Zoning certificates (ZC) are the building permit method of choice for a variety of reasons. Unfortunatly, for the last few years zoning advice has not been offered by phone by Toronto municipalities. The bylaws are in part available electronically. See the website excerpt below for details of this city service change: 

Zoning Information Service Changes

The zoning information service provided by Toronto Building has changed. Toronto Building will continue to provide zoning information at our district customer service counters; however, zoning information is no longer available by telephone. For zoning summary information, please refer to the online summary sheets.               

Link to City of Toronto Zoning Inquiries and Definitions.


Some new municipal zoning bylaw revisions are not yet available to the design professions due to a zoning bylaw transition. There is a bylaw vetting period where revisions are made after public consultation. Some applications may need a revision before being approved.

After an initial zoning desk interview with your project concept drawings, we advise going direct to a zoning certificate with your preliminary design, and before building permit application on most projects of medium size and over. The fee for zoning certificates is 25% of the permit fee up front. It is relatively free to apply, plus some professional fees for graphics and processing. Once a zoning certificate has been issued, and any new zoning bylaws have been applied and resolved, you can be secure in knowing any future changes to the zoning bylaws will not effect your building permit application, and professional revision fees. 

A caveat to that are zoning initiatives by the department that may override a development permit, such as urban design, and barrier free initiatives. 

Development fees, park and school fees are also estimated on additions and changes of use applications. for a residential unit development fees can be $40,000. These can be large sums, sometimes making the project unaffordable.  An exception would be one second residential unit.

Once the zoning certificate is issued, changing the major design decisions can disqualify the zoning certificate if they impact the variances of the zoning bylaws achieved. Unless you are very sure of the change is necessary, keep with your first approved design. There will probably an additional review fee for updating the design, and possible further professional fees to negotiate the change. City fees are calculated on a case by case basis for changes, making them difficult to estimate. 

Height limits are typically an issue with zoning certificates. To increase the height of a structure on site, even by a few inches, without approval, can lead to expensive reworking of the roof on site. This why we are careful about any design changes after schematic design, preferring a zoning review. Lowering the roof on drawings is much less expensive than roof demolition and rebuild from a building height violation.


Your zoning refusal is not a failure, but part of a process. If you cannot satisfy the zoning bylaw restrictions, a committee of adjustment application for minor variances is an option if the changes are minor in nature. Not every property and design idea fits the idealized view of your zoning bylaws. You will be issued a zoning notice itemizing your exact variances required.

It can be a long, very public and expensive process, without a guarantee of success. If possible it is wise to just comply with the intent of the zoning bylaws if possible. 

  • The waiting period for zoning court where your case is heard can be from four to six months.
  • Your neighbours can voice their  approval or concerns with your design.
  • The city fee is a minimum of $1,200 at this date.

Zoning Notice




Zoning Certificate (ZZC) Review No: 00 000000 ZZC 00 ZR FolderRSN: 0000000

BUILDING TYPE– Other Proposal

Proposed Use:   USE


Examination of your Zoning Certificate application has revealed that certain requirements of the applicable City Zoning By-law(s) have not been satisfied. The attached Notice provides details of the review.

Should compliance with the applicable City’s Zoning By-law(s) not be possible, you may apply to amend the Zoning By-law by way of a Zoning Amendment or Committee of Adjustment application. For more information on either of these Planning processes, you may visit the City of Toronto Web site @ www.toronto.ca/developing-toronto or discuss the matter with City staff by calling (416)395-7000.