State law prohibits cities from requiring permit to cut down trees

If you have a tree causing problems in your yard, you no longer need a permit to cut it down under a new Florida law.

Cities used to require a permit and approval from an arborist, but new state law does away with permits.

But it is not a free-for-all on trees. Under the new state law, homeowners must get an arborist's evaluation saying the tree is dangerous before doing anything.

So, how do you know what is actually a danger? Licensed arborist Lee Claxton explained it takes a trained professional to make the determination, but there are some signs to look for. 

"There's no quantifiable definition of what dangerous is in this law, so I think it really behooves people to hire a reputable arborist, especially someone who is TRAQ qualified -- tree risk assessment qualified," said Claxton, who is an ISA-certified arborist in Pinellas County. "That arborist is going to have a quantifiable way to show that a tree is dangerous and show why and how it's dangerous."

He said obviously-hollow portions of a tree can be a sign of problems.

Meanwhile, some worry more trees may be cut down than before.

"I don't think it's going to be an apocalyptic scenario where all of the trees are going to be cut down," Claxton said.

There are still rules to follow. In Tampa, city attorneys said homeowners must get a risk form filled out by a licensed arborist, or face consequences.

"I think by and large most people love trees and most property owners want trees on their property. They just want trees that are healthy and safe and add to the value of their property," said Claxton.

Under the new law, the city of Tampa is not requiring homeowners to plant new trees. Some cities, like St. Petersburg, are working with city attorneys and the zoning department to see exactly how to move forward.