Know The Law: Trees on Private Property in Toronto

Know The Law: Trees on Private Property in Toronto

Many of Toronto’s trees grow on private property. Private trees are protected and nurtured by Urban Forestry. In many cases trees on private property are protected under the provisions of municipal bylaws.

Urban Forestry suggests that property owners work with them to keep Toronto’s trees healthy and to protect trees on private property that are not regulated by the provisions of municipal by-laws.

Private Tree Bylaw

The Private Tree By-law was put in place to preserve those larger trees that rest on private property in Toronto,  to help in maintaining our urban forest in Toronto and to educate property owners regarding tree protection measures and alternatives to tree injury. This bylaw is referred to as the City’s “Private Tree By-law,” and it regulates injury or removal of privately owned trees which measure 30 cm in diameter or more as measured at 1.4 m above ground level.

Measuring a Tree’s Diameter

To easily find a tree’s diameter,  hold up a 30 cm ruler up to the tree at 1.4 m above ground level. If the tree is undersized or well over-sized then this method should do to determine if the tree is protected by the private tree bylaw.

If the tree is undersized then  you don’t need the City of Toronto’s permission to destroy the tree but if the tree is more than 30 centimeters wide then follow the steps below to get an accurate measurement to see if the tree is protected under the City of Toronto’s bylaws. You will need to measure the precise diameter of the tree if you’re doing construction – in order to determine the required “tree protection zone” that you’ll have to protect.

Tips for Measuring a Tree:

– A tree with a diameter of 30 cm has a circumference of 94.2 cm .

– The circumference/diameter must be measured at 1.4 m above ground level.

– Measure the diameter of the tree at 1.4 m above the ground.

About Permits to Injure or Destroy Trees

If you need a permit to remove or injure a protected tree,  you have to submit an Application to Injure or Destroy Trees. An arborist’s report is needed alongside all applications. Tree service companies such as Powell Tree Services, can provide an arborist’s report.

All arborists are certified with the International Society of Arboriculture. You can mail or deliver the completed application to the appropriate district office as listed here.

Permit Exemption

A permit is not required if a tree is confirmed by Urban Forestry staff to be:

Completely dead

Imminently hazardous: a structurally compromised tree that is in imminent danger of causing damage to property or injury to life.

Terminally diseased: There are many diseases that affect trees,  but not all diseases will lead to the tree’s death.


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