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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Building Permit?

Why do you need a Building Permit?

When do you need a Building Permit?

How do you apply for a Building Permit?

What happens to your application?

What can you do if your application is turned down?            

What happens during construction?

What about demolition?

What if you want to change a building's use?

What happens if you don't get a Building Permit?

What other approvals may be required?

What is a Building Permit?

A building permit is formal approval from your municipality to construct, repair, alter, renovate a building, install plumbing and/or install or repair/alter a private sewage disposal system on your property.  

Why Do You Need a Building Permit?

Building permits allow the Town to protect the interests of purchasers, owners and the community as a whole. By reviewing plans before any work is done, the Town can ensure that buildings comply with:

  • the Ontario Building Code, which sets standards for design, life safety issues and materials
  • the local zoning by-law and its controls on buildings and uses that are suitable to the area
  • other health and safety regulations 

When Do You Need a Building Permit?

You must obtain a building permit before you:

  • erect a new building or place another structure such as a mobile home on your property
  • repair, alter or add to a building
  • excavate or construct a foundation
  • put up a temporary building
  • repair, modify or replace a private sewage disposal system
  • alter or install any plumbing system
  • finish a basement or conduct major renovations


  • detached structure less than 10m2 in building area without plumbing or septic connections
  • construction of a class 1 sewage system
  • detached tent less then 60m2 in aggregate ground area

If you’re not sure whether you need a building permit or you wish to change the use of your building, call the Town office. Staff can answer your question immediately, or send a building inspector to look at what you plan to do and tell you what you need.  

How Do You Apply For a Building Permit?

You can get an application for a building permit from the Town. But it’s a good idea to talk to the staff before you apply. They can tell you what information, drawings and plans you’ll have to include with the application and whether you’ll need any other permits or approvals (e.g. Lake Simcoe and Region Conservation Authority, Ministry of Transportation, etc.).

When you apply you’ll have to attach copies of plans and other documents to your application. Applications are reviewed for building and zoning compliance upon receipt of a complete submission.  It is a good idea to speak with staff early so upon your application being made it is as complete as possible.

What Happens to Your Application?

The Town’s building staff will review your application to confirm that the proposed work complies with the Ontario Building Code and the local zoning by-law. Staff may also send it to other municipal officials for comments. If there are problems with your application or your plan, the staff will tell you why and will show you what you have to do.

Applications for a simple alteration or addition can be processed fairly quickly, but more complex proposals may take longer. If you need a zoning change or a minor variance from the zoning by-law, or if the work does not comply with the building code, a permit will not be issued until all the approvals have been made.

If your property is covered by a site plan control by-law you will not receive a building permit until you have met all the requirements set out in the by-law.

What Can You Do If Your Application is Turned Down?

If the municipality refuses your application you will be told why. If you can't resolve the problems, you have a few options for appealing the decision:

  • If the problem relates to technical requirements of the building code, write to the Building Code Commission, care of the Housing Development and Buildings Branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, with reasons for your appeal.
  • If the problem relates to construction techniques or materials, write to the Building Materials Evaluation Commission, also care of the Housing Development and Buildings Branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and again give reasons for your appeal.

If the problem relates to interpretation of the zoning by-law, you can apply to a judge of the Ontario Court (General Division), who will review the zoning and decide whether your application complies. You may want to talk to a lawyer first.

What Happens During Construction?

Building permits list the kinds of inspections that will have to be completed during construction. A building inspector will inspect the work to determine if it is carried out in accordance with the building code, your permit, and the reviewed plans.

You will be required to:

  • show your permit in a window or other place where it can be easily seen
  • keep copies of the reviewed plans on the site and provide them to the inspector
  • contact the Town at the appropriate stages of construction for inspections as required on the  approved plan
  • inform the municipality about any last-minute changes, which will also have to be approved

The inspector must always be able to see the work. If it is different from the work that was approved, you will be asked to correct it and have the work re-inspected.  

What About Demolition?

Before you take down all or part of a building, you will have to apply to the Town for a demolition permit. The process is much the same as for a building permit, but some special situations may affect your application.

Because of a building’s historic or architectural importance, it may be designated, or be intended for designation as a heritage building under the Ontario Heritage Act. In that case demolition will require Heritage East Gwillimbury and/or Council’s approval and there may have to be negotiations over how some of the unique character of the building can be preserved.

What If You Want to Change a Building's Use?

If you want to change the way you use all or part of your building you may need a change of use permit, even if you’re not planning any construction. A building evaluation may have to be done to make sure that the existing building can support the new proposed use. Different uses have different code requirements. Call the Town’s Building Branch to find out whether you will need a change of use permit.

What Happens If You Don't Get a Building Permit?

Anyone who is charged and found guilty of building without a permit can be fined up to $25,000 for a first offence and up to $50,000 for later offences. Corporations can be fined $50,000 for the first offence and $100,000 for the second.  In addition individuals and corporations may be fined $10,000/day for continuing offences.  Fines may also be imposed if you don’t follow an order from the building department.

What Other Approvals May Be Required?

In addition to the Building Code and Zoning By-law requirements for a building permit required for a building project, other permits and approvals may be acquired in particular circumstances. For example, a Sewage Disposal System permit is required for a new sewage disposal system or modification to the existing system. In cottage areas, a permit may be required from the Ministry of Natural Resources before you do any construction in the water (for example, a dock or boathouse).  All other applicable laws are to be met prior to a permit being issued.