If peacocks aren’t your thing

Did you hear about the Surrey homeowner who cut down a tree because he didn’t want to live with the peacocks that came with it? The resident reportedly said, “I’ve been bugging the city for the last three years, please do something about the birds,” but “they never came to any solutions” so he decided to cut down the tree.

Imagine as many as 40 peacocks going up on your roof every night and making a mess all over your property. The morning after the tree was removed, the neighbours said the peacocks were “very confused” because “they have nowhere to live now.”

If you love peacocks (and they are beautiful), you might feel sad for the now homeless birds, however if you don’t like them or just don’t want to live with them, you might feel sorry for the homeowner, who now faces a fine of at least $1,000. The homeowner had reportedly tried to obtain a permit from the City before cutting down the tree but couldn’t get one.

Given the recent news coverage, we thought it might be timely to talk about the tree cutting requirements in the City of Surrey: what’s allowed and what’s not so you can decide for yourself what to do if you find you have a few unwelcome residents on your property or you have a client who doesn’t like peacocks.

Here it is in a nutshell – the City of Surrey has a Tree Protection Bylaw and trees may only be removed or cut down if they meet specific requirements within this Bylaw and when a permit has been issued.

(Scroll down for more details.)

What this means to you as a REALTOR®:

What this means is – if you or your client wants to cut down a tree in the City of Surrey or in another municipality, there is a formal process involved and you need to be informed. We have seven municipalities and each one likely has slightly different requirements when it comes to tree removal.

The REALTOR® Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice, Article 18 (Compliance with Statutory Requirements) states that, “The Business of a REALTOR® shall be conducted in strict accordance with all statutory and regulatory requirements.” This includes municipal bylaws.

As well, if you’re working with a Buyer who plans to “open up the view” in a home by cutting the trees, you might want to check that they can actually do that before they buy the home. Article 4 (Discovery of Facts) says, “A REALTOR® has an obligation to discover facts pertaining to a property which a prudent REALTOR® would discover in order to avoid error or misrepresentation.” When in doubt, ask questions. The last thing you want to hear is, “But you said I could just cut the trees down!”

A Tree Cutting Permit may be needed:

The homeowner or a certified tree removal/cutting company can apply to the City for a Tree Cutting Permit.

If the tree is a City tree (e. g. located on City-owned property such as parkland, boulevards or greenbelts) call 604-501-5050 to report the tree.

Note: For every tree that is removed, you may be required to plant two replacement trees.

A permit to remove/cut a tree may be approved if:

  • the City’s ISA-certified arborist says the tree is dangerous
  • the tree is in decline and not expected to recover
  • the tree interferes with servicing and there’s no alternative
  • the tree is within three metres of the home’s foundation
  • the tree needs to be removed/cut to allow for construction

You cannot apply for a Tree Cutting Permit because:

  • the tree drops needles in gutters
  • the tree drops leaves or fruit
  • the tree gives too much shade
  • you want your neighbour’s tree removed
  • the tree causes moss to grow on the roof
  • the tree has damaged the driveway or sidewalk
  • there is fence lifting
  • the tree’s roots interfere with the lawn
  • you want a better view

A Tree Cutting Permit is required to remove/cut:

  • all trees that measure at least 30 centimetres in diameter at breast height
  • trees that were planted as required replacement trees or as condition of development trees (e. g. trees planted in a strata by the developer are protected if they were a requirement of the development permit)
  • the following tree species of any size:
    • Arbutus (Arbutus menziesii)
    • Garry Oak (Quercus garryana)
    • Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
    • Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
    • Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
    • Maidenhair Tree (Gingko biloba)

How long it takes to get a Tree Cutting Permit:

The City estimates that it could take up to six weeks to get a Permit, however applications for a Permit to remove a tree with immediate risk factors take priority.


The tree cutting permit fee is $82, plus $32 per tree being removed. The replacement tree deposit is $400 per tree.

The deposit is collected to ensure replacement trees are planted and maintained during their first year. The deposit is returned if the tree passes a two-stage inspection process which ensures the trees planted will survive and grow to maturity.

Penalties if a tree is removed without a Tree Cutting Permit:

You could be asked to pay a penalty of between $1,000 and $10,000 per tree removed.

More information: