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Enquiry into the City of Toronto’s Handling of a Building Permit for Construction of a House

The Issue

In the fall of 2013, Mr. L was granted a building permit by the City of Toronto to demolish an existing house and build a new one on his corner lot. However, in June 2015, the City revoked Mr. L’s permit after discovering that it had misinterpreted a section of the new zoning bylaw relating to the location of the driveway, and had therefore issued the permit in error.

After Mr. L took the matter to the Committee of Adjustment, the City reissued his permit. Nonetheless, Mr. L complained to Ombudsman Toronto, because, as a result of what he considered to be a series of mistakes by the City, he was unable to occupy his new house, which cost him money and delayed its eventual sale. 

Our Enquiry

In gathering information for our Enquiry, we spoke with staff from several different City divisions and departments and reviewed the relevant legislation, including the Building Code Act, 1992 and its regulations (the Ontario Building Code), as well as the City’s zoning and tree bylaws.

What We Found

Our Enquiry found:

  • Toronto Building failed to apply the “flanking” provision of the new zoning bylaw when it approved the initial building permit.
  • As a result of poor documentation, Toronto Building was unable to confirm whether it followed its own policy of trying to obtain compliance before revocation of a permit.
  • The Committee of Adjustment is not complying with Provincial requirements. Under subsection 45(15) of the Planning Act, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Committee of Adjustment is required to notify applicants when all appeals to “the Tribunal” have been withdrawn – none of the Committee of Adjustment offices are currently complying with this requirement.

Our Recommendations

In consideration of the information gathered through this Enquiry, we made the following recommendations: 

  • Toronto Building should outline in writing the steps that staff should take before revoking a permit that Toronto Building issued in error. Toronto Building should publish these steps on its website. 
  • Toronto Building should amend its standard operating procedures to require that staff properly document the steps taken under the revocation process in its internal electronic database, making that information accessible to all inspectors and management within Toronto Building. 
  • As required by section 45(15) of the Planning Act, the Committee of Adjustment should send the applicant written notice in every case where all appeals to the Tribunal have been withdrawn. That letter should make it clear that the applicant must take action to contact Toronto Building to inform it that the Committee of Adjustment’s decision on the minor variance(s) that had been under appeal is now final and binding.

The City’s Response

Both Toronto Building and the Committee of Adjustment accept our findings. They have agreed to implement our recommendations.