building permits

Home Construction or Renovation Without a Building Permit: The Consequences

In Canada, you must obtain a building permit mandatorily before constructing, renovating, or demolishing a property exceeding a specific size.

Unfortunately, many people in the country either are not aware of the permits or undermine the need for the permit. As a result, they can set their home construction, renovation or demolition project into motion without a permit.

In that case, such people will face the resultant consequences that will be in the form of penalties.

What is a Building Permit?

A building permit is an approval document to allow people in Canada to construct, renovate or demolish a property.

Municipal Building Departments issue building permits in the country. And the departments are also the bodies responsible for enforcing Ontario’s Building Code in Canada.

The need for a building permit arises to enable the municipality to preserve the community’s interests as a whole.

When the municipality issues a building permit, they ensure that the project complies with:

  • The existing Building Code, sets standards for the design and construction of properties to protect people’s health and ensure safety, fire protection, accessibility and resource conservation
  • The local zoning bylaw and other planning controls on properties
  • The essential legislations, such as conservation authority approvals and the requirements under the Environmental Protection Act

Therefore, you should get a building permit before you:

  • Construct a new property over ten square meters in area
  • Build another structure, such as a mobile home, within your existing property premises
  • Renovate your building
  • Change the use of a building
  • Excavate or construct a foundation
  • Build a seasonal building
  • Install, alter, extend or repair an on-site sewage system

It might so happen that you find it challenging to figure out when you need a building permit. You should ask a municipality official about the detailed process in such a case.

Consequences of Not Having a Building Permit

Suppose you carry out a property construction in Toronto without a building permit, ignoring its need, then you should be prepared for facing the resultant penalties.

It will be considered an offence to carry out property constructions or renovations without building permits in Toronto.

As a result, you will be charged to be found guilty of an offence under the Building Code Act, 1992. And, you must pay a fine of up to $50,000 for the first offence.

The fine can go up to $100,000 if you commit the same offence again.

The fines for businesses are significantly higher—for the first offence, the fine can be up to $500,000, and for the subsequent violations, the fine can go up as high as $1,500,000.

In addition, if you fail to comply with an order from the municipal building department, it is considered an offence under the Building Code Act, 1992.

Therefore, the message is clear—you will get caught if you carry out any such projects without obtaining a building permit beforehand.

How to Apply for a Building Permit?

It is necessary to submit an application in a particular format to the municipality office, corresponding to the project site area, to obtain a building permit. For example, the Toronto municipality office is responsible for issuing Toronto building permits.

Obtaining the form is a straightforward affair without the involvement of any complexities.

The application form is available at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s website and municipality office.

You need to note that you have to submit the filled application form to the municipality office but not the provincial government office. Moreover, you should attach drawings, plans, and other relevant documents with your application apart from paying the necessary fee.

If you undertake any construction or renovation project for the first time, you might not be aware of the nitty-gritty of the form submission process.

Therefore, you can speak to an official of the municipality office before submitting the application to know what documents to include with it. The interaction will also help you know if there is any need for other permits or approvals for your project.

The Application Review Process

After you submit your application for obtaining a building permit to carry out your project, it will undergo a review.

The municipality will review your application to confirm that your proposed project complies with the Building Code and other relevant laws mandated by the Building Code, such as local zoning bylaws.

It can also happen that the municipality might send your application to other municipality offices for comments.

The Possible Causes for Refusal

There can be many causes for the municipality to reject your application for obtaining a building permit for your project.

Deviations from the zoning bylaw or your plan not conforming with the Building Code can be sufficient reasons for a refusal. In such cases, the municipality will not issue the permit until you restructure your plan to conform to the relevant rules.

Again, the municipality will not issue the permit if a site plan control bylaw covers your property. In that case, you need to get your plan approved by the municipality to render it eligible for approval.

What Should You Do in Case of a Refusal?

In case of a refusal, the municipality will state the underlying reasons. Then, at first, you can try to resolve the issue with the municipality. And, there are some rules to appeal against their refusal.

Moreover, there are other ways out. For example, if the issue involves violating technical requirements mandated in the Building Code, you can appeal to the Building Code Commission.

The commission is an independent adjudicative tribunal of the provincial government that hears disputes related to compliance with the technical requirements of the Building Code.

Again, suppose the issue relates to non-conformity with other applicable laws, such as the zoning bylaw. In that case, you can appeal to a Superior Court of Justice judge to decide the issue. In this case, you need to take the advice of a lawyer beforehand.

Be Ready for Inspections

Once the municipality issues you a building permit and you set your project into motion, the municipality official will visit your project site to carry out the essential inspections.

The inspections will be done to ensure that you carry out the work according to the Building Code guidelines.

As such, you should display a copy of your building permit at your project site. Moreover, you also need to keep a copy of your plan at the site. The inspector can ask for it.


Obtaining a building permit is mandatory to carry out construction or renovation of properties in Canada. There will be severe fines if you get caught carrying out such activities without obtaining a building permit. As such, you should ensure that you get one before proceeding with your project.