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Planning, Property & Development

Building Permits: Frequently Asked Questions

Information for homeowners and businesses planning renovation or building projects.

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What is a building permit?

A building permit is a municipal document from the City of Winnipeg that provides legal authorization to begin construction of a building project. The Zoning and Permits Branch within the Planning, Property and Development Department is the legal municipal authority for issuing permits in the City of Winnipeg.

Why is a building permit required?

If you or the contractor you have hired are going to build, add, renovate or alter any part of your residence, or perform work on the electrical, plumbing and/or mechanical systems of your residence, ensure that a permit has been obtained prior to starting your project. Permits provide a mechanism for the City to engage in a review of plans and/or audits of construction through inspections to help ensure that the work is in compliance with all building and electrical codes, and other relevant City by-laws such as zoning. In many cases, your designer or contractor will get permits on your behalf. Even so, please note that homeowners are ultimately responsible for ensuring required permits are in place prior to commencement of any work.

What construction projects require building permits?

A building permit is required for new construction, additions, alterations, renovations, relocations, and repairs or rehabilitation of a building or structure. Some minor repairs do not require a permit. Listed below are typical projects that require a permit as well as projects that do not require a permit. If the proposed building or structure is to be built in the vicinity of a river or creek, in the area regulated by The City of Winnipeg Waterway By-law 5888/92, a Waterway Permit is required to ensure that the proposed construction will not have an adverse impact on riverbank stability. An approval to construct in a Flood Fringe Area may also be required.

Projects That Typically Require a Permit

  • Constructing a new building
  • Any addition to an existing building
  • A detached building (garage, storage sheds, gazebos, etc.) with a floor area over 10 m² (108 ft.²)
  • Decks with a floor height over 600 mm (2 ft.) from ground level
  • Enclosing an existing open deck
  • Finishing previously unfinished spaces in a home such as attics
  • Plumbing, electrical or air-conditioning systems
  • Structural foundation repairs
  • Pools, spas and hot tubs, or any device capable of holding over 600 mm (2 ft.) of water
  • Installing a solid fuel burning appliances such as wood stove or fireplace
  • Wheelchair ramps
  • Temporary structures larger than 83.7 m² (901 ft.²) such as special event tents
  • Demolish or remove all or a portion of a building

Projects that Typically Do Not Require a Permit

Although a building permit may not be required, it is still necessary for these projects to comply with the Building Code and applicable zoning requirements:

  • Open decks with a floor height under 600 mm (2 ft.) from ground level
  • Replacing stucco, siding, or shingles with the same material
  • Replacing doors and windows with the same size
  • Fences (single & two-family dwellings only)
  • Patching, painting, and decorating
  • Installing cabinets and shelves
What if I don't get a permit?

Work that is done without a permit may not meet the minimum Building Code requirements and could result in substandard construction that may not be structurally adequate. This could lead to costly repairs in the future to correct the problem or even a complete failure of the construction. Work that cannot be made to comply will require removal. The cost of a permit “after the fact” will be charged as per The Fees and Charges By-law No. 196/2008 and as shown in the City of Winnipeg Fees and Charges Schedule and legal action may be initiated to ensure compliance. Please contact the Zoning and Permits Branch at 204-986-5140, prior to beginning any work.

What are the processing times for permits?

The most important thing you can do to facilitate a quick processing time is ensure that you have all of your documentation and plans in order when you submit your permit application.

We encourage you to submit your application well in advance of your project start date. Exact processing times will be dependent on the complexity of your application and total number of applications received. Applications for projects that are submitted in the busy construction season (April to September) may take longer to process.

Are there financial assistance programs available?

Please refer to the Financial Assistance Programs page to see what programs may be currently available.

How can I obtain a copy of building plans, either residential house plans or commercial buildings?

You can request a search and obtain a copy of your house plans by contacting our Records Management Branch at 311.

The minimum search fee is $102.00, (plus GST) with additional fee(s) for photocopying or digital records, i.e. records provided on a flash drive or USB stick. (Fees subject to change without notice). A typical search for a residential property is approximately $125 - $150. The costs for commercial properties can be much higher due to size, scale and detail in the building plan set.

To request a search, you must be the legal owner of the property or submit a written authorization signed by the owner when you make your request. The written authorization should give you permission to access the building plans for the specified address. The following sample “Letters of Authorization” may be modified to suit your circumstances:

Sample of Homeowner Letter of Authorization
Sample of Commercial Owner Letter of Authorization

Examples of situations where written authorizations from the owner will be required include search requests from a tenant, purchaser of the property, contractor, design consultant or other professional engaged by the owner. Real estate agents acting on behalf of the current owners/sellers may submit copies of the Real Estate Listing Contract instead of a Letter of Authorization. (Information in the Commission section of the form may be deleted/obscured).

If you prefer to email us directly, you may send email to: PPD-CentralFiles@winnipeg.ca

Can I find out what past permits have been issued on a property?

Our Records Management staff can also search a property for all or for specific types of building permits issued in the past. Knowing whether building permits were taken out may be useful in planning renovations or in deciding whether to purchase a particular property. These records are publicly available. You do not have to be the legal owner of the property to request a search, in contrast to the requirements to search building plans.

The minimum search fee is $102.00, plus GST and copying fees.

You can request a search and obtain a copy of your building permits by contacting our Records Management Branch at 311, or if you prefer to email us directly, you may send email to: PPD-CentralFiles@winnipeg.ca

What is a Zoning Variance or a Conditional Use?

Zoning Variance
The Zoning By-Law is the instrument used to regulate land use and development within the city. Within each Zoning District there are rules for development that apply to building setbacks from the property lines, building heights and lot coverage to name a few. When a property owner finds it either impossible or impractical to meet these rules for development, a variance application may be filed to modify provisions of the Zoning By-law.

There are 3 types of zoning variances:

  1. “Tolerance” - up to 5% of the bylaw requirement.
  2. “Administrative” - all variance applications for single and two-family dwellings and up to 25% of the Bylaw requirements for non-residential variances, all zoning variance applications within the downtown area under Zoning Bylaw No. 100/2004.
  3. “Board of Adjustment / Community Committee” - all other variance and conditional use applications.

For Variance application requirements and fees

 

Conditional Use
Conditional Use means a use of a building or land that may be unique in its characteristics or operation, which could have an impact on adjoining properties. This type of application requires 4 to 6 weeks for a decision.

For Conditional Use application requirements and fees

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Last update: November 21, 2017