Building Permit FAQ

1.    What is a Building Permit?
2.    How do permits protect you, your family and your neighbours?
3.    Why are Building Permits necessary?
4.    When do I need a Building Permit?
5.    How do I apply for a Building Permit?
6.    How are Building Permit applications processed?
7.    What about site plan approval?
8.    What can I do if I am refused a Building Permit?
9.    What are my obligations during construction?
10.   Facts about demolition.
11.   Who do I contact to see if my project meets zoning by-laws?
12.   If I don’t require a Building Permit for my project, are there any other permits or approvals I will need from the municipality?

1.   What is a Building Permit?

A Building Permit is your formal permission to begin construction.  It means that plans for any new structure, addition or renovation have been approved by the municipality, and that they comply with the Nova Scotia Building Code, the local Land Use by-law and any other applicable laws and regulations.

2.   How do permits protect you, your family and your neighbours?

If you or a contractor you hired are going to build, add, renovate or alter any part of your residence, or perform work on the electrical, plumbing and/or mechanical system for your residence, ensure that a permit has been obtained prior to starting the work/installation.

Permits ensure that the work is in compliance with all codes and safety standards and will be inspected by a Municipal Building Inspector to ensure professional standards are met. 

   3.   Why are Building Permits necessary?

Through the use of Building Permits, a municipality can regulate the types of construction that take place in the community and ensure that proper building standards are met.  The Building Permit process protects the individual’s interests as well as those of the community at large, and provides for the construction of sound and safe structures, in accordance with the Building Code.

Your Building Permit can be a helpful tool for you.  With it comes an opportunity to talk to your local building officials and consult with them on construction methods and various materials to make sure you do the work only once; and your project will keep up to the latest  material standards. 

4.   When do I need a Building Permit?

When considering any kind of construction on your property, you should discuss your plans with the local Development staff first. They can advise you about any other permits or approvals you might need, such as demolition permits, minor variances and electrical permits.

If you are not sure whether you need a permit or not, simply call the municipal building department and ask.  Either you will get an answer over the telephone, or a Building Inspector may visit your site in order to advise you what is required.

It is important to check with the Development Office as a Development Permit may still be required before any project is started, even if a Building Permit is not required.

For more information, please call: 902-742-9691.

5.   How do I apply for a Building Permit?

Applications can be made at the Development Office. Along with an application, you will be required to submit sketches, building drawings, plans and other documents to the municipality for approval. You will have to pay an application fee and additional charges for such services as water connections and sewer connections. 

Homeowners may fear that applying for a Building Permit will cause unnecessary and costly changes to their plans, and that the process will create long delays.  In reality, most applications are processed quite quickly. In applying for a permit, access to the municipal building official’s advice and years of experience is available. 

For interior work, a floor plan and a cross-section drawing will usually be required. For work affecting the exterior you’ll be asked to supply a floor plan, a cross-section, a site plan and elevations. These should be made to scale, showing all dimensions. 

For buildings over three stories or more than 600m2, an architect or engineer will be needed to design your building and prepare drawings and plans. 

To check the exact requirements of the permit application, contact your local building official.  For more information please call: 902-742-9691. 

6.   How are Building Permit applications processed?

Municipal staff reviews your application to ensure that it is complete and that it complies with the Building Code, the local Land Use by-law and all other applicable laws.  It may then be sent to other municipal officials for their consideration.

Applications that involve simple alterations or additions can usually be dealt with fairly quickly, while more complex proposals naturally take longer to process.  If a zoning change or minor variance is necessary, or if building plans must be altered to comply with the Building Code, the changes must be approved and in place before a Building Permit can be issued.

Where there are problems with your proposal, local building officials will usually discuss them with you in detail before considering refusal of a permit.  The following represents a summarized version of the Building Permit process:

  1. BEFORE APPLYING
    Before submitting an application, consult with municipal building officials.
  2. THE APPLICATION
    Submit an application with supporting documentation to the local Building Official, along with the fee.
  3. CONSIDERATION
    Application is reviewed for completeness and against local zoning by-laws, the Building Code and other legislation.
  4. DECISION
    Application may be approved or refused.  Inspections specified.
  5. INSPECTIONS DURING CONSTRUCTION
    A Building Inspector checks major phases of construction through to completion.
  6. CONSTRUCTION COMPLETED
    No building is to be occupied before first obtaining a final inspection and an Occupancy Permit or Completion Certificate.

For more information please call:    902-742-9691.

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7.   What about site plan approval?

If your property is covered by the municipality’s Land Use by-law, a Building Permit will not be issued until you have fulfilled all the site plan requirements laid out by the municipality. For detailed information, contact our Development Officer to find out what the situation is in your community.
For more information please call:  902-742-9691

8.   What can I do if I am refused a Building Permit?

If you have been refused a Building Permit, local building officials will advise you of the reasons. If you have discussed the matter with them beforehand and have not been able to resolve the problems, you have the option of appealing through the Nova Scotia Building Advisory Committee. 

9.  What are my obligations during construction?

Building Permits often list inspections that are required under the Building Code. These inspections are carried out by a Building Inspector, who checks each major phase of your construction. His duty is to make sure that the work is being carried out according to:

  • The Building Code,
  • Your permit,
  • Your approved building plans.

The Inspector must be able to see the part of the construction he is to inspect, and usually needs 24 to 48 hours advance notice.  If the Inspector finds that some work does not conform to the approved plans, he will advise you and may send a notice asking that the situation be remedied. Another inspection may be required before you resume work. If work continues without resolving the problem, you can be subject to legal action.

In addition to co-operating with any inspections, you are also required to:

  1. Post your Building Permit in a window or other prominent place on site
  2. Keep a copy of your building plan on site
  3. Bring any proposed changes to the attention of your local building official as soon as possible. These changes will require approval in the same manner as the original building plans.

10.  Facts about Demolition

Before you demolish any building in part or whole, you are required by the Building Code to apply for a Demolition Permit from your municipality’s building official. The process for obtaining one is similar to that for a Building Permit. In some cases, you must hire a professional engineer to oversee the demolition.12
The safety of your demolition or new construction site is also regulated by the Building Code.  The Building Code regulates the safety of the work site.  So if work may endanger the public or neighboring properties, the contractor or owner may be directed to install fencing, boarding or barricades.

You should be aware that special situations may affect a proposed demolition.  Heritage buildings intended for designation or formally designated as having historic or architectural significance under the NS. Dept. of Tourism, Culture and Heritage are subject to certain conditions:

  • A building intended for designation cannot be demolished without local council approval
  • Designation does not permanently prohibit demolition, but requires a permit to be obtained to demolish a building on a designated property.  If the municipal council refuses such a permit, no demolition may take place for 180 days.  This is to allow an opportunity to negotiate with the owner to somehow preserve the distinctive character of the building.

11.  Who do I contact to see if my project meets zoning by-laws?

Any questions on whether your project is suitable for the area should be directed to the Municipal Development Officer.  For more information please call: 902-742-9691.

12.  If I don’t require a Building Permit for my project, are there any other permits or approvals I will need from the municipality?

Along with it’s jurisdiction over Development and Building Permits, the municipal development office handles other issues such as vender’s licenses and special event licenses.  In short, if you are in any doubt, call our office and our friendly staff will help you.

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