Trees & Ravines

Trees on Private Property

Significant trees on private property are protected under Municipal Code, Chapter 813, Article III known as the Private Tree By-law.

The Private Tree By-law was adopted to preserve significant trees on private property in the city of Toronto, to assist in sustaining the urban forest in the city and to educate individuals with respect to tree protection measures and alternatives to tree injury and destruction.

If you wish to injure or destroy (remove) a protected tree you must obtain a permit under Private Tree Bylaw.

Any activity that could result in injury, destruction or removal of a protected tree is prohibited, unless authorized with a permit under appropriate tree protection bylaw.

Protected trees are:

mature trees on private property

You need a permit for any activity that could result in injury, destruction or removal of a protected tree. Such activities include, but are not limited to the following:

  • demolition, construction, replacement or alteration of permanent or temporary buildings or structures, parking pads, driveways, sidewalks, walkways, paths, trails, dog runs, pools, retaining walls, patios, decks, terraces, sheds or raised gardens
  • installation of large stones or boulders
  • altering grade by adding or removing soil or fill, excavating, trenching, topsoil or fill scraping, compacting soil or fill, dumping or disturbance of any kind
  • storage of construction materials, equipment, wood, branches, leaves, soil or fill, construction waste or debris of any sort
  • application, discharge or disposal of any substance or chemical that may adversely affect the health of a tree  e.g. concrete sluice, gas, oil, paint, pool water or backwash water from a swimming pool
  • causing or allowing water or discharge, to flow over slopes or through natural areas
  • access, parking or movement of vehicles, equipment or pedestrians
  • cutting, breaking, tearing, crushing, exposing or stripping tree's roots, trunk and branches.
  • nailing or stapling into a tree, including attachment of fences, electrical wires or signs
  • stringing of cables or installing lights on trees
  • soil remediation, removal of contaminated fill
  • excavating for directional or micro-tunnelling and boring entering shafts

An injury to a tree occurs if any of the above mentioned activities take place within the root zone of a tree. A permit is required if root injury occurs within the Tree Protection Zone (TPZ) determined by Urban Forestry as per Tree Protection Policy and Specifications for Construction Near Trees.

For more information contact Urban Forestry at  311@toronto.ca 

The following items must be submitted to complete your Application to Injure or Destroy Trees. Applications which are incomplete will not be processed. Depending on the nature of the application you may be required to submit additional information.

Application to Destroy (Remove)

  • Completed Application Form
  • Application Fee (certified cheque or money order)
  • Arborist Report
  • Landscape/ Replanting Plan
  • Photos
  • Site Plan (if application is construction-related.)
  • Elevations (if application is construction-related)
  • Site Plan with Ravine Line Delineation (if property is in a ravine protected area)

 Application to Injure

  • Completed Application Form
  • Application Fee (certified cheque or money order)
  • Arborist Report
  • Tree Protection Plan
  • Site Plan
  • Elevations
  • First Floor Plan
  • Basement Plan
  • Photos
  • Construction Details (may be required)
  • Site Plan with Ravine Line Delineation (if property is in a ravine protected area)

Please see the Terms and Definitions tab for detailed explanations.

Please note that applications which are incomplete will not be processed. If an application is incomplete Urban Forestry will advise in writing which items are necessary to complete the application. Permit applications will expire one year from the date of submission

Take completed application form with all supplementary documents and required fee to the appropriate Urban Forestry Tree Protection and Plan Review (TPPR) district office.

Submission of an application does not guarantee that a permit will be issued.  Urban Forestry will only consider the provisions of the private tree by-law when making a determination regarding permit issuance.

TPPR District offices:

Etobicoke/York

399 The West Mall,
Main Floor - North Block, M9C 2Y2

Fax: (416) 394-5406

tpprwest@toronto.ca

Hours: 8:30 – 3:00, M-F

Scarborough

150 Borough Ave,
M1P 4N7

Fax: (416) 396-4248

tppreast@toronto.ca

Hours: 8:30 – 3:00, M-F

North York

5100 Yonge Street, 3rd Floor,  M2N 5V7

Fax: (416)-395-7886

tpprnorth@toronto.ca

Hours: 8:30 – 3:00, M-F

Toronto/East York 

50 Booth Avenue, M4M 2M2

Fax: (416)-392-7277

tpprsouth@toronto.ca

Hours: 8:30 – 3:00, M-F

Urban Forestry staff will review the application to ensure that it is complete.  Staff will notify the applicant in writing of any missing items.  Once the application package is complete, Urban Forestry staff will conduct a site visit to verify the application details and to determine if a permit may be issued and/or if a public notification process is required.

