Renovating Your Home? May Need Municipal Approval.
Updated: Aug 13, 2021
You need to obtain a building permit when you wish to construct, renovate, demolish or change the use of a building. This is needed so municipalities can ensure buildings comply with (1) the Building Code, (2) local zoning by-law, and (3) other applicable legislation (i.e. Environmental Protection Act).
When Must you Obtain a Building Permit?
You must obtain a building permit before you:
Construct any new building over ten square meters in area or place another structure, such a mobile home, on your property;
Make renovations (i.e. decks, porches) or repairs or add to a building;
Change the use of a building (zoning by-laws restrict the uses of buildings to commercial, residential, etc…);
Excavate or construct a foundation;
Construct a seasonal building; or
Undertake work regarding the installation, alteration, extension or repair of an on-site sewage system.
In St. Catharines, you must obtain a permit for:
Home renovations (i.e. finishing basements, enlarging windows or door openings, skylights, patio doors; and removing or adding walls);
Construction of garages (attached or detached or carports);
Additions to garages;
Decks more than 600 mm (23 5/8”) above ground;
Demolition of any structure occupying an area greater than 10 square metres;
Installation of new plumbing systems;
Alterations to existing plumbing systems;
Installation or alterations of HVAC systems;
Retaining walls; and
Considering building permits are obtained municipally, make sure to contact your municipality for more information on when and how to obtain a building permit.
Why Should You Care?
The Building Code is clear in that fines can be issued when you build without a permit. For instance, if an individual is found guilty of building without a permit, an individual could be fined up to $50,000.00 for the first offence and up to $100,000.00 for subsequent offences. If a corporation is found guilty of building without a permit, the corporation could be fined up to $500,000.00 for a first offence and $1,500,000.00 for subsequent offences.
Another reason why you should care about obtaining a building permit to renovate is to prevent lawsuits. For instance, say you made renovations without a permit and sold your property. Say the renovation made a property into a duplex from a single-family residence and the municipal by-law prohibits duplexes in your zone. While Title Insurers may insure the purchaser’s costs to correct the issue, Title Insurers may retain the right to sue you for damages.
However trivial a renovation or building project might seem, you should consider the long-term costs when these renovations or building projects are conducted without municipal approval. You might say to yourself: permit applications and renovations done the “right way” are costly and time consuming. This could be true. However, saving now and paying later is not advisable.
Speak with a lawyer. He/she can help you through this process. The last thing you want are fines and lawsuits for building a deck without municipal approval.
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