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Building permits in Toronto: When do you need them?

With the arrival of spring, many homeowners are contemplating a home renovation.

But, if don’t know apply for permits needed to start and complete a particular project, it could lead to fines, delays, legal action and in some cases, the removal of work already done.

Under the Building Code Act, the City of Toronto says a building permit is required for the “construction and/or demolition of a new building, an addition, or material alteration of any building or structure.”

There are several regulations in place for renovation work, which has to comply with the building bylaw, zoning, as well as plumbing and electrical systems.

Permits will only be issued for work that meets these regulations. City staff will also conduct inspections to make sure the work is done in compliance with the permit.

What do you need a permit for?

Below are some projects that require a building permit:

  • Certain basement finishes: structural fixes, installing or altering heating/ plumbing systems, adding a second room or a basement entrance
  • Constructing a detached garage, carport, workshop or pool house larger than 10 square metres (108 square feet)
  • Adding another floor, sunroom, attached garage or porch to an existing building
  • Building a deck more than 60 centimetres above ground
  • Adding or removing walls, adding or enlarging new windows or doors
  • Environmental improvements such as green roofs
  • Installing or reconstructing a chimney/fireplace
  • Changing a building’s use (example: residential to office or single-dwelling unit house to multi-dwelling unit house)

Click here for more information on what work requires a permit, or contact Toronto Building.

What don’t you need a permit for?

Although a building permit is not required for some renovations, the projects still need to adhere to the zoning bylaw requirements.

Below are some projects that don’t require a permit:

  • Basement finishes that do not need structural/material fixes, no extra room built, and not requiring new plumbing installations
  • Deck work: finished deck level is a maximum of 60 centimetres above the ground, and not attached to the building’s structure
  • Skylight installation in a house or small building that is three storeys or less, and does not require removing more than one rafter
  • Adding or replacing insulation
  • Retaining wall on private property that is less than one metre in height

Click here for more information on what work requires a permit, or contact Toronto Building.

How are permit fees calculated?

According to the city, as of Jan. 1, 2015, a minimum fee of $109.44 is charged for all work, with an hourly fee of $82.08 for an inspection.

Formula for a permit fee: Service index for classification of proposed work x floor area in metre-squared of work involved.

Click here to review a fee schedule for a building permit, which is based on type of work being done.

What are the consequences of working without a permit?

Homeowners who start renovations without a required permit could face a “work without permit penalty” — an “extra fee equal to 50 per cent of the permit fees for the project, or $105.23, whichever is greater, to a maximum of $25,055.04.”

Failure to get a permit could also halt renovation work until the permit application is processed, or force homeowners to remove the work that was already done. And that’s on top of potential legal issues.

The city advises to check with Toronto Building officials regarding permit requirements. As a homeowner, you are responsible for paying the penalties.

Compiled using information from the City of Toronto