Building Permits

New building permit system now available

Our new Cloudpermit system allows you to apply for and to see the status of your building (and septic system) permit application anywhere, at any time. You can start an application and finish it later, and receive email updates on the status of your permit application.

Learn more about getting started with the Cloudpermit building permit system.

The purpose of a building permit is to ensure the minimum standards of the Ontario Building Code are met in order to protect the health and safety of building occupants by regulating design, construction, quality of materials, use and occupancy of buildings and structures.

  • Before starting any work you must obtain a building permit or ensure that one has been issued.
  • Please note that no structures of any kind are allowed on vacant land.
  • The zoning by-law must be followed even if you do not require a building permit.

Projects that require a building permit

 Under applicable law, a building permit is required to construct, demolish
  • New residential dwellings
  • Sleeping Cabin/Bunkie (any size)
  • New Accessory Buildings greater than 10 square metres (108 square feet)
  • Additions to existing buildings or structures (any size)
  • Adding a bedroom
  • New or replacement decks or stairs
  • New or replacement piers under a building
  • Finishing the basement of a house
  • Creating an accessory apartment 
  • Plumbing fixtures added or relocated
  • Replacing or adding new water supply lines or drain pipes
  • Removing a load bearing wall, column, lintel or beam
  • Re-insulating walls, ceilings or floors in a residential building
  • Wood stove, wood burning fireplace, or a wood furnace (interior or exterior)
  • Replacement of windows or doors, when the opening size is enlarged
  • Retaining wall that is greater than 1 metre (3' 3") in height, pending location
  • Solar Panels that are mounted to a building and have a face area of 5 square meters (53.8 square feet) or greater
  • Construction of a temporary enclosed tent to be used for human occupancy
  • Crib docks or other permanent docking systems
  • Changing the use of a building (example: a shed to a bunkie, or a church to a home)
  • Septic systems new, altered or replaced
  • Demolition of a structure greater than 10 square metres (108 square feet) in building area

Projects that do not require a building permit

It isn't necessary to obtain building permits to perform the following work. However, you must still comply with the requirements of the Highlands East Zoning By-Law and, if applicable, the Ontario Building Code and the Crowe Valley Conservation Authority.
  • Accessory buildings not used for human habitation with a total floor area, including the deck, porch or loft, of 10 square metres or less in size
  • Fences
  • Replacement of interior fixtures in the same location
  • Replacement of exterior siding and roofing
  • Replacement of windows and doors, same size and location
  • Temporary portable shelters, constructed of metal tubing and fabric (if you have structural reinforcement a building permit is required)
  • Floating docks

If the above lists do not include specifics related to your project, or if you are not sure whether a permit is require please contact the Building Department.

What to include with your building permit application

Site Plan

  • Site Plan showing location of all buildings and septic systems on the lot. Also show the distances to the property lines, Front Yard Setback, Side Yard (both sides) and Rear Yard.
  • Location to other buildings on the lot.
  • Location to Hydro Lines or any other hazards on the lot.
  • Entrance to the lot.
  • When there is a difference in Municipal records, proof of ownership of the property is required.

Building Plans

  • Two complete sets of legible scaled drawings, preferably prepared by a qualified designer.
  • Foundation Plan: example showing footing sizes, pier footings, locations, laminated beam sizes and floor joist size and spacing etc.
  • Floor Plan: example showing room sizes, locations, exterior, interior wall thickness, door sizes, window sizes, chimneys and ventilation system etc.
  • Cross Section: example showing foundation depth, foundation type (block or solid concrete etc.), foundation damp proofing, foundation drainage, foundation slab, footing sizes, sill gasket, anchor bolts (spacing), joist size, subfloor size stud sizes and spacing, insulation, vapour barrier, interior, exterior finishes, roof type, sheeting, shingles and venting etc.

Other Requirements

  • Copy of Truss Drawings from manufacturer.
  • Engineered specifications for all engineered components.
  • Letter of Agent – if applicable
  • Municipality of Highlands East copy of the Site Inspection Report for a Sewage System, when required.
  • Entrance Permit from the Municipality of Highlands East Roads Department, County of Haliburton or the Ministry of Transportation when required.
  • Any Permit required by any other authority.
  • Payment of Fees

Please note that any application which is not signed by the owner, and is signed by another authorized person, it shall be accompanied by a letter of authorization signed by the owner.

Any difference found in the Front, Side, or Rear setbacks by the Chief Building Official may result in an Application for a Building Permit being refused or revoked, until the Plot Plan is corrected.



Highlands East uses Cloudpermit to manage building permits digitally. Cloudpermit allows you to apply for and to see the status of your building (and septic system) permit application anywhere, at any time. You can start an application and finish it later, and receive email updates on the status of your permit application.

