Risks of working without a permit when it is required
If you or your contractor do not have a permit for work that has already started, and it turns out you need a permit for that work, you could face serious – and potentially costly – consequences, including:
- A “work without permit” penalty (This is typically double the original permit fee.)
- A delay while your permit application is processed (All work must stop during this time and the original timeline and fees to process an application still apply.)
- A potential to remove work that was already commenced prior to obtaining a permit
- A potential to do more work than you had originally planned and budgeted for, such as adding fire sprinklers or making seismic upgrades
- Potential for future legal and/or financial issues when selling your property or filing an insurance claim
Note As the homeowner, you are responsible for paying these fees or penalties yourself even if you have hired a contractor who assured you that permits were not needed.
Generally, you'll be required to have a permit to begin construction, such as:
- Any new construction (new buildings and/or renovations to existing buildings that create a new area)
- Changing the land use of an existing commercial space
- Adding a secondary suite to an existing house
- Renovation projects that include moving interior walls and/or existing plumbing, electrical, or gas lines
- Structural repairs
- Drywall repairs to fire separations in multi-unit residential buildings
- Building or altering a garage, shed, or deck
- Renovating or tenant improvements for a new or existing commercial space
Not sure if you need a permit? When in doubt, contact the Development and Building Services Centre to determine if you are required to have a permit for your particular project.
Note You may get a partial application fee refund when you withdraw your permit application (if the fee is refundable in its applicable by-law). An $85 administration fee will be required to process your refund request.
Projects that don't require a permit
Many small projects and repairs do not require a permit. These include:
- Replacing fixtures, cabinets, or flooring
- Carry out non-structural maintenance and minor repairs to the exterior of your home
- Unclogging drains
- Replacing an existing electric powered hot water tank
- Replacing defective fuses, receptacles, or switches
- Installing roofing, gutters, or drain-pipes
The Development and Building Centre is open for in-person scheduled appointments or payments.
Location and mailing address
Development and Building Centre
515 West 10th Avenue, Ground Floor
Vancouver, BC V5Z 4A8