Stumped About Whether Your Tree Removal Pros Need a License?

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Updated November 17, 2022
beige home with single driveway
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock


  • All tree removal companies should be licensed, bonded, and insured. 

  • Exact requirements for licensing will vary from state to state.

  • Look for certification from accredited organizations such as the ISA or TCIA.

  • Hire a tree removal service with a Certified Arborist.

  • Verify the company’s insurance coverage before hiring.

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When a big tree in your yard is a little too close to the roofline, it may be cause for concern. While removing a tree before it causes serious damage is a wise move, there are a few things to know before hiring a tree removal service for the job—including whether a tree removal company needs to be licensed.

Who Should I Hire to Remove My Tree?

First, it’s important to know who to call for tree removal. If your tree has started to outgrow its welcome, you’ll want to hire a certified tree removal service. Trimming large branches can be dangerous work, and tree removal even more so. 

While tree removal companies are generally required to be licensed, exactly what is required depends on where you live. When hiring a local tree removal service, always verify that they are licensed, bonded, and insured.

It’s also sometimes possible to get a tree cut down for free. If the tree is a threat to power lines or sewer systems, your local utility company may provide complimentary removal services. You can also advertise free wood to neighbors, local contractors, or lumber companies in exchange for removing the tree themselves.

What Kind of License Does a Tree Removal Service Need?

All tree removal services need a license.

Tree removal companies should have both a state or city business license in addition to a contractor’s license. The contractor’s license may or may not be specific to tree removal—this is entirely dependent on the laws of your state. Many states have a searchable tree company database to help you determine what type of certification is required and what companies meet those requirements. 

Look for Proper Certification 

Tree removal is a specialized service and can be dangerous work, so it’s wise to find a tree removal service with proper training. To determine qualifications, look for a tree service that holds an accredited certification from an industry-wide organization. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) offer certification in arboriculture. You can also search their database for certified arborists and verify their qualifications. 

Any reputable tree removal company will have at least one certified arborist on staff. Look for tree removal safety standards, such as a Certified Tree Care Safety Professional (CTSP) as well. In addition, tree removal companies should follow the proper tree removal guidelines as established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Is Your Service Provider a Licensed, Bonded, and Insured Tree Service Company?

Insurance requirements will also vary from state to state. For example, in Minnesota, any business performing work on a tree over 12 feet tall must have workman's compensation insurance. In Massachusetts, a landscaper’s insurance covers only 10 feet above the ground and is different from policies that specifically cover tree work. 

Although every state has different requirements for licensed tree contractors, just as with any kind of service on your property, hiring a licensed, bonded contractor will protect you—and them—from potential injury or property damages.

Verify Insurance Coverage

Just because a contractor says they are licensed, bonded, and insured, doesn’t guarantee they are. Before contracting any major work, it’s wise to check if your tree removal pro is insured. Here’s how:

  • Ask for the insurance company’s name and agent contact information

  • Call the insurance company yourself and check coverage

  • Request a certificate of insurance

Types of Insurance Coverage 

There are different types of insurance coverage that a contractor may carry. When you contact their insurance company, clarify the specifics. 

  • Liability insurance ensures that the company will pay for damages to your home or possessions. 

  • Worker’s compensation insurance holds the company responsible, not you, if an employee is injured while working on the job. Not only does this protect you, hiring a contractor with its employee’s best interest in mind means they are more likely to follow safety guidelines.

  • Being bonded essentially means that whomever you hire has a line of credit in place that will guarantee that any work contracted will be completed or, if they are unable to perform the work, the bond issuer will reimburse you. Being bonded also means the company complies with permit regulations required to complete the job.

Cost of Tree Removal Service

The cost of having a tree removed from your property can depend on the height, width, and location of the tree, but on average, you can expect to pay between $200 and $2,000. If a neglected tree falls on your property, it can cause costly damage to your home and vehicles, and even pose a threat to your life.

You also might consider tipping your tree removal pro 15% to 20% of the total bill for a job well done or if the work was harder than anticipated. While not expected, this is a nice gesture to make if you are happy with the service. 

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