Getting a building permit in Toronto is not a total walk in the park, but if you are doing any sort of construction work in the city it’s mandatory according to the Ontario Building Code Act.
Legally you need a registered structural engineer to stamp the plans being submitted so make sure to start planning your project early so that there is sufficient time to draw and understand relative costs.
Each type of construction project requires different permit applications for approval. A new build project needs to meet more requirements than smaller interior renovations and housing additions, so there are more hoops to jump through with the city if you are doing a new build. These can range from a Committe of Adjustment application for zoning variances to arbourist reports for trees that may need to come down and be replaced.
If you are building a new house from the ground up, make sure you take an afternoon to thoroughly review the city’s building regulations. Or partner with one of the architects or draughtsman we collaborate with to figure out the necessary planning steps relative to your project.
The good news is, after you understand the planning process to acquire a Toronto building permit you will be well on your way to realizing your dream vision
Toronto Building Permit Requirements
There are 24 subsections in the building code that require different applications and separate sets of requirements to be met along with the submission.
The Garages and Carports building subsection is one of them. This section’s mandatory requirements include a site plan with floor plans, elevations, zoning info and more.
And then there are three forms that may or may not be required with the application depending on your circumstances.
- [Mandatory] Application to Construct or Demolish Form
- The Designer Information Form if the drawings were done by a designer (and not an Engineer or an Architect).
- Tree Declaration Form – required for all projects where there is a potential for damage to private or City trees.
The first requirement is the mandatory form that needs to be submitted with every Toronto building permit application. The second form here is required if no Engineer or Architect is making the drawings.
If you are interfering with city or private trees in your new garage design, you will have to submit the third form as well, the Tree Declaration Form.
Zoning Your Property
With every building permit request, you need to include a valid zoning certificate.
The Zoning Certificate verifies your proposal complies with the Zoning By-Law. To get one, you will need to submit the following info:
- survey (if available)
- site plan – detailed, fully dimensioned and showing adjacent properties and buildings including setbacks
- floor plans – fully dimensioned with information on uses of all spaces
- elevations and cross-sections
For Committee of Adjustment applications it is highly recommended to include a Preliminary Project Review, which also shows that a proposal complies with the Zoning By-Law.
Construction Requirements & Guidelines
The Construction Requirements & Guidelines section is another part of the building docs that I would recommend reading from the get go.
It covers topics such as building site maintenance regulations and communicating with neighbours about your construction project.
If your project reaches beyond the delineation of your property line (e.g. with a dumpster parked on the street), there is a Street Occupation Permit for that. And did you know there’s no construction noise allowed on Sundays and statutory holidays?
In any case, make sure you brush up on the rest of these guidelines to fill in any knowledge gaps. Without these guidelines you risk being blindsided by fines later on in the process.
Mandatory: Building Inspections
Toronto Building enforces compliance with the Ontario Building Code through mandatory inspections for building permits and demolitions.
The city has full authority to investigate construction work that’s taking place without valid permits.
Beware of the “work without permit” penalty. The fee for doing unlicensed construction work can be equal to 50 percent of the permit fees for the project, or ~$200, whichever is greater to a maximum up $27,234.64!
That’s a nasty fee that can easily poke a whole in construction projects. Take it from a design build firm that has experience with fines from working without a permit.
After being burned a few times there’s no question we make sure to get building permits (or have our clients get them in collaboration with architect or draughtsman).
If you have already applied for inspection, you can check the status of your inspection here.
Submitting Building Permit Applications in Toronto
Once you finish filling out the permit forms, it’s time to submit them and wait for approval from the city.
So, how do you actually apply for the permits?
Well, you have two options. Submit them via email, or apply in person.
Either way is simple. Use the ‘Email’ button at the top of any application form to submit via email. This will set you up with an automatic response to your email on issuance of your permit.
Or if you’d like to apply in person, attend any Toronto Building Customer Service counter.
And you’re extremely lucky if you catch this hidden detail the first time around:
“Customers will be asked to present a re-writable DVD or USB containing all the necessary materials. No paper copies will be required.”
That’s right. When you’re submitting Toronto building permits in person make sure they are digital copies and not physical paperwork.
How Long Does It Take To Get Building Permits In Toronto?
It can take 15 days for a small building, 20 days for a large building and up to 30 days for complex buildings to get a response from Toronto Building Department.
Providing the application meets construction requirements & submitted drawings provide the necessary information, it will be approved.
Toronto Building has two application streams, a “complete” application stream or an “incomplete” application stream.
If you don’t meet the requirements you will join the incomplete stream and will need to resubmit the plans aligned with the city’s objections.
How Long Are Toronto Building Permits Valid?
Building permits are valid for the duration of the construction period provided work is on-going.
Where work has not started or has stopped, the permit is valid for up to 6 months. However, you may request a building permit extension to extend this period.
After the city has issued your permit, you can pick up the permit at the District Toronto Building Customer Service Office or call and request that it may be mailed.
After The Permit Has Been Issued
You’re not done with Toronto Building once they’ve issued your permit. There are steps to follow throughout your construction process to stay in the city’s good books.
They recommend reviewing your approved drawings before starting the work, printing the drawings in colour and keeping them on the project site, and posting the permit card in a conspicuous place on site prior to starting.
These steps help keep the approval visible if an inspector drops in to check up.
They add in the following few recommendations:
- contact any additional authority approvals for utilities
- arrange for inspections at appropriate construction stages
- meet the 6 month deadline for starting the project
There are so many minor details that need to be weighed. From zoning regulations to submitting the application, building permits take time and energy and collaboration between stakeholders.
Admittedly it’s a little tricky at first. But once you have some experience with the City of Toronto you will get familiar with all the tricks and things to avoid.
If you follow this guide when you are applying for building permits in Toronto you’re much better equipped to breeze through the process and start your construction project in no time.