree is on private property.  If the tree is in the right-of-way (between the street and property frontage, or in an alley), then permitting is completed through the Parks Department.  Generally, most trees are permitted through the Arborist Division.

Anyone can apply for a tree removal permit.  The best way is through the City’s online portal.  But in most cases, we recommend you have your permit submitted professionally for a number of reasons:

  1. Our Certified Arborists understand the permitting process.
  2. We can help select the type of removal permit required
  3. We use the correct arboricultural terminology in the permit application.
  4. We properly analyze and describe the tree’s condition so the City understands the professional reasoning for removing the tree.
  5. We understand the information to include on the application, so the City Arborist inspector can efficiently inspect the tree.


What if My Permit Is Denied?
If you still believe your tree qualifies as DDH or If you believe there are extenuating circumstances necessitating the tree’s removal, it is possible to appeal the City’s decision. For information on how to file a tree appeal, see the Tree Conservation Commission website.


We are trained in working through the City of Atlanta’s permitting process.  If you have any questions about whether your tree requires a permit, talk to your ArborForce representative.  We can’t guarantee your tree removal permit will be approved by the city, but we are available to help guide you through the process.