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Understanding Building Permits and Why You May Need One

Making major renovations to your home or building a new house altogether require a great deal of planning. While there are many things you may be unsure of, one sure thing is that you will need to acquire a building permit before construction begins. The only exception is if you reside in a remote area where building codes are not enforced. So, knowing the ABCs of building permits is important.

The process of obtaining a building permit can be lengthy and complicated, depending on where you live, but your first order of business is to have a code enforcement officer review the construction drawings to ensure your plans comply with local building codes and ordinances. There is a fee attached to this, so make sure you find out from your municipality what the cost is and how long the processing time is.

If your construction plan is approved, your municipality will issue a permit allowing you to proceed with your construction or renovation plan.

While this process may sound pretty straightforward, it can be complicated depending on where you live. For example, living in a historic neighborhood makes it particularly difficult to get a building permit. There will be multiple reviews by multiple overseers inspecting the most minute details of your plan as time ticks away.

Another reason for long wait times is that some municipalities do not have enough inspectors to review permit applications quickly. So, the process gets dragged out.

However, if you live in a small town, you may have a shorter wait time.

The Approval Process

If you are making changes to an existing building that are minor or doing a simple addition, it’s quite likely that your application will be processed relatively quickly. Proposals that are more complex tend to take longer to be processed.

The Ontario Building Code has established timeframes surrounding the processing of building permit applications. Building proposals that are not in compliance with the Building Code, or that require a zoning change, will not be approved until the necessary changes are made.

In the event that your permit application is not approved, your municipality will tell you why it was denied. You will then have the opportunity to resolve the problem. If the issue relates to technical requirements listed in the Building Code or compliance with any other laws that apply, you may appeal the decision.

Once the problem has been resolved, you will receive a permit.

At a specific point during the construction phase, an inspection is mandatory. The stage when this is required depends on the type of building. The Building Code establishes when these inspections need to be conducted based on the building type.

When construction reaches this point, you will need to contact the municipality for an inspection.

Why is a Building Permit Necessary?

There are several reasons why building permits are important. Firstly, they ensure safety. By having your construction plans examined by an inspector before work begins, any flaws in the proposed design that could cause potential problems can be caught and addressed. This also includes issues with electrical wiring or plumbing.

Some municipalities have adopted newer energy conservation codes that they enforce to encourage builders and homeowners to lean towards greater energy efficiency.

Building permits also help municipalities keep the rate of growth under control. This is especially important for budgetary purposes and helps communities keep tabs on the amount of development in the area. The number of single-family building permits issued in an area is an important economic indicator.

Another benefit building permits offer is an addition stream of revenue for municipalities.

Do I Need a Permit for Repairs?

This is a common question homeowners have when a room in their home needs repair. While you will definitely need a permit to construct a new home or building, repairs and renovations are a different ballgame. There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to repairs because each municipality is different. One municipality may require a building permit for repairs and minor renovations, another may not. The best course of action is to ask.

What Will Happen if I Don’t Get a Permit?

Failing to obtain a permit could land you in some trouble in the future. If you decide to sell your home at some point, the lender of the person buying your home will have the home appraised. During this process, a thorough appraiser will find any unpermitted construction that was been done to the home.

This often leads to a fine and the municipality may require a permit be acquired retroactively. In some cases, the homeowner may be forced to deconstruct whatever work was completed.

Another crucial thing to remember is that, in the event that faulty work leads to a fire, your homeowner’s insurance company may deny a claim for damage if they discover the work was completed without a building permit.

At the end of the day, the risks of skipping a building permit just aren’t worth it. Take the time to find out whether your municipality requires a permit for the renovation project you have in mind before you begin the work.