Public notification

Where required by the Private Tree bylaw, a public ‘Notice of Application' to destroy healthy tree(s) will be posted on the subject property for a period of no less than fourteen (14) days.  The by-law does not authorize Urban Forestry to consider comments received in response to the posting during review of an application.

Landscaping or replanting plan approval

In cases where the application is posted by Urban Forestry, approval of the landscaping and replanting plan is required by the ward councillor. Comments collected during the posting are provided to the councillor at this stage.  Where Urban Forestry denies an application and the applicant appeals the decision to City Council through Community Council, comments are provided upon request to councillors.

Conditions of permit approval

Private Tree Bylaw

Urban Forestry may approve a request for injury or removal of a tree protected under Private Tree Bylaw, subject to following conditions:

  • The implementation of the approved tree protection plan to the satisfaction of Urban Forestry
  • The implementation of the approved landscape/replanting plan to the satisfaction of Urban Forestry

Trees on City Street Bylaw

Urban Forestry may approve a request for injury or removal of a tree protected under Trees on City Streets bylaw, subject to conditions such as:

  • Payment of the appraised tree value and the removal and replacement costs (if the tree is being removed)
  • Submission of a Tree Protection Guarantee deposit or letter of credit to ensure that the tree will remain protected as per approved
  • Submission of a security deposit to ensure the planting of a replacement tree(s) – tree planting guarantee. 

An arborist is an expert in the care and maintenance of trees. These experts may be qualified by:

  • Ontario Training and Adjustment Board Apprenticeship and Client Services Branch
  • International Society of Arboriculture (ISA)
  • American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA)
  • Association of registered professional foresters (RPF)

or any other similar association as approved by the General Manager.

Finding an arborist

You may find professional tree service companies who prepare arborist reports in the Yellow Pages under “Tree Services”. An internet search using key phrases such as "tree service companies Toronto" should provide listings as well.

Arborists certified by ISA, ASCA or RPF conform to a code of conduct identified by their association.

What is an arborist report?

An arborist report is a technical report which details specific and accurate information about the trees, such as location, species, size, condition, structural integrity, disease, infestations and vigour. In his report, the arborist will assess the nature of the proposed work and identify appropriate tree protection measures.

See Guidelines for Completion of an Arborist Report PDF.

Why is an arborist report required?

Urban Forestry staff use the information from the arborist report to review the proposed tree removal and/or injury. When an accurate arborist report is provided, Urban Forestry staff can review the submitted application efficiently and with fewer delays.

Boundary tree and neighbour tree definitions

TRUNK - the entire trunk of a tree from its point of growth away from the roots up to its top where it branches out to limbs and foliage.

BOUNDARY TREE - a tree situated such that any part of its trunk is growing across one or more property lines.

NEIGHBOUR TREE - a tree that has a trunk that is growing wholly on one property, and the owner of the adjacent property submitted an application to injure or remove (destroy) this tree.

Who can apply to injure or remove a boundary and/or neighbour tree?

If the base of a tree straddles the property line (boundary tree), either property owner may apply for a permit to injure or remove that tree.

If the crown or the roots of a tree physically impacts another property (neighbour tree), the owner of the impacted property may apply for a permit to injure or remove the tree that is impacting their property.

At the time the application is submitted, the applicant must clearly identify all boundary and/or neighbour trees.

If Urban Forestry determine that any part of a subject tree's trunk appears to be growing across one or more property lines, they will require that the applicant submit the outstanding application fee. If the applicant wishes to refute Urban Forestry's assessment, they will be required to submit an up to date property survey.

Application to injure or remove a boundary or neighbour tree

When an application involves boundary or neighbour tree(s), Urban Forestry will notify the tree owners or co-owners with a written notice.

