There are many reasons why you might want to cut down a tree – perhaps it is dead or rotting, has been struck by lightning and is a danger, has an infestation of  Emerald Ash Borers, or maybe you just want it gone. 

In the last decade, the City of Ottawa has made significant efforts to protect trees from being cut needlessly, especially in urban areas. Anyone looking to cut down a tree on an Urban property must now obtain a permit from the city, but the rules differ depending on the situation. The goal of the the bylaw is to ensure that trees being cut down in the City’s urban areas are diseased or in a state that risks damage to property or person. Cutting down a tree simply because you don’t like it is no longer in the cards

Tree Conservation – Urban (By-law No. 2009-200) is the bylaw that governs the tree felling and removal on private property in Ottawa. This bylaw is complex with many regulations, conditions, and prohibitions. In order to be sure you are safely and legally removing a tree from your property it is essential that these bylaws are understood and followed. Luckily for you, you don’t have to take a deep dive into Ottawa By-Laws, you can trust in our knowledge and expertise as Ottawa’s leading arborist service.

Who Must Apply For An Ottawa Tree Removal Permit?

An Arborist Removing a dead tree

Currently, If the tree you are considering for removal has a diameter of 50 cm (roughly the size of your average beer keg), you must apply for a Distinctive Tree Permit to legally proceed with removal. You do not need a permit if your property is located on rural land, on a farm, golf course, or cemetery. If the tree is on a property larger than one hectare (2.47 acres or 10,000 square metres), you must draft a tree conservation report for approval from the City prior to removal for any tree 10 centimetres or more in diameter.

Once you determine what paperwork is required for your specific case, you must now account for ownership of the tree. If the trunk of the tree borders on other properties (common in Ottawa’s urban neighbourhoods), all property owners must be in agreement for the tree’s removal. An Arborist Report must be then prepared by a certified and qualified arborist following the City’s template. A Forestry Inspector will then make a site visit and issue a permit if all criteria is met. A granted permit must be posted in a visible location for the public to see seven days prior to removal and seven days after. In all, from your initial application to the removal itself can be up to 22 days or more, so be sure to plan ahead.


What Do I Not Need An Ottawa Distinctive Tree Permit For?Residential street in Ottawa with trees that need to be pruned

  • Pruning to maintain a tree’s health
  • The tree is under 50 centimetres in diameter on a property less than one hectare
  • The tree is located within a building, solarium, rooftop garden, or interior courtyard
  • The tree is in an actively managed orchard or nursery where harvesting was the purpose of planting
  • The tree located on cemetery or golf course
  • The tree is threatening public health and safety where removal ASAP is encouraged
  • The tree is removed as part of normal farming practice and operations by a registered farming business

How do I get a distinctive tree permit?

Getting a distinctive tree permit can be a challenge. The process requires several steps and requires the approval of a number of people – all property owners, the arborists, and the forestry inspector. The steps for getting a Distinctive Tree Permit are as follows:

  • Confirm that you are indeed the owner of the tree. If the trunk of the tree is between two or more properties, all property owners must agree to the tree removal.
  • Hire an arborist to prepare an Arborist Report. As Ottawa’s leading arborist service, we are happy to provide such an arborist report.
  • Fill out the application form and submit it the city of Ottawa
  • A non-refundable fee of $100 will be levied on the applicant of the Distinctive Tree Permit.
  • Upon payment of the $100 fee and acceptance of the arborists report, the Forestry Inspector will arrive at your property to conduct a site visit.
  • If and when a permit is granted, it must be posted in a prominent location which is visible to the public for one week (7 days) before the tree is cut and removed.
  • After the 7 day period, the tree can be cut and removed from your property.

This entire process can be lengthy, taking up to 3 or 4 weeks. That’s why we recommend you do your best to plan your tree removal well ahead of time.

What Are The Consequences For Not Obtaining A Permit?

By-law Officers have the power to enter and inspect land to ensure all laws and regulations are being followed properly. If laws have been ignored or there is a contravention of the by-law discovered, a stop-work order will be issued and an the offender will be filed as committing an offence. The fines associated with this range anywhere from $500 to $100,000.

With such hefty fines possible, ensure you are going through the paperwork thoroughly. Be sure to request the services of a trusted and qualified arborist and tree removal service that will not only safely remove your tree but abide by any by-laws, saving you a legal headache.

Croft Tree Experts provide the Ottawa region with quality tree care, removal, and arborist services ensuring your tree removal is done safely and by the book. Contact us to find out how we can service your trees today!


Changes in Tree Removal By-Laws

Just when you think you are starting to understand tree removal by-laws in Ottawa, things are set to change. On January 29th 2020, the Ottawa City Council passed a new consolidated Tree Protection by-law along with changes in the process. The new by-law is designed to harmonize Ottawa’s two existing by-laws (the Urban tree Conservation By-Law, mentioned earlier in this article and the Municipal Trees and Natural Areas Protection By-law). The meat of this new consolidated by-law is to protect trees in Ottawa’s Urban Areas. There are no changes for privately-owned trees in rural areas.

The new by-law was scheduled to be introduced in two phases. Phase 1 was set to come into effect on May 1st, 2020, however the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed these changes until further notice.

Phase 1 Changes:

  • Improves tree protection requirements
  • Makes official compensation requirements for removal of public and privately-owned trees
  • Improves the requirements for the submission of tree information for distinctive tree permits
  • Increases application fees (to offset the cost of implementation for the new by-law)
  • Includes a new special fine designed to eliminate any potential financial gain by circumventing the by-law.

Phase 2 was initially scheduled to come into effect later in 2020, however similar to Phase 1, Phase 2 has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phase 2 Changes:

  • Decreasing the diameter limit for removing distinctive trees from 50 cm to 30 cm within Ottawa’s Inner urban area (urban land within the greenbelt)
  • Creating a permit to work around trees, ensuring better tree protection in development sites.

While these changes have yet to fully come to effect in Ottawa, they are right around the corner and will have a big impact on how trees are removed in urban areas. Croft Tree Experts are knowledgeable in Ottawa’s tree by-laws, and are prepared for the changes. Don’t risk a costly fine! If you want a tree removed, make sure you go with Croft Tree Experts, Ottawa’s top arborists.