How to Check Your Building Permit Status in Toronto
Getting a building permit in Toronto is a key step for any construction or renovation project. However, the permit process can be lengthy, taking 6–8 weeks just for the application review. This leaves many applicants wondering: What is the status of my building permit?
This comprehensive guide will explain all aspects of checking your building permit status in Toronto. We'll cover:
- What a building permit is and why it's required.
- The importance of monitoring your permit status.
- How to check your status online, by phone, or by email.
- What do common permit statuses mean?
- Reasons why approvals get delayed and how to avoid them.
- Whether building permits are public records.
- Special considerations for real estate transactions.
- Plus, additional tips and recommendations.
Understanding the ins and outs of building permit statuses will ensure your construction goes smoothly from start to finish.
What is a Building Permit?
A building permit is a legal document required by the City of Toronto for structural construction or alterations to any building within city boundaries. Permits are needed for:
- New building construction
- Additions and extensions
- Renovations or remodeling
- Structural demolition
- Accessory structures like decks, garages, and sheds
- Retaining walls exceeding 1 meter high
- Swimming pools deeper than 600mm
- Electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and HVAC work
- Fire alarm and fire sprinkler system installation
- Commercial kitchen exhaust hoods
- Canopies, marquees, and awnings
Essentially, if you're doing any work that impacts the structure or major systems of a building, you need a permit. The city's Building Permit Finder lists 100+ common projects requiring permits.
Permits ensure construction meets the standards of the Ontario Building Code, zoning by-laws, and other regulations. The city needs to review and approve all applications before work begins. Fines for starting projects without a permit can be up to $50,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a corporation.
It's also important to note that permits are tied directly to the property owner and address. If the property is sold, the new owner inherits responsibility for any open permits.
Why Monitor Your Building Permit Status?
The building permit approval process in a major city like Toronto takes time. Applicants must submit extensive documentation, and then applications go through rounds of review and revision. It typically takes 6–12 weeks to get the initial permit approval.
During this period, your application will go through several statuses:
- Received for review
- Under review
- Further information is required.
- Approved but awaiting fee payment
The drawn-out approval timeframe leaves applicants wondering: What is happening with my permit?
By monitoring your application status closely, you can:
- See where your application is in the queue.
- Get notified if reviewers need more information.
- Address any problems quickly before they cause major delays.
- Pay fees and obtain the permit promptly when it is approved.
- Avoid starting construction too soon before getting proper approvals.
Routine permit status checks give you visibility into the process. This helps projects continue moving forward optimally. No one wants their construction delayed because an issue went unnoticed!
How to Check Your Building Permit Status
The most convenient and efficient way is through the online permit portal. This lets you look up any permit status 24/7.
To check the status, you will need:
- Your building permit application number
- The project addresses
Enter these into the portal to view:
- The current status of the permit
- The date the application was received
- Permit details like scope of work
As your application progresses through review and approval, the portal will show real-time status updates.
Call the Permit Office
You can also call the Toronto Building Permit Office at 416-392-7539 during regular business hours (Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).
When calling, make sure to have your permit application number available. The permit officer can look up the status in the system and give you any updates.
If calling after hours, you may need to leave a voicemail with your inquiry. Make sure to clearly state your name, application number, project address, and callback number.
Email or Mail Enquiry
Sending an email or letter inquiry are other options for checking status.
For email, address your inquiry to email@example.com. For standard mail, send to:
Toronto Building Department, 100 Queen St., Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
Include the same details as for a phone inquiry: your name, permit application number, project address, and contact information.
Response times may be slower for mail or email compared to calling or checking online. But these methods provide a paper trail for your inquiry.
Understanding Common Building Permit Statuses
As your application is processed, the status will change to reflect where it is. Here are key statuses you may see:
- Application Received: The city has your application, and it's now in the queue for review. No action yet.
- Under Review: Your application is actively being assessed by a plan examiner or inspector.
- Revisions Required: The reviewer has identified missing information or changes that are needed. Promptly provide the requested revisions.
- Permit Ready: Your permit has been approved, pending fee payment. Pay quickly so construction can begin.