If the neighbour or the co-owner requests, Urban Forestry will provide the information submitted with the application for their review.

Information submitted with an application includes arborist report, tree protection plan, landscaping and replanting plan or plan of survey.

Urban Forestry will issue a second written notification to the owners of a boundary or a neighbour tree at least fifteen days before they issue a permit to injure and / or remove their tree(s).

A permit to injure or remove a boundary or neighbour tree does not supersede any civil or common law property rights. The permit only acknowledges that the proposed injury or removal, if carried out in accordance with the terms and conditions of the permit, will not constitute a violation of the Private Tree Bylaw. The permit does not determine ownership and does not authorize the applicant to encroach or enter upon another's private property or to remove a tree owned by another without their consent.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to resolve any ownership issues or other property disputes.

Construction details must include the details of existing and proposed structures and/or proposed grade changes within or nearby the tree protection zone of any City owned tree(s) or private tree(s) measuring 30 cm or greater in diameter at 1.4 m above ground. Construction details shall include details about buildings foundation such as footings, slab-on grade, piers, etc. These details will help your arborist and Urban Forestry staff determine the impact that the proposed work will have on the tree's roots. All drawings must be legible and at a useable scale. Scaled-down faxed/photocopied copies are not acceptable.

If Urban Forestry deny your permit to injure or destroy trees, you will be notified in writing. You can appeal this decision to the City Council through Community Council by notifying Urban Forestry in writing. Staff will prepare the appeal report to Community Council, and make a recommendation for final decision at the City Council. The City Clerk will notify you of the meeting date. At the meeting, you will have the opportunity to present your information. City Council's decision is final and cannot be appealed.

Diameter at breast height, DBH, is a standard way of expressing the diameter of a standing tree. DBH refers to the average width of the tree trunk measured at 1.4 m above the ground.

Measuring a tree's diameter is done at breast height on a person

Determining the diameter of a tree (DBH):

You can calculate the diameter of a tree (DBH) by dividing the value of its circumference (C) by number pi (∏ = 3.1416…). DBH = C/∏.

Circumference is the distance around the trunk. Measuring circumference is just like measuring your waist. To determine DBH, circumference must be measured at 1.4 m (4 ½ feet) above ground level which is approximately at shoulder height.

Divide the measured circumference value by 3.14. This will give you the DBH value. A tree with a DBH of 30 cm (12 inches) has a circumference of 94.2 cm (37 inches).

Measuring the diameter of a tree growing on an angle

For trees growing on an angle from a horizontal grade and for trees growing vertical on slopes, (see Figs. 2 and 3), the diameter shall be measured at right angles to the stem 1.4 metres along the centre of the stem axis.

Measuring the diameter of a double-stem or multiple stem tree

For double-stem or multi-stemmed trees, the diameter measurement is to be taken at a height of 1.4 metres above ground level for each stem. Where at least one stem measures 30 cm in diameter or greater, the tree (including all stems) is protected under the by-law.

Elevation drawings show the front, side and rear views of the proposed structure. These drawings help your arborist and Urban Forestry staff determine the extent of canopy pruning that may be required where the trees are close to the proposed structures. The canopy of a deciduous tree may extend further than the tree protection zone. You will need a permit for excessive canopy pruning, even if you are able to erect tree protection hoarding at the required minimum tree protection distance. Elevation drawings also show the depth and nature of excavation for footings, supporting piers or basements.

All drawings must be legible and at a useable scale. Scaled-down faxed/photocopied copies are not acceptable.

A permit is not required in following situations:

  • tree pruning according to good arboricultural practice
  • Urban Forestry staff has confirmed the that the tree is:
    • 100% dead
    • imminently hazardous
    • terminally diseased
    • ash tree

Tree pruning

A permit is not required to prune a tree, as long as it is done in accordance with good arboricultural practices, to maintain the health of the tree.

For any tree work, we encourage you to retain the services of a Certified or Registered Consulting Arborist, a Registered Professional Forester or other tree care specialist with similar qualifications acceptable to Urban Forestry.

Imminently hazardous

A tree that is destabilized or structurally compromised tree that poses an imminent danger to life or the property.