Learn more about getting started with the Cloudpermit building permit system.

Start your application with Cloudpermit

Demolition Permits

The Building Code requires demolition permits for all buildings greater than 10 square metres (108 square feet), with the exception of buildings located on a farm. The purpose of the permit is to provide the public with an adequate level of safety and to ensure the building services are disconnected in an appropriate manner.

Start your application with Cloudpermit

Septic System Permits

Visit our dedicated Septic System Permits page for detailed information including Applications, Winter Inspections and Fees.

Learn more

Visit Planning and Development and Zoning By-Law and Official Plan for more details.


For more details on how to apply and what is required please see Building Permits.

Permit Fees
Non-refundable administration fee $150
Minimum building permit fee $150

Permit fees are calculated by the floor area of the proposed construction multiplied by the values as set out under Building Classifications below.

Floor area shall be the total area of all floor above grade measured to the outside face of the exterior walls.

Building Classifications
Building TypesFee

Buildings used for human habitation including dwellings, guest cabins, multi residential, second suites or additions to those buildings.

$0.80 per square foot
Renovations to existing dwellings. $0.45 per square foot
New foundation under an existing building or the interior finishing of a basement. $0.45 per square foot
Accessory buildings and/or additions to those buildings. $0.60 per square foot
Commercial, industrial and institutional buildings or additions to those buildings. $0.90 per square foot

Agricultural buildings and/or additions to those buildings.

$0.30 per square foot
Flat Rate Fees
Plumbing $200
Wood burning appliance (wood stove) $150
Decks, docks, verandahs, covered porches

$0.50 per square foot

Minimum $200

An administration fee may apply if the above are issued as standalone permits.

Other Permits
Demolition permit $150
Temporary tents over 60 square metres $100
Sea containers $100
Conditional permit $100 plus applicable building permit fees
Partial building permit $100 plus applicable building permit fees
Change of use $100 plus applicable building permit fees
Transfer of permit $100
Septic Permit Fees
Application for a Class 2, 3, 4 or 5 Septic System $875

Permit to replace the tank or bed only of a class 4 system.

Permit for the addition, renovation or change of use to an existing septic system. $450
Septic review or revision to permit. $250
On-site sewage compliance request. $250
Re-inspection of septic systems. $250
Additional Fees
Permit renewal $150
Revisions on plans $150
Additional inspections $150
Re-inspections over five years $150 per inspection
Re-inspection fee (not ready) $150
Fine for construction without a permit (in addition to the building permit fee) Double the permit fee
Order to Comply and/or Stop Work Order $200
Miscellaneous Fees
File search for copies of septic systems $100
Zoning compliance letter $100
Zoning and septic compliance letter $200
Severance or Lot Addition Application Fees
Less than 10 acres (4.05 ha) $300
Greater than 10 acres (20.23 ha) $150
Subdivision Fees
1 to 10 lots $300
Each lot over 10 $150
Refunds of Permit Fees
TypeRefund Amount
No inspections made Fees less $150
Administrative functions only have been performed 80%
Administrative and plan examinations have been performed 45%
Permit issued but no field inspections have been made 35%
Permit issued and field inspections have been made No refund
Permit revoked in accordance with the Act, Building Code or By-law No refund

No refunds less than $150 will be made.

Frequently Asked Questions

Building permit plans

I would like to purchase a set of house plans that I saw in a magazine or on the internet. Would these be acceptable to submit with my building permit application?

Under the new Ontario Building Code requirements, all plans, drawings and specifications submitted for building permit approval must be prepared by a certified designer registered with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. A certified designer will have a Building Code Identification Number (BCIN).

How do I know and can I check if a designer has a BCIN or is qualified under the Building Code? 

The qualification and registration status of a designer may be verified through the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s public registry, accessible online through their Qualification and Registration Tracking System (QuARTS). To search, visit the Public Register website.

Can I do the drawings for my own house or addition?

The Ontario Building Code allows a property-owner to prepare and submit their own building plans provided that the plans are legible, drawn at the appropriate scale, and contain all the required information to show the construction will meet the Ontario Building Code. 

My brother-in-law knows AutoCAD and has offered to do my house plans for me. Is this okay?

If your brother-in-law is a certified designer and has a registered BCIN number with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, his drawings would be acceptable for submission with your building permit application. He would need to fill out and sign the Schedule 1: Designer Information sheet, included with your building permit application form.

Garages, sheds, guest cabins (bunkies) and other accessory buildings

Am I allowed to build a guest cabin (bunkie) on my property?

If there is an existing home or cottage on your property, you may also be able to erect a guest cabin, depending on the zoning and subject to septic approval. Bunkies are referred to as guest cabins in our Zoning By-law.

