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by David Wilkes

Looking to renovate? Getting permits and approval may take longer than the work itself

Your family is growing and you need more space. You have two options. You can sell your house and move into a bigger home, or you can renovate your home and add more living space. You love your neighbourhood and do not want to move, so you decide to renovate.

Your first inclination may be to focus on the latest trends and finishes, but before you do that, your time is much better invested in getting the necessary approvals and permits. In some cities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), that can take months for a smaller renovation and up to a year for more ambitious projects.



Many homeowners are under the mistaken impression that it is as simple as filing your plans and obtaining your permit—a week or two and on to swinging hammers. The reality can be quite different. When planning a major renovation or custom-home build, the approval and permitting times can stretch for months, and may include multiple steps of getting approvals for variances to existing zoning requirements, setback regulations and obtaining approvals from other municipal departments like Urban Forestry. If re-zoning through the Committee of Adjustment is required, the entire process can take well up to a year.

Layered onto this, many municipalities are failing to meet The Ontario Building Code’s timeframes of just issuing a building permit in 10 business days, delaying renovation projects and adding unnecessary costs to projects. In 2017, in the City of Toronto, nearly half of all residential building permits were not issued within the required legislated timeframe.


The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) reviewed 6,011 City of Toronto permits and the average timeframe for issuing these permits was 31.4 calendar days. That is two to two-and-a-half times the provincially mandated maximum. It is important to note that this review included thousands of applications from very basic and quick permits, to permits with values of over $100,000; the issuing of these permits took an average of 45 days or six weeks.

Further delays in the process come from a lack of access to inspectors and inspection delays that can tangle homeowners up in even more red tape. Your dream renovation has now become a bureaucratic nightmare. The permit and approval system needs a good renovation itself.


BILD wants to put the customer first so they can enjoy their newly renovated or custom-built home sooner rather than later. Based on our members’ experience, we wrote the Service Standard of Excellence document to provide practical guidance to municipalities on how to speed up approvals and make the process more efficient.

We are asking cities to commit to a reasonable turnaround time for renovation permit applications, we are proposing the implementation of a one-window permitting, web-based portal that makes the application process smoother and transparent, and we are calling for improved service by building inspectors similar to the standards expected for Internet and telephone providers.

As we get closer to the 2018 Municipal Elections this fall, we will be meeting with councillors and mayors across the GTA to ask them to adopt the measures outlined in the Service Standards of Excellence and get them to provide building and renovation approvals and permits in line with the provincially mandated requirements.

David Wilkes is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog, and


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