Tree trimming landlord or tenant

Tree trimming is an active maintenance program that removes branches from a tree. It can be done as a preventative measure to keep branches from damaging structures or overhead lines, or it can be done as a pruning technique to keep the tree healthy.

Trees next to a home can add beauty and shade, but they can also become a problem when branches grow too big or too weak due to disease.

When your rental property, tenants or passing pedestrians are threatened by tree limbs, it’s best to be proactive and get that tree trimmed.

When to Trim a Tree Branch

There are many instances that require a tree trimming and getting ahead of the problem can help prevent bigger issues down the road. Here is a list of things to watch for that signal when tree branches may need to be removed.

  • Dead, diseased or otherwise damaged branches
  • Cross branches that rub each other, causing tree damage
  • Weak or narrow crotches that are starting to split
  • Too-dense canopy that restricts air and sun
  • Poor growth patterns that weaken the overall tree structure
  • Branches are safety hazards, such as low growing branches over a sidewalk or driveway
  • Growth is too sparse on one side of the tree

While tree trimming and pruning can technically be done at any time, it’s generally best to do so in late winter or early spring. The worst times to trim trees are hot dry days and extremely cold days.

DIY or Call a Professional?

Some landlords feel comfortable pruning or trimming smaller trees or branches themselves but for large trees, it’s generally recommended to use a professional team that has the proper tools and techniques for removing large branches. A good rule of thumb for tree trimming is that if the branch is about 10 cm or smaller in diameter, you can probably do the job. If the branch is more than 10 cm in diameter, it’s time for a professional.

Safety is the most important consideration in tree trimming and it usually requires getting up on a ladder, using power tools and possibly getting close to power lines. If there is any doubt about your ability to trim a tree safely, call a professional. Professional services can be costly, however, so plan accordingly.

Tree trimming landlord or tenant responsibility?

Even if the tenant and the landlord have spelled out the responsibilities for yard care in the lease agreement, there is generally not any language that specifies tree trimming. Most landlords just think about yard care that centers on weeding, mowing and planting flowers. However, tree trimming is an important part of caring for a property and shouldn’t be overlooked.

The responsibility for trimming a tree of branches may seem like an easy thing to decide, but unless you are clear in your lease agreement or via a landscaping addendum, you and your tenant may encounter a conflict when it comes to caring for this part of the rental property.

The main conclusion is that, both legally and financially, it rarely makes sense to turn a tree-trimming job over to the tenant.

On the flip side, you never want your tenant to take matters into their own hands and start cutting tree branches without permission and without knowing what they are doing.

If the tree trimming is cosmetic for a smaller tree, it might be OK to let tenants know that it is their responsibility as part of an overall yard maintenance agreement.

However, if the tree trimming is needed because the tree is causing or threatening to cause structural problems, it must be classified as maintenance and therefore a landlord’s responsibility to arrange for a solution.

Tenant yard maintenance responsibilities

It’s a good idea to clearly spell out in the lease what responsibilities are the tenant’s when it comes to yard maintenance. If this is not addressed in the lease most yard maintenance duties will be the landlord’s responsibility.

Be Proactive and Protect Your Property

Because tree trimming requires special skills, beyond pushing a lawn mower or pulling weeds, most landlords do not expect a tenant to do the work themselves or pay for a professional to perform the task. Landlords should be proactive in taking care of watching for tree issues and scheduling trimming as needed.

How do you handle tree trimming at your rental properties? Please share this article and let us know your solutions in the comments section.


  1. I have seen trees out in the back of homes that added no beauty to it. Branches would hang low that a tree trimming service would have to come out just to maintain it. It’s best for the landlord to take care of it so as to add beauty to their home instead of having the tenants to handle it.

    • I can agree with that Mark. I couldn’t imagine giving my tenant the okay to climb a tree with a chainsaw on my property!

  2. Thanks for sharing this advice on having your trees pruned. I will be sure to check the trees in my backyard and see how thick the branches are. If they are more than 10 cm thick, I will definitely be sure to start looking for a tree pruning service. I definitely don’t want to hurt myself or the tree by trying to prune it on my own!

  3. Aiden I would say it’s definitely worth bringing up to the owner/property manager. Obviously don’t try to trim anything yourself, the negatives far outweigh the potential positives. The only positive that can come is that they’ll say thanks, whereas the negatives are getting hurt, or making them mad. It would be your luck to find out that the tree was protected by some municiple ordinance because of it’s age or something. Sounds crazy but I’ve seen it before.

