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Renovation tips

4 min read

Municipal By-Laws and Residential Renovations

Renovation tips

4 min read

Municipal By-Laws and Residential Renovations

Renovation tipsMunicipal By-Laws and Residential Renovations

No one is above making a bad decision, hence why it’s so important to gain the necessary knowledge before carrying out a renovation project. Note that every municipality has a unique regulation, one that must be respected, otherwise, you risk exposing yourself to fines. A city also has the authority to halt any worksite or rescind any changes carried out post-construction. 

To avoid finding yourself in a bad situation with neighbours or the municipality in general—or even the person to whom you’re hoping to sell your house—you have to make sure all the changes made to your property were authorized by the city, hence the importance of being knowledgable regarding municipal by-laws.

Residential Renovations: Municipal By-Laws

Apartment building renovations

Source: Canva

Municipal by-laws are a representation of how a municipality puts into action its legislative power bestowed upon them by the Parliament of Quebec. The by-laws are grouped according to subject matter:

  • General (parking, nuisance, traffic, animal control and ownership, etc.)

  • Environment (use of pesticides and fertilizers, waste and recycling management, etc.)

  • Fire prevention (concerns the rules applicable in terms of fire safety)

  • Services and utilities (sewer and water supply services, the installation of mailboxes on public roadways, etc.)

  • Urban planning (construction by-laws, permit management, zoning by-laws, etc.)

Construction-related by-laws specific to your municipality are enforced to govern the building industry and manage the quality, sustainability, and safety of a structure’s various components. Furthermore, by-laws regarding permit and certificate management govern administrative conditions that shape how different urban planning by-laws are enforced.

Municipal By-Laws: Targeted Renovations

Whether it entails renovation or landscaping work, ensuring whether a permit is required or not is of utmost importance, as permits are mandatory when carrying out certain work. Among the renovation work requiring a building permit, the following are included:

  • Construction and/or transformation work altering the square footage and/or size of a dwelling

  • Demolition work

  • Putting up a fence, hedge, or low-retaining wall

  • Building a shed

  • Putting in a pool and/or hot tub

  • Excavation and backfilling work

  • Felling of trees

  • And more

Even though some maintenance, repair, or replacement work isn’t endangering the safety of citizens and doesn’t require a permit, adhering to established by-laws is mandatory, otherwise, you’re putting yourself at risk of legal proceedings.

The best practice here would be to show up, in person, at your local urban planning department prior to carrying out the work planned. Your city’s website is also a great source of information. 

The Importance of Adhering to Municipal By-Laws

Residential renovation and demolition work

Source: Canva

As mentioned earlier, municipal by-laws differ from one city to the next. As such, inquiring prior to jumpstarting any residential renovation work is of utmost importance. This applies just as well for renovation work as landscaping projects

In the event that you had building or landscaping work done without disclosing it to your municipality for authorization first, you risk being fined and having to restore the property as was prior. For example, in 2018, a couple from Québec City was ordered and fined ($8,000) by the city to remove the artificial lawn they had installed on their property. Indeed, installing artificial lawns on residential lots is prohibited in Québec City. 

If you carry out renovation work illegally, chances are, your municipality will come to find out at some point or another—might be the moment you put your property up for sale… In 2014, a family purchased an intergenerational home in Repentigny. A few months later, they received a municipal notice alerting them that the basement unit was built without a permit. Since the property was now deemed non-compliant, the municipality requested them to knock down walls dividing specific areas.

After hiring an architecture firm, the family learned that the remodelling costs to render the basement compliant with municipal by-laws were valued at $136,000. Talk about one harsh reality check for this family who planned on living a peaceful life in their new home!  

Inquire Prior to Jumpstarting a Project

To try and avoid unforeseen circumstances that are bound to happen, sooner or later, inquiring with your city regarding municipal by-laws is a must. If the renovation work is green-lighted, your city may request you to submit a file to obtain a building permit for your renovations. That way, you’re sure to be following the proper municipal guidelines and laws.

Don’t rely solely on your instincts or what your friends may tell you, as by-laws differ from one city to the next. Therefore, what is permitted by one city may not be in another. For example’s sake, intergenerational homes are prohibited in Repentigny but perfectly legal in other Quebec cities.

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Last modified 2024-05-27

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