It may happen that council trees near your home, either on the street, or nearby public land, cause damage to your property. In this case, you would want to know what happens and who to approach. For instance, you would want to know if you can remove or trim council trees and who pays for removal.

Laws for the removal or trimming of council trees vary from one city or town to another in Australia. However, authorities likely require you to report any issue to your local council office before doing anything to a council tree. Removing or trimming council trees without permission usually attracts hefty fines or legal action.

The owner of the tree will likely be liable for tree damage depending on city and state fence laws across Australia. This also includes local councils whose trees may be positioned next to private property. For instance, Victoria’s fence act has provisions for tree damage from trees outside one’s property. Residents are however advised to seek mediation for disputes of this nature.

Council trees are usually protected and maintained by the local council. If a tree belonging to the local council causes damage to your house, the best cause of action is to report the issues immediately through available channels. The council will most likely send a representative and a council arborist over to assess the damage and take the appropriate action.

For guidance:

Your neighbor may be responsible for tree damage if the tree is on their land.

You will be liable if the tree sits on your land

Your local council may be liable if the tree is wholly on public land and you made a report about it as required.

Your home insurance may pay for damage caused by council trees.

Tip: You can file a lawsuit against your council if they do not offer to pay for damages caused by trees belonging to them. As an example, a recent lawsuit involving a private landowner and the city of Melbourne saw the plaintiff awarded damages for tree damage caused by the city’s trees.

Can You Ask the Council to Remove A Tree?

Private landowners across Australia are encouraged to report issues to do with council trees to the relevant council office using available channels. If you think that a council tree poses a danger to your house or property, then you have the right to seek action from your local council.

Local councils will remove trees on public land reported to be causing damage or posing danger to private land. However, approval must be given after an assessment has been done by an arborist employed by your local council. In most cases, they will go ahead and remove or trim the tree without bothering you.

It’s important to note that there are tree protection laws in all states and at the local level in Australia. Cutting or interfering with any tree, be it on your land or council land, is illegal. Call your local council or visit their website for information on how to report issues with trees on public land. Also, check local council tree regulations and instructions on how to obtain tree removal permits.

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Can I Remove or Trim A Council Tree?

It is illegal to remove or trim a council tree unless you get written permission to do so. Council trees sit on public land and belong to the council. Your local council is responsible for the maintenance needed to keep the trees healthy and safe.

If a tree is posing any danger or hanging over your house, you must notify the relevant office at the earliest opportunity and they will take the appropriate action. Trimming or removing council trees without permission usually attracts hefty fines or prosecution. You may also be forced to pay for the removed tree.

Who Pays for Damaged Council Tree Removal?

Your local council will pay to remove or trim a damaged tree on public land. You only need to notify them through available channels of a damaged or problematic council tree near your property. Local councils usually have their tree maintenance department or have contracts with local tree companies.

In rare cases, local councils may also allow private landowners to trim or remove problematic trees on public land. They will then pay or reimburse the landowner the full amount they paid for the removal or trimming. For instance, your local council may pay you to remove a dead or fallen council tree if the tree sits next to your land and they can’t remove it themselves.

How Do I Apply for A Tree Removal Permit?

Tree removal permits are required in almost all cities across Australia even when the trees sit on private land. You can obtain a tree removal or tree trimming permit online through your local council portal or by filing a paper application. The council may need to send a representative or city arborist to see the tree before they approve your application.

Tip: After obtaining the permit, you may find it easier to hire a professional tree removal company near you to remove the tree safely. Use our free tree service location tool by scrolling to the top of this page and entering your zip code in the search box. We will link you with top-rated local tree removal companies.


Punishments for cutting council trees vary from one city or town to another based on local tree protection ordinances. They are usually given as fines to offending landowners and some extra charges depending on the type of tree. Fines for illegal tree cutting are usually quite hefty running into the tens of thousands and may include legal fees incurred by local councils.

The owner of a tree or trees is responsible for cutting or trimming trees overhanging on other people’s houses. If the tree (s) belong to the council, then landowners should notify them and they will trim or cut them if necessary.

Councils may need to trim or remove trees as part of regular maintenance or for public health and safety reasons. There are laws in all Australian cities and towns touching on trees and how they should be maintained.

Author: Ben McInerney is a qualified arborist with over 15 years of industry experience. He uses his in-depth knowledge of the tree service industry to give readers to most accurate information on tree service costs and helps to educate them about the benefits of using a certified arborist for tree trimming and removal work.