Not all zones permit sleeping cabins, so be sure to check the Zoning By-law.

If permitted in my zone, what is the maximum size guest cabin that I can build? 

Guest cabins are restricted to 1 storey and square footage includes all verandas, porches and decks. All guest cabin provisions are found in our zoning by-law and may vary depending on the zoning of your property.

Can I put a bathroom in my guest cabin?

A bathroom is permitted in a guest cabin, conditional upon approval for a septic system. 

Can I put a kitchen in my guest cabin?

No, a kitchen is not permitted in a sleeping cabin.

Can I erect a utility or storage shed on my vacant property?

No. These types of structures are considered accessory to the principal building, such as your home or cottage. They are not permitted as the principal building. 

Are there restrictions as to where I can put a shed, sleeping cabin or other accessory building on my property? 

Yes. The Zoning By-law has a number of regulations concerning accessory buildings, including setbacks from property lines, the high water mark, and your home or cottage. This includes small buildings 10 square metres (108 square feet) or less, even if a building permit is not required.

Required setbacks

Can I tear down my existing house or cottage and rebuild a new one, or build an addition onto my house or cottage if it doesn’t meet the current setback requirements? 

Maybe. A building or structure that does not meet current requirements is considered “non-conforming”. There are many variables that determine whether you can re-build or build an addition onto a non-conforming structure. For more information refer to section 3.21 of the Zoning By-law or contact the Building Department

Where is the required setback measured to on a building?

The setback is measured from the respective property line to the closest outside wall.

There is a power line running through my property. Can I build underneath it?

No. Hydro One requires a minimum 16 feet of separation between hydro lines and any construction. For more information or to schedule an on-site assessment, contact Hydro One at 1-888-871-3514.

How do I determine the location of the high water mark?

The high water mark is usually taken to be the line where the land-based vegetation ends. If in doubt, a building inspector may be able to assist you.

Road allowances (shoreline/shore road allowances)

Can I build on the road allowance in front of my property?

If you do not own the adjacent road allowance, you may be permitted to build stairs or other means of pedestrian access, a landing or dock. You should contact the Building Department to determine if your proposed project would be permitted and if a building permit is required.

I would like to or need to purchase the road allowance in front of my property. Can I do this?

You can apply to the Municipality to purchase the road allowance adjacent to your property. However, because it is a dedicated road allowance, there is a specific legal procedure that must be followed. The whole process could take 6 months or more to complete and there are no guarantees of approval. 

Minimum dwelling size

What is the smallest size house or cottage that I am allowed on my property?

It depends on the zoning of your property, but generally the minimum size can be 45 to 65 square metres 
(500 to 700 square feet). Check the Zoning By-law to be sure.

Septic system approval

When does a building permit application require a septic system approval?

A septic approval from the Building Department is required when applying for a building permit if you are doing any one of the following:

  • constructing a new building
  • adding a bedroom, sleeping cabin, or washroom
  • increasing the number of fixture units (sink, toilet, bathtub, shower, laundry, dishwasher, etc.)
  • increasing the total floor area of the building by 15 percent or more

I need to replace my existing septic system. Do I need a permit and where do I get it?

Yes, you do need to get approval before installing any new septic system or replacing an old one. This includes greywater leaching pits, leaching pits for overflow from composting toilets (known as a cesspool), septic tanks, tile beds and holding tanks. Septic permits are issued by the Building Department.

Severance or subdivision of property

I would like to sever one or more pieces off my property to sell or give to family members. How do I do this?

Land severance applications are administered by the County of Haliburton. Contact the Planning Department at the County office in Minden at 705-286-1333 for more information and an application.

Trailers, campers and motor homes

Can I park a camper, motor home or other type of travel trailer on my vacant property and use it as a weekend getaway?

It may be permitted under our Recreational Vehicle By-law. Please contact our by-law department to discuss by calling 613-339-2442.

Sea containers

Can I use a sea container for a workshop or storage building?

Depending on the zoning and if the specified provisions can be met, you may be able to use a sea container as an accessory structure. A building permit is required when adding these structures to your property.

Sea containers are not permitted on vacant land with the exception of the MX zone.

Shoreline tree cutting

I want to create a better view of the lake, can I clear some trees?

There is a by-law in place concerning the removal of trees along the shoreline. You must contact the County of Haliburton at 705-286-1333.

Things we cannot help you with

The municipality is often asked to become involved in matters over which we have no legal authority. Civil matters such as the ones listed below are not within our jurisdiction:

  • private right-of-way disputes
  • trespassing
  • neighbour disputes over property lines, tree cutting or fence locations

If the matter cannot be resolved between you and your neighbour, you may wish to consult legal counsel.