A terminally diseased tree

Various diseases affect trees, however not all diseases will lead to the death of a tree. The by-law excludes those trees that are terminally diseased to expedite their removal, minimize risk to other trees and eliminate potential risk to people or property. A permit is required for trees that are in poor condition.

Ash trees

A permit is not required to remove ash trees that are infested with Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).

To obtain an exception, contact 311 Toronto. 311 representative will ask about the signs and symptoms of EAB infestation that you have observed. Urban Forestry will use the collected information to better understand the progress and speed of the infestation across the City. The 311 staff will provide verbal exception and a reference number.

This process also applies to ash trees located in the areas protected under Ravine and Natural Feature Protection Bylaw.

In the interest of safety, Urban Forestry recommends that property owners hire a qualified arborist to remove trees.

For information on disposal of ash trees including brush, wood and wood chips from these trees, please see 311 website - Disposal of wood - brush - leaves - from an Ash tree or Asian Long-horned Beetle regulated area.

Compensation planting not required

You are not required to submit an application form, an application fee or a replanting plan for a Permit Exception.

Although the replanting of trees is not a condition of the exception, we encourage property owners to plant a new tree on the property to replace the one being removed.

How to obtain an exception?

The quickest and easiest way to receive exception confirmation is to submit an arborist report and digital photographs of the subject tree by email to the appropriate Tree Protection and Plan Review District Office.

Please put your address as the subject heading of your email to expedite processing. Alternatively, you may mail or drop off in person your arborist report and photos to the appropriate District Office. If you do not have access to email or a digital camera, you may fax a detailed arborist report to the appropriate District Offices.

You must receive confirmation from Urban Forestry before proceeding with the removal of the tree, unless immediate tree work is required to eliminate a dangerous situation. If Urban Forestry determines that a tree does not qualify for exception, you will need to submit a complete permit application.

Undersized trees may be protected!

Please note that privately-owned trees that were planted as a condition of site plan approval and were incorporated into a site plan agreement which was registered on title must be maintained substantially in agreement with the approved drawings regardless of their size. Contact City Planning for further information.

A landscape/replanting plan illustrates the replacement tree(s) to be planted. It must include the following information:

  • Location of the tree(s) that will be planted on the subject property
  • Proposed species. Urban Forestry prefers large-growing trees native to Southern Ontario.
  • Size of replacement tree(s) - Urban Forestry requires minimum 50 mm caliper for deciduous trees and minimum 1.75-2.5 m height for coniferous trees.
  • Time of replanting - typically the next planting season in the year.

Tree planting specifications are available online at www.toronto.ca/trees.

Cash in Lieu

Where there is inadequate space for replanting, Urban Forestry will accept "cash in lieu" of replanting, in the amount of $583 per tree. Accepted methods of payment include certified cheque or money order. Please make all amounts payable to the "Treasurer of the City of Toronto."

Tree removal permits are issued subject to condition that the applicants plant new trees. All trees planted as a condition of permit issuance are protected by the by-law regardless of size. This helps to ensure the future of the urban canopy in accordance with the City Council approved Toronto's Strategic Forest Management Plan.

You must notify Urban Forestry after you have completed any of the following requirements:

    • Planted a replacement tree
    • Installed the required tree protection hoarding

After they receive your notification, Urban Forestry staff will visit the site to verify that the required work was completed to their satisfaction.

Also, you must notify Urban Forestry at the end of construction to obtain approval to remove tree protection hoarding

For the purposes of making an application under Chapter 813, the owner is defined as

  • the owner of the property where the tree is located
  • the owner of either property where the base of a tree straddles a property line
  • the owner of the property that is physically impacted by the roots or crown of a tree on adjacent property.

It is the applicant's responsibility to determine the tree ownership. The owners of adjacent properties shall resolve between themselves any tree related civil or common-law issues. A permit that Urban Forestry had issued, does not grant authority to encroach in any manner or to enter onto adjacent private properties.

The Owner’s Authorization section must be completed if the arborist, or someone else acting on behalf of the owner, is submitting the application.

You are required to submit photos to accompany your application. Having good photos on file may reduce the number of site visits required and so speed up the process of reviewing your application. Urban Forestry may waive the requirement for photos in certain circumstances.

