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Building Permits – Myth vs. Fact

In late January 2018, IDC member Nick Goddard noticed a Toronto Star column titled ‘Hire a professional to navigate building permit process’ penned by Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) President & CEO, Dave Wilkes. Taking issue with some of the misinformation presented in the article, Goddard wrote a reaction to the column, with some of the major points debunked, as follows:

Myth: It takes up to 46 weeks to process a Toronto residential building permit – this lengthy process discourages homeowners from renovating.

Fact: The City of Toronto’s Building Dept. website reveals that if the drawings are completed correctly, the application forms are complete, and all fees have been paid, the Ontario Building Code specifies that the review of the application will be completed in 10 business days.

If compliance with the building code, zoning and other applicable regulations is determined, the application is approved and a permit is issued shortly after that. If there is a compliance problem, the applicant will be issued a notice documenting why the project does not comply.

Residential building permits are not particularly complicated or difficult for a design professional that has experience with the application process and requirements.  There is a long-standing belief that permits are a nuisance to be avoided or expensive to obtain, which is simply not true.

Myth: There is no way to speed up the residential building permit process.

Fact: The Residential FASTRACK service is available for most basic renovations and additions. It guarantees a review in only five days. The fact is if a project qualifies for a FASTRACK application the issuance of the permit will occur in less than 10 days in most cases.  More info on the building permit review steams is found here.

Myth: An architect or engineer is not essential in the initial planning stages of a renovation project.

Fact: No application is complete without drawings, and very few general contractors are qualified to complete a set of permit drawings. Building departments throughout Ontario require drawings that have been produced by an interior designer, architectural technologist, architect or engineer and sometimes a combination of these different consultants. The professionals listed have a profound knowledge of the Ontario Building Code and must be qualified and registered with the provincial jurisdiction responsible for managing the municipal building departments. They must also be members of their professional associations, such as the Interior Designers of Canada, and their provincial associations. 

Without these credentials, a set of drawings will be immediately rejected by every building department in Ontario. 

Myth: Homeowners’ first point of contact should be a contractor.

Fact: This may be the biggest mistake most homeowners make! The ‘professional help’ a homeowner (or any business thinking of renovating) needs is a design professional who will assess the potential project, fully measure & survey the affected areas, offer advice, consult the Ontario Building Code and finally produce a set of drawings. In our experience it is best for everyone involved to have a set of drawings in hand before contacting a contractor. The drawing set provides a clear and controlled scope for discussions, obtaining prices from contractors and construction.

In terms of securing a building permit quickly and inexpensively it’s not about hiring a contractor – it’s about being in compliance with the Ontario Building Code and being able to communicate that to your local building department.

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