All around the country, tree permitting is becoming a much more common practice that arborists and consumers need to be aware of. There is no specific formula for whether or not a tree will need a permit and it can leave homeowners and even sometimes the experts confused. Many homeowners may not even be aware a permit would be needed for the work they want done on their property. Some homeowners do not feel they need to obide by the permitting for the property they own. In these cases, fines can be, and generally are imposed. The fines can be directed at either the homeowner or the tree service.
Regardless of the cost of removing the tree, the fines can be much larger. In southern Florida, trimming mangroves without a permit is subject to $10,000 fines for the homeowners. Contractors have been fined as much as $60,000 per acre for damaging the local species around the Miami-Dade area. In Milwaukee, a homeowner was issued a $20,000 fine for cutting trees after his plans for a new house he was building were approved. San Jose has proposed fines of $2000 per year the tree is old meaning a 40 year old tree would be an $80,000 fine.
In many cases the fines are there for good reason and are protecting some valuable trees that cannot be replaced. Cutting down a 150 year old oak tree is not going to be replaced in any of our lifetimes. The problem that many places have is that it is difficult to enforce many of the fines they have in place. Some tree services promote doing the work under the table to help the homeowner avoid paying for permitting. There are also many governments around that don’t have strict guidelines in force. Dangerous and hazardous are very subjective terms. What one person sees as a dangerous tree needing to be removed, another person could see as perfectly safe. This can also lead to entirely new problems. In Atlanta, a certified arborist was fired for not being a “team player.” After further investigation, a little more politics may have been involved. Questions arose when a permit previously denied was overturned after a few calls were made by someone who worked in a similar division of that government agency. A homeowner that had a request for tree removal denied by a certified arborist on staff who cited the tree was perfectly healthy, was overturned by the head of the arborist division after the calls were made. Instances like this make it more difficult for quality tree services to preform tree work legitimately for customers.
The bottom line is everyone needs to be responsible when they are cutting trees for knowing permitting issues. A certified arborist tends to be more informed about local permits in many circumstances. Homeowners look to the tree service as the industry professional and that tree service needs to take that respect seriously.