- Permit Issued: The city has granted your permit, and work can now commence. Display permit on site.
- Permit Expired: If work has not begun before permit expiration, you must apply for renewal.
- Work Incomplete: If work stops for over a year, you must apply to reactivate the permit.
- Permit Revoked: Severe site violations may result in the permit being revoked.
The online glossary lists all status definitions. If you see an unfamiliar status, look it up to understand the implications.
Why is My Building Permit Taking So Long?
It's frustrating, but delays are common in the Toronto building permit process. Review and approval often take 6–12 weeks. Complex projects can take 4-6 months or longer before construction can begin.
Common reasons for hold-ups include:
- High Volume of Applications: Toronto receives over 30,000 building permit applications per year. Staff must review each one. During peak seasons, turnaround times get backed up.
- Incomplete Applications: Missing documents, inadequate detail, and errors result in delays. The city may return incomplete applications.
- Complex Projects: Large or highly technical projects require much more review time. Custom homes, factories, and high-rises can have longer timelines.
- Revisions Required: If the plan examiner asks for information or changes, delays happen while waiting for your response.
- External Agencies: Projects near rivers or railways require approval from external agencies like TRCA, which also takes time.
- Staff Shortages: Union strikes or short-staffed departments can temporarily halt reviews and slow approvals.
If your application has been sitting at a status for an unusually long time, politely contact the city for an update. While delays are frustrating, patience and persistence pay off.
Can I Check Someone Else's Building Permit Status?
Building permits in Toronto fall under public record laws. This means anyone can request the status of a property address, not just the applicant.
Some common reasons people may want to check the permit status of an address other than their own include:
- Homebuyers: Checking if sellers have open permits before closing Open permits become the buyer’s responsibility after the sale.
- Realtors: verify permit status when listing a property for sale. Open permits must be disclosed.
- Neighbors: keeping tabs on construction happening nearby. The public can lodge complaints about unauthorized work.
- Prospective tenants: ensuring the unit they are renting has proper approvals for renovations.
- General Public: Out of curiosity about development projects in their city!
When searching for a non-applicant address, less detail is available in the status. But it will show if there is an open permit and what type of work is approved.
Special Considerations for Real Estate Transactions
Open or incomplete building permits take on special significance when selling or buying property.
As the permit holder, the current owner remains liable for the completion of all permitted construction. If sold mid-project, the buyer inherits responsibility for finishing it properly.
Issues can arise if buyers are unaware of open permits when purchasing:
- Renovation quality may be poor if the previous owner did unpermitted work.
- The buyer becomes liable for completion even if they don't want the construction.
- Work may need to be removed if not coded.
- Delays occur in obtaining a final inspection before selling.
- Construction liens may be placed if sub-trades are unpaid by the previous owner.
For these reasons, open building permits must be disclosed during a property sale. The buyer's lawyer will also double-check for any permits registered on title during due diligence.
If selling a property, be sure to disclose any open permits early on. Close them out properly, with final inspections finished before listing. This keeps your sale smooth!
Tips for Checking Permit Status
- For the fastest response, check the status online whenever possible.
- Bookmark the online permit portal for easy access.
- If calling or emailing, note the date and name of the person you spoke with for reference.
- Set calendar reminders to check status every 2–3 weeks during application review.
- If delayed longer than 8 weeks with no updates, politely follow up.
- If your address is changing, update your application contact information.
- Keep paper copies of all status updates and correspondence.
- Reach out proactively if you need to request a permit extension.
Staying on top of your status will help avoid costly surprises and keep your project on track!
Obtaining a building permit in Toronto marks a key milestone in any construction project. But the long 6–12 week review process leaves applicants in limbo, wondering about their status. Fortunately, the city offers several convenient options to check permit status online, by phone, or by email.
Monitoring status closely lets you flag any issues early so they can be swiftly addressed. It also gives visibility into where your application is in the queue, so you know when approvals are coming. For buyers, checking status protects against inheriting any problematic open permits.
While permit delays can be frustrating, being proactive pays off. Stay informed on your status and keep pushing your application smoothly towards approval. Your construction will be underway before you know it!