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Blueprints of a residential building and a building permit.


May 3, 2023

Building Permits in Ontario: Everything You Need to Know

As a contractor in Ontario, it goes without saying you should familiarize yourself with building permits before starting any major home renovations. The law requires you to acquire building permits to ensure that various health, fire, and structural safety standards are met.

If you start working on a project without the proper permit(s), you’ll incur hefty penalties and be forced to stop your operations immediately.

So, when do you need a permit in Ontario? How do you apply for one? Do different cities have different requirements? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more below!

What Are Building Permits?

Building permits are official documents that give you permission to begin a new construction or renovation project. The documents outline a set of standards that you must follow before, during, and after you begin working.

They enable your municipality to protect the interests of the community as a whole and are designed to ensure you meet all required safety protocols.

In Ontario, contractors are required to follow the standards defined in the Ontario Building Code. However, the enforcement of the Building Code—including the issuance of permits—is carried out by municipal building departments.

However, some home improvement projects like building fences or sheds on your property don’t require a building permit. Do note that the rules vary by city, so it’s crucial to be aware of the requirements of the area you’re working in.

 Two contractors reviewing a residential building permit

When Do You Need a Building Permit?

Some instances when you need building permits in Ontario are when you:

  • Construct or change any structure over 10 square metres in one area or place another structure on your property
  • Make major renovations or repairs or add to an existing structure
  • Change a structure’s intended use
  • Construct or excavate a foundation
  • Add, repair, or renovate a space that requires plumbing
  • Construct a seasonal building

That said, it’s best to contact your municipality if you have specific questions about the building permit you need to acquire before taking on any work.

How Do You Apply for Building Permits?

You can apply for a permit in the planning office of your municipality or at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s website. Your permit applications must be submitted to your municipal—not provincial—government for them to be properly reviewed.

Applications for simple construction projects or renovations are processed faster, but major alterations or additions may take longer. However, the review process does have a timeframe for permit applications as outlined in Ontario’s Building Code. For instance, a permit application for house renovations should be reviewed within 10 days. The timeframe given for more complex projects is one month.

Pro tip: Attach drawings or plans to your application, including necessary paperwork, documentation, and other project specifications.

Within the given deadline, the municipality must either approve the permit or deny it and provide the rationale behind its decision.

How Much Does a Building Permit Cost?

The fees usually vary by municipality and depend on the type of project you’re undertaking. Some are based on a flat rate for the whole project, while other permits are based on a rate per square metre of the whole project site.

Here are some of the most common types of permits and their respective costs in Ontario’s largest cities.

Residential Renovations (Detached, Semi, Townhouse, Duplex):

  • Toronto: Around $17.16 per square metre
  • Mississauga: About $16.94 per square metre
  • Oakville: About $17.15 per square metre
  • Vaughan: Around $15.36 per square metre
  • Ottawa: $80 minimum fee + $11 per $1,000 of project valuation for existing buildings
  • London: $200.65 minimum fee, plus additional fees as applicable
  • Barrie: $164.16 minimum fee, plus additional fees
  • Sudbury: $4.57 per square foot for residential projects

Plumbing/Draining Components:

  • Toronto: About $198.59 (flat rate fee)
  • Mississauga: Around $38 (per fixture)
  • Oakville: Around $39 (per fixture)
  • Vaughan: About $160.00 (flat rate fee)
  • Ottawa: $80 (for application)
  • London: $200.65 (flat fee)
  • Barrie: $260.31 (flat fee)
  • Sudbury: $108 (minimum fee)

There may be additional fees per project, such as environmental impact, certifications, or inspection costs. It’s best to ask your municipality for the breakdown of the costs.

A structure getting demolished.

What Are Demolition Permits?

Just like you need a permit to construct or renovate buildings, you also need permits to demolish them. Before undertaking any demolition jobs, you’ll need to apply for a permit in your municipality and follow an identical process.

However, some situations may affect your application. For instance, you may need separate heritage approval from your local municipality if the property is listed under the Ontario Heritage Act. This act serves as a way to give municipalities the power to identify and protect properties with cultural heritage value.

Additionally, there must be a 60-day notice to the municipal council detailing the property owner’s intention to demolish or remove their building.

Consequences of Violating the Building Code

Anyone charged and found guilty of violating the Building Code Act can be fined up to $50,000 for a first offence and up to $100,000 for subsequent offences.

Companies are subject to heftier penalties. Violators could be penalized a maximum fine of $500,000 for the first offence and up to $1,500,000 for continued violations.

Failure to comply with an order from the municipal council or municipal building department is also considered an offence under Ontario’s Building Code Act.

Protect Your Business With Contractors Insurance

Constructing or demolishing a building is a risky job. This is why it’s vital to protect yourself and your business by obtaining building permits and having reliable insurance policies that help cover medical expenses should things go awry.

Contractors Insurance is an award-winning commercial insurance brokerage based in Ontario. We provide customized insurance packages that cover a wide range of clients and ensure they get insurance solutions specifically tailored to their business’s needs.

Contact us today to get started with a quick quote!


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