The process

The building permit process has various stages, starting with who can apply for the permit.

The building code requires that the person applying for a building permit must:

  • be the owner or an authorized agent of the owner.
  • the owner’s residential address and the address of the property that is the site of the construction must be included.
  • contact information for the owner and designer must be included
  • the legal questionnaire must be checked
  • the payment of the application fee must be paid. 
  • the qualifications of the designer (if different than the owner) must be included.


The process starts by visiting the municipal building department to check on zoning restrictions. For this step representational drawings of the footprint, elevations, site plan and in some cases a survey must be included.  A bylaw examiner determines compliance with municipal zoning bylaws, building setbacks from lot lines, the height of the building, what is the lot coverage, parking requirements and landscaping statistics.  (Not all of these will apply depending upon the scope of the construction required.)

Applying for a Minor Variance

In some cases the project may not fit within the constraints of the Zoning Bylaws, and if it is not possible to comply, then an application to the Committee of Adjustment may be in order.  Provided that the relief sought is minor in nature, complies with the Official Plan for the community, and doesn’t cause a reasonable problem for other property owners in the neighbourhood, a good outcome is likely.

If the proposed work is compliant with zoning, then the application for the permit may be started by including all forms complete with technical drawings and paying the required application fee.  Usually, the people at the front desk of the building department (with Covid-19 protocols in place, this will be via a phone call) will be helpful with the process by walking you through the steps.  If you find it too intimidating or time-consuming, rely on your authorized agent. Don’t feel embarrassed by not knowing what to do, the staff makes the experience friendly and smooth as possible.  The key to a successful application is to have a complete set of drawings with specifications submitted with the application.


The approval, or reasons for denying the application happen within 10 business days for most classes of residential applications.  In Toronto, a small project may be fast-tracked and take only 5 days. For a larger residential project, the process may take longer because of the complexity. Reasons for denial may include a design element that doesn’t conform with some aspect of the Ontario Building Code, or there is incomplete information on drawings, structural changes that would require the design by a professional engineer or a design that is inappropriate for the intended occupancy.  It is important to note that drawings must be to scale, all text must be clearly legible, and the drawing pages must be in a sensible order. Any shortcoming in the requirements will result delays and resubmission of information.

Who May Apply

Not everyone may apply for a building permit.  The person who owns the property, or an authorised agent of the owner may apply. The person responsible for the design has to be identified in the application as well.  For a house, the homeowner may complete the process including designing the work to be done, and preparing the drawings.  (For commercial projects the Building Code Act specifies that an Architect or Engineer must be the designers. Owners are not qualified to act as designers for commercial projects.)

In summary a person with suitable qualifications (an Architect, an Engineer, or a BCIN Designer) who has reviewed the drawings or has created the design may represent the owner and apply for the permit on the owner’s behalf.


For houses, the person designing the building can be the owner or a qualified person.
Professional Engineers who are certified for designing structures and are licensed by the PEO.
Architects who are licensed by the Ontario Association of Architects, or
A Public Designer Firm registered with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to provide specific design work.

BCIN Designers

BCIN designers are not architects.  There are several categories of BCIN designers, and those who are licenced to design houses or small buildings may design a house or a dwelling unit.  To perform design directly for a builder or homeowner, the BCIN designer must be incorporated, have appropriate insurance and be registered with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.  When submitting documentation, there will be two BCIN numbers, one for the designer and one for the designer’s corporation.

Public designers with a BCIN (Building Code Identification Number) are limited to buildings not exceeding a footprint of 600 square metres (about 6,450 square feet) nor greater than 3 stories in height and, depending on qualifications, may also design Plumbing Systems and HVAC systems. BCIN Designers often work with Engineers as well.

Other services a BCIN Designer may provide

Application and representation to the Committee of Adjustment
Review of a dwelling for suitability to add an accessory apartment
Review of vacant property to assess the suitability for a new house
Assistance with getting permission to apply for a building permit with the following regulatory bodies:

  • Conservation Authority
  • Ministry of Transportation
  • Metrolinx
  • Urban Forestry

Once you have decided to get a building permit, the resources of a building designer may facilitate the building permit process by providing construction documentation and the application process by representing your interests with the planning and building departments. 

Call Measurite at 905 409 8487 for a no-obligation consultation.