What happens when a tree is felled

When can you cut trees? The legal situation at a glance

Very few people know when to cut trees. Many are fascinated by the fact that a stately tree 25 meters high can grow from a small acorn. But the power of nature can become a problem in small home gardens when typical forest trees have been planted on private property. If you have a large tree in your garden that has been rooted for decades, you usually need a professional for felling it.

Instead of chopping down the whole tree, it is sometimes enough to remove diseased or rotten branches and to thin out the crown a little. By thinning out the crown, the tree no longer casts as much shade and is more stable. The work with the chainsaw at lofty heights should, however, be left to an arborist. He can also judge whether and how a wood can be preserved.

Felling trees: may I as the owner?

As a garden owner, you are also the owner of the trees on your property. However, that does not mean that you can do what you want with your property. Because trees have always been under special protection. Whoever falls a tree without authorization can be punishable by law. The owner of a condominium should also be reluctant to fell a tree, even if he has a special right of use to his share of the garden. At the owners' meeting, the majority of the co-owners usually have to decide that a very specific tree should be felled. Anyone who cuts a tree on their own may make themselves liable for damages.

What does the tree protection statute say?

Most municipalities have tree protection ordinances that prohibit the pruning or cutting of trees and shrubs of a certain size or age. The removal of roots, branches or entire bushes has been very limited. Such statutes usually apply from a certain trunk circumference (usually 80 centimeters, measured at a height of one meter). In some municipalities, selected species such as fruit or conifers are excluded. Only felling small, young trees is unproblematic. In any case, you should inquire on site whether there is a protective statute and check whether your own tree is affected.

It is possible to apply for special permits. In practice, however, these are only rarely given, for example in the case of sick trees or if the tree is about to fall. In the case of other impairments, there is usually no special permit. Therefore, before you cut down a tree, it is essential to find out about the legal situation in your municipality.

When can trees be felled?

Felling a tree is permitted from October up to and including February. In the remaining months it is forbidden according to the Federal Nature Conservation Act. This also applies in communities that have not adopted a tree protection statute. This regulation ensures that breeding birds can raise their offspring undisturbed. If a tree poses an acute danger, exceptions are also possible here.

Safety when falling trees

So that there is no accident, it is best to leave the felling of a tree to a landscape gardener or tree climber. They are familiar with official issues, have the right tools and the necessary expertise, for example when a tree has to be put down piece by piece. Anyone who wants to cut a tree as a private person must wear full protective equipment consisting of chainsaw protection trousers, safety shoes, a helmet with a visor and hearing protection, as well as gloves and must also have completed a basic chain saw course.

Felling a tree: this must be observed

There are many things to consider before felling trees, including the care required in traffic, the scope of a tree protection ordinance, the Federal Forest Act and other public law regulations. Sometimes the neighbor also has to agree to a tree being felled. One must reckon with criminal proceedings for damage to property, negligent bodily harm or negligent homicide if an accident occurs in the case. If you cut a tree yourself, you should make sure that nothing can happen as far as humanly possible. The safest way is therefore to go to the responsible authority in your municipality (usually the building authority or green space authority). Anyone who reports the felling and receives permission does not risk trouble with the police or even a fine. In order to avoid the liability risk, you should hire a professional landscaper or arborist, especially with large trees.

What does it cost to cut a tree?

Thinning a crown in large trees usually costs between 450 and 650 euros, plus the cost of disposing of the clippings. Felling a tree is possible from around 500 euros, but depending on the effort and disposal involved, it can cost several thousand euros. If the root stock is to be removed, usually 150 to 450 euros are added.

Remove tree stump

If a piece of trunk remains during felling, the rhizome can be removed more easily. To do this, you dig the trunk generously with a sharpened spade, with which you can also cut through thicker anchor roots. If necessary, the saw will help. As soon as the root stock has been exposed and cut off as deeply as possible, the trunk piece is now used to press over and pry out the tree stump. Thick anchor roots must be cut with a saw.

The fastest way, of course, is to hire a specialist company to remove the stump. In this case, a so-called stump grinder is usually used, which removes the tree stump down to the surface of the ground. It is cheaper, but also much more tedious, to let microorganisms work for you: First, use the chainsaw to cut a narrow checkerboard pattern into the stump up to the level of the earth's surface and then fill the cracks with semi-ripe compost. After a few years, the stump will be so rotten that you can remove it.

In this video we will show you how to properly remove a tree stump.
Credits: Video and editing: CreativeUnit / Fabian Heckle

Trees at the property line

In a judgment of October 27, 2017, the Federal Court of Justice once again issued a position on the subject of shadows and falling leaves. Trees that do not adhere to the limit distance prescribed by state law can often no longer be felled because too much time has passed since they were planted and the statutory limitation period has expired. In these cases, there may be a right to compensation under neighboring law if the increased cleaning effort as a result of the falling leaves, needles, flowers or cones exceeds the reasonable amount (according to the assessment of Section 906, Paragraph 2 of the German Civil Code). Whether the reasonable amount has been exceeded always depends on the specific individual case. However, this does not apply to so-called negative effects such as shadows, as these - with the exception of very rare individual cases - have to be accepted in principle according to the constant case law of the Federal Court of Justice.