Grandfather clause


j-a-macGrandfather clause is a term used to explain the right a building has related to when it was built.  Our landscape is full of buildings from different eras. The laws applicable at the time of construction change over time so in consequence if you live in an old row house with a non conforming stair; that stair can remain, as dangerous as it is; because it was built in a bye gone era and its ‘grandfathered’.

The building code under its current iteration is transforming itself into an instrument to be interpreted. Since the building code is a series of laws the code itself is now being interpreted as law and can be argued as such.  Jurisprudence is being implemented and it puts the odes on the stamping consultant to interpret their judgment should a dispute arise.

I bring this up to clarify something many folks don’t understand but will become clear.  If you have a grandfather clause building and you undertake a major renovation you in effect lose your grandfather clause and likely will be required to bring your building up to the current code and local bylaws.  It’s simple, if you maintain your building with regular scheduled maintenance you are fine but if you start moving walls and proposing new stairs, you cannot build the new stair like the old. You will have to follow current building codes for design.

This is essentially the reason many folks just leave older buildings for new. It’s simply easier to build from scratch rather than to adapt an old building to new standards. This phenomenon is also known as filtering of the building stock.  Old buildings are usually considered to be filtering down towards the bottom of the housing stock as their designs become obsolete.

At the moment many of Montreal’s inner city boroughs are experiencing a reverse filtering. That is they are being renovated to be resold as condos and they are finding many eager families willing to undertake the expense to convert old buildings to current standards due to the value of a pied a terre en ville.  This type of activity creates tension in boroughs that had a homogeneous population demographically and then all of the sudden has wealthy families inserting themselves into the landscape creating pressure for neighbouring properties to be renovated and low income residence being displaced.

The Montreal metropolitan area is very clear in its promotion of public transit and taxing of Montreal car drivers.  The message is clear; tolls are coming to bridges that access the city; like most US and European cities. We should all use public transit. With this kind of policy Montreal’s dense core is being favoured and predictable consequences are ensuing. Montreal’s inner city is a hot real estate market. Many European and American real-estate businesses are well routed in Montreal’s hot urban scene. There are few economies as potent as Canada’s in the current world economy.

If you need a permit we can help call 514-839-3138.

Do you need a permit?


You may be wondering what kind of work around your home requires a permit.  Here is some information regarding city issued permits.  First and foremost if you are wondering if your project needs a permit always call the city to discuss your needs.

Most work around homes usually falls under the category of maintenance.  The city won`t issue a permit for that type of work.  An extreme example of maintenance; you have a wood porch that leads to your front door.  It includes steps, a roof and a railing.  It is falling apart and you wish to rebuild it exactly as it stands without changing anything.  That is considered maintenance. You do not need a permit. Now let’s say you take the opportunity to improve its design or you don`t like the position of the stairs. You wish to move them from the side to the front.  These design modifications require a permit from the city.  You must submit drawings to the city for them to consider your changes and assure respect of building codes and local bylaws.

The above examples are for the municipality of Montreal and not necessarily for its boroughs.  Four boroughs come to mind when it comes to maintenance that requires a permit; Outremont, Westmount, Town of Mount royal and Old Montreal and a fifth to a lesser extent Plateau Mount royal.  In these districts changing your windows may require a permit.  Now it has been my experience that in these places if you deal with a recognized manufacturer installer the permit is fast tracked and little to no documentation is required.  Also in these subdivisions interior renovations require permits.  If you start putting toilettes and demolition debris on your front lawn for pick up, a city inspector will most certainly come a knocking and ask what work you are undertaking. Again in these neighbourhoods there are strict bylaws that govern such things as the material used for plumbing; Cast iron is a standard for drains.

Projects that almost always require a permit are stair projects.  If you are proposing changes to a stair the city wants to make sure they conform to the National Building Code and local amendments to the NBC. This goes for outside and inside stairs.  Building a stair without respecting the code can be uncomfortable at the least and dangerous at worst. That`s were a service like ours shines.

An extreme make over to your home will most certainly require more than drawings submitted for a permit.  If you decide to paint your home exterior or make drastic changes to the front facade it would require that you go before a local committee for review and approval, again this depends on your borough.  CCU meetings (Comité Consultatif d’Urbanisme) or Planning Advisory Committee  can delay your renovations because they are held at regular intervals.  If at your first meeting your project is refused and changes requested you would have to wait until the next meeting to resubmit, sometimes it can take 6 weeks.  Check your local CCU`s schedule for a fit with your plans.

Let us know how we can help you get a permit; call 514-839-3138