Urban Forestry will also require photos of planted trees or of completed construction work to approve the release of security deposit.

To proceed with the permitted activity, you must post the permit in a conspicuous location visible from the street for a period of one day. The permit must remain posted until the approved tree injury or removal has been completed in accordance with the permit.

Securing the required replacement planting

Urban Forestry may require a security deposit to ensure that the proposed tree planting is completed according to the approved plans. Forestry may hold this security deposit for a period of two years to ensure that newly planted trees are maintained and that they have survived the two year period.

Please notify your District Office as soon as you have planted replacement trees. The two year period will start on the day you have contacted your District Office.

Tree protection security deposits

Urban Forestry may require that you submit a tree protection guarantee to ensure that you comply with tree protection conditions identified in your permit to injure a City owned street tree.

Urban Forestry calculates the value of the required deposit using the methodology found in the Council of Tree & Landscape appraisers, Guide for Plant Appraisal (9th edition). In general, larger healthier trees are assessed a higher value than smaller trees or those in poor condition.

Upon request, Urban Forestry will provide the calculation for any required security deposit.

Urban Forestry will hold a tree protection guarantee until all construction activities on site are completed and until all conditions of the permit have been addressed to the satisfaction of Urban Forestry.

Please contact your District Office if you have completed all construction activities and would like to request your refund.

Significant tree is a tree protected under a tree protection bylaw.

From the perspective of Private Tree Protection bylaw (C. 813, Article III), a significant tree is every tree, with diameter of 30cm or more, regardless of species.

From perspective of Trees on City Streets Bylaw (C. 813, Article II) and Ravine and Natural Feature Protection Bylaw, tree of any size or any species is a significant tree.

A site plans submitted with a permit application under Chapter 813, Trees must satisfy the following requirements:

  1. All drawings must be legible and at a useable scale. Scaled-down faxed/photocopied copies are not acceptable
  2. The plans must show the location of existing and proposed structures
  3. The plans must show the location of existing and proposed driveways, and/or resurfacing of driveways
  4. All trees measuring 30 cm or greater in diameter at 1.4 m above ground level on the subject property and on adjacent properties within 6 m of the property must be plotted accurately
  5. Where there is more than one tree in question, each tree must be numbered. Those numbers must correspond to the arborist report and tree protection plan
  6. Trees measuring 30 cm or greater in diameter that are to be removed must be clearly identified
  7. The required minimum protection distances (see chart under "Tree Protection Plan") must be plotted to scale around all trees measuring 30 cm or greater in diameter located on the subject and/or adjacent properties, within 6 m of the limit of the area that will be disturbed by construction. The dimensions of the minimum protection distance(s) should be clearly labeled.
  8. The location of tree protection hoarding, in accordance with the City of Toronto's Tree Protection Policy and Specifications for Construction Near Trees must be plotted to scale around all trees measuring 30 cm or greater in diameter located on the subject and adjacent properties within 6 m of the limit of the area that will be disturbed by the proposed construction.

Applications which lack the following information will be considered incomplete and will not be processed.

Checking if the property is regulated under Ravine and Natural Feature Protection (RNFP) Bylaw

If the property is located near a river, creek or a steep slope, it may be regulated under RNFP bylaw.

Learn how to check if your property is subject to RNFP Bylaw

If your property is located within a ravine protected area, you must show the exact location of the limit of the RNFP area on your survey and any other plan that you will submit with your application.

The City of Toronto, Information and Technology, Geospatial Products and Services, Map Service can accurately mark this line on your plan of survey. To contact Map Service Counter, call 416-392-2506 between 8:30AM and 4:30PM or email to mapsales@toronto.ca. There is a fee associated with this service.

What is a tree injury?

A tree injury is any act that will harm a tree's health in any manner. Also, failing to protect a tree according to the City standards is considered a tree injury.

A tree’s roots may extend 2-3 times the width of the canopy. Disturbing these roots with excavation or compaction may lead to the decline and eventual death of a tree. A tree with severed roots may become destabilized and hazardous. Tree protection barriers, as approved by Urban Forestry, must be erected at or beyond the minimum required Tree Protection Zone (TPZ). The extent of TPZ depends on the tree diameter and is shown on the provided chart.