    So good ol’ fashion communication is the key to your troubles here. Be polite and ask kindly for them to consider trimming.

  4. Deanna I once tried my hand at growing a bonsai tree and killed it within months because I trimmed it in the wrong places.

    Now I rely on my brother-in-law for help on my properties because he is a landscaper who knows how/when and where to trim. Never be afraid to seek out an expert is what I learned. Especially if you don’t have a “green thumb” which clearly I don’t 🙂

    • That’s a really good point. I’m one of those people who tries to do everything themselves before asking for help. It’s really important to me that my trees remain healthy, so it seems like I should take your advice and call on a professional to help me get my trees in tip top shape again.

  5. Thank you for covering tree removal/trimming at rental properties. I think that this is something that many landlords may not know much about. I think your point about using a professional that has the right tools and knowledge is a good one. I also think that using a professional creates a much more professional appearance for your renters. They have the impression that the place where they live is being taken care of by professional contractors.

  6. I agree.. always go with the professional look. You have no idea how talented, or untalented, your tenants are with doing this work themselves.

  7. I am renting and we keep the small branches off the house but my landlord is wanting us to pay half for somebody to come in and do it. The only thing is they are cutting the large branches. Also they are going to be cutting down three large cactus trees that were already here when we moved in. He said our part is going to be $500. I don’t feel I’m responsible for that because they never kept up with it before we moved in. We mow and keep the yards very neat. Am I responsible??

  8. Thanks for the information! I’ve recently bought a few new properties that come with lovely trees. I don’t have any tenants just yet, but the information about whether it’s my responsibility or my tenants responsibility to take care of those trees will be good to know. You’re right, it’s important to specify in the contract all of the responsibilities that each of us hold for tree and lawn care, including tree trimming. I’ll be sure to include those details in my contracts with my tenants.

  9. Chloe, my immediate impression is no, you’re not responsible. Unless your lease mentions something specific, general maintenance and upkeep (including major tree trimming where a professional would get involved) should be the landlords duty.

    Unless there’s more to the story, I’d have a conversation with the landlord to share your concerns.

  10. As a fellow tree-lover, I feel your pain. But a tree would have no bearing on being “vital” to the property and would never be considered an amenity or fixture as something that was in the unit (or mentioned on the lease) would be.

    Best bet would be to have a conversation with the landlord and ask about planting an new one. Be sure to mention that you’re a long term tenant and want to stay to see the tree grow. Trust me that makes a difference to a landlord who is about to invest time and money they might not otherwise HAVE to.

    On a personal note, I had a 100 year old tree on my property partially break off after a snow storm, and then a botched trimming from a professional tree service eventually killed it. It broke my heart.

  11. Not a whole lot you can do in this situation. Besides, if anyone had reason to be upset and ability to do anything it would be the landlord, not the tenant. Of course you might have liked the tree, but the landlord has the right to maintain their property and owns the tree that someone else cut down. If it’s not a big deal to them, then there’s nothing you can do.

  12. We are renters and we just experienced a dead tree splitting in half, falling on our power lines. This resulted in us having to vacate the property for 4 days because the power was disconnected from the home. We had to stay in a hotel those four days. Upon moving back into the house 4 days and $800 later, our landlord claimed it was not her responsibility to reimburse our $800 that came out of our pocket because they neglected to remove the dead tree. She claimed it to be an “act of God” and not her responsibility. Any thoughts?

    • A perfect reason why every renter should carry renter’s insurance, and every landlord should require it.

      Not sure what your state law says, but typically a landlord will waive rent to cover the costs of a hotel when the rental unit becomes inhabitable. It might be worth consulting an attorney to review your lease and the situation.

  13. I live in a mobile home park and have 3 huge trees that old and branches and sap and weeds fell on my roof and made a hole it it costing me 10 thousand dollars to replace my roof, it has caused sap all over my husbands car, so i let him park in in my spot and I moved mine to the back of the house and they towed me costing me over 300 dollars in tow fees, when I called them to complain and told them why I moved the car they told me its their property but the lease they just took over last year, I have been here 15 years says the trees are my responsibility to remove them or the branches not theirs? so its their property but they can charge me to remove their trees and have me towed when I have no other place to park?

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