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Challenges in obtaining a building permit

Building permits are a necessary part of construction. However obtaining one can be costly and time consuming. Running a construction project without proper permits places a huge liability on the owner(s) of the project and makes them vulnerable to legal repercussions should any sort of damages occur to persons or property now and in the future. In this article, we will discuss the complexities, common problems, what you need (requirements), and common reasons for rejection.


Shouldn’t you be able to walk in to your local municipal office, fill out some paper work, pay your fee, then be handed your permit and away you go? In theory yes, but in reality there needs to be significant pre-planning involved before you can even dream about getting a building permit for your project.

Here is a partial list of questions that require a detailed answer:

  • Does your proposal comply with the Town or City By-laws?

  • Who will be designing the project, and are they qualified to do so?

  • How will your construction drawings be prepared?

  • Have you addressed all of the details required for the construction drawings to be approved?

  • What is the timeline of your project?

  • Do you have a site plan, including health and safety considerations?

As you can see, even small homeowner projects are addressed with the same rules and regulations as large construction projects. This is only a partial list; as you involve more elements to the project (ie. structural, electrical, mechanical) the amount of data and complexity of the construction drawings increases.

Common Problems

In addition to the legal issues mentioned above, failure to obtain any and all relevant building permits can and will hurt you in the wallet. If for example, a renovation on your property is performed without a permit and you later go on to sell the property, the potential buyers can legally ask to see the building permits for all renovations to the property. If the owner fails to provide them or they do not exist, that could result in chasing away potential buyers, or having buyers ask for a reduction in price to offset the risk involved.

What do you need for a building permit?

On a common application for a permit you will need to address the following:

  • Project information, including physical location of the project, jurisdiction where the work is taking place, size (area) of physical space needed to perform the project, and an estimate of the total project value.

  • Purpose of the application including proposed and current uses of the building, description of the proposed work, and what type of application (new, addition, alteration, demolition, etc.)

  • Who is the applicant

  • Who is the owner if different from applicant

  • Who is the builder (optional)

  • Completeness and compliance with applicable law

  • Who is the designer

  • Who is the sewage system installer (if applicable)


Providing all of the data mentioned above unfortunately does not guarantee the approval of your application. Many applications for building permits are rejected for a variety of reasons. Some common reasons are:

  • The minimum code information is missing or not specified correctly

  • Designer/Installer are not considered qualified

  • Construction drawings do not address all required details

  • Construction drawings are inaccurate or contain errors

  • Misinformation or omitted information on application (Serious offense)

  • Zoning conflicts

Without proper foresight and planning, obtaining a building permit can be challenging, stressful, and downright intimidating. However, retaining qualified personnel in all stages from planning to construction may cost more up front, but will save you money and give the owner piece of mind over the long term.

Having a problem obtaining a building permit? Don’t know where to begin? Give Saroj at Mapletherm a call and draw upon our expertise and experience in obtaining building permits for clients.

Saroj Acharya, P. Eng, LEED AP, CEM MapleTherm Engineering Inc.

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