If you cannot provide a full TPZ on site, you will need to obtain a permit to injure or destroy (remove) a tree.

Pruning a tree in excess of good arboricultural practices may have negative impacts on the health of a tree and may require an injury permit.

Please note that you are not only required to protect trees on your property, but also those on adjacent properties.

For details about tree protection requirements, please review the city of Toronto's Tree Protection Policy and Specifications for Construction Near Trees.

Trunk Diameter
(DBH)*
Tree Protection Zone (TPZ)**
30-40 cm 2.4 m
41-50 cm 3.0 m
51-60 cm 3.6 m
61-70 cm 4.2 m
71-80 cm 4.8 m
81-90 cm 5.4 m
91-100 cm 6.0 m
>100 cm 6 cm protection for each 1 cm diameter
*DBH = Diameter at Breast Height.  See "Tips on How to Measure Diameter" section above. 
** To be measured from the outside edge of the tree base.

A tree protection plan is a document prepared by a qualified tree expert in accordance with Urban Forestry’s Tree Protection Policy and Specifications for Construction Near Trees.

In this plan, the arborist must:

  • describe all protected trees that are to be retained
  • assess the impact of any proposed construction on the protected trees
  • provide details on tree preservation methods that will be implemented prior to, during and after construction.

Tree preservation methods may include the erection of hoarding, crown and root pruning, fertilization, aeration, mulching and watering, to name a few.

Tree protection diagram showing placement of fencing and signs in relation to the tree being protected

The minimum protection zones provided in the attached chart apply to trees protected under Private Tree and Street Tree bylaws only. Larger minimum protection zones apply for trees located in the area protected under Ravine and Natural Feature Protection Bylaw. More info about minimum protection zone is available in the City's Tree Protection Policy and Specifications for Construction near Trees.

Injuring and/or destroying (removing) a protected tree without a permit is considered an offence under Chapter 813, Article IV of the Municipal Code. Urban Forestry staff will inspect and respond to contraventions of Chapter 813 and may issue remedial orders such as Stop Work Orders or Orders to Comply.

Contravention Inspection Fee

Urban Forestry will charge a contravention inspection fee where Staff conduct an inspection and determine the following:

  • a protected tree is injured or removed without a valid permit
  • the conditions of the issued permit were not satisfied.

The fee is calculated on a per tree basis. The fee amount was calculated as the average cost per tree to conduct compliance activities and it includes the costs of inspection, issuance of order to stop work and comply with the by-law and the cost of the related follow up work. In this way, the tax base does not fund compliance activities. Rather, the cost is borne by those who contravene the By-law. Where a contravention fee is not paid within 90 days of its due date, Municipal Code 441 – Fees and Charges allows for the fee to be added to the tax roll for the property. (MC 441-9)

Fines

A person convicted of an offence under the By-law is liable to:

  • a minimum fine of $500.00 per tree and to a maximum fine of $100,000.00 per tree and
  • a special fine of $100,000.00.

Reporting a un-authorised tree injury and/or destruction (removal)

If you suspect that someone is cutting down or injuring a tree without a permit, you can report it by:

  • Calling 311 if you are located within Toronto city limits
  • Calling 416-392-CITY(2489) if you are calling from out of town
  • Sending an e-mail to 311@toronto.ca.

Urban Forestry will investigate reports of potential Tree By-law contraventions and take appropriate action.

Before issuing a permit to injure and/or remove trees, Urban Forestry will require that the applicant sign a document called Undertaking and Release.

By signing this document, the applicant will confirm that they intend to plant replacement tree(s) and/or implement the approved tree protection plan. Another person must witness the applicant's signature.

Urban Forestry will issue the permit to injure and/or remove tree(s) after they review and approve all required information and receive a signed, dated and witnessed Undertaking and Release.

Agreement for arborists to perform work on City owned trees

Urban Forestry must authorize any work on City owned trees on the City owned road allowance. A completed Agreement for Arborists to Perform Arboricultural Services on City Owned Street Trees must be in place prior to tree removal or replanting within the City street is conducted by a private property owner. The agreement form is available online at www.toronto.ca/trees.


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