Learn if you need a permit to prune trees, and how to prune your trees without damaging them.
Please note that we are still processing tree cutting applications during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you want to cut or prune a tree on your property, a tree cutting permit may still be required. Tree and landscape inspections are still being scheduled through our regular systems, with staff adhering to physical distancing protocols. Call 604-591-4675 before you cut to avoid potential penalties.
Wondering if you can prune that tree or not? The first step is to find out whether the tree is on City property, your property, or your neighbour’s property. Use COSMOS, our online mapping system, to find out.
You can also call 604-501-5050 to speak to a City arborist.
Trees on City Property
Do not prune trees on City property. Trees on City property, including trees in parks and along streets, are pruned and maintained by certified arborists on a schedule. The cutting of City trees on city property is regulated by the City's bylaw to protect trees.
Trees on Your Property
You need a Tree Cutting Permit to prune your tree if your tree is a:
- Significant Tree - a tree that has been placed on Schedule B of the Tree Protection Bylaw as being significant as deemed or approved by Council
- Heritage Tree - a tree that has been nominated by the Heritage Advisory Committee and approved by Council
You do not need a Tree Cutting Permit to prune a tree if your tree is not a Significant or Heritage Tree.
Pruning a significant of heritage tree without a permit could result in a fine of up to $20,000.
A permit is required before a tree can be topped. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details about topping trees in Surrey.
Trees on Your Neighbour’s Property
You are within your rights to trim back branches on neighbouring trees to the property line as long as they are pruned to industry standards and do not damage, kill or make the tree hazardous.
Any arrangements made regarding carrying out the work or payment is a civil matter that needs to be worked out between neighbours. The City is not able to get involved in these matters.
How to Prune a Tree
Do Not Top Your Trees
Topping is harmful to trees and is not a permitted practice on protected trees within the City of Surrey. Other names for topping are heading, tipping, hat-racking or rounding over. When you top a tree, you are removing a large amount of branches and leaves and are cutting the food supply from the tree.
The tree goes into shock and quickly sprouts shoots to grow leaves so it won’t starve. This stress often weakens the tree, increasing the chance of insect infestation, disease infection or even death.
If you feel your tree is too large or a risk for your property, contact an arborist for alternatives to topping.
Read more about the dangers of topping your trees.
Hiring an Arborist to Prune Your Trees
To ensure your tree is pruned properly, hire an ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborist or qualified tree risk assessor to do the pruning for you.
When looking for an arborist, it is important to ask if the person is ISA certified, has insurance, and are familiar with the City's bylaws. Read our hiring a tree care professional bulletin to learn more.
Large Branch & Woody Plant Material Removal
For assistance in removing large branches and woody plant material from your property, there are branch chipping services available for Surrey residents.
- Cost: $26.75 per 1.5 meters x 1.5 meters (5ft x 5 ft) pile (length of branches does not matter)
- Branch Diameter: less than 20 centimetres (8") in diameter
- No stumps are permitted
Please contact 604-591-4340 for further information.
Pruning Trees Yourself
If you wish to prune your trees yourself, your pruning must meet arboricultural standards. Learn about proper pruning techniques.
When pruning in the spring and summer, bird nests could be hidden among the branches. Take extra care to ensure you are not disturbing any nesting birds.