In the past few months, there has been an influx of folks from out west – particularly Ontario – moving to the province, looking to retire or build a new life.
Our staff have noticed a lot of questions on social media about building, renovating and land use – and we’ve also noticed a lot of incorrect answers.
Here’s some of the common questions we’ve seen, along with the actual correct answers.
1) Q: Do I need a permit to build?
A: Yes. There is a great myth among a lot of locals that if you do not live in a municipal area, you can build without a permit. This is flatly not true. Provincial Regulation 2002-45, which is the default building regulation for unincorporated areas, requires either a building permit or development permit for the construction, altering or placement of any structure. Alternately, almost all villages/towns/cities have their own building bylaw mandating permits. Obviously, there's a grey zone - our office won't chase you down over a doghouse, for example - so it's best to obtain guidance from your local officials before you turn dirt or hammer nails.
2) Q: Are there any restrictions I should know about before I start my farm/welding shop/butcher shop/hair studio/pizza store/antique store/etc?
A: Maybe. If you’re in a municipality, there is a greater chance of a community plan or zoning regulation that may (key word, may) limit your land use. In a rural area, it’s a little less clear. Some areas may have what are called “planning statements” that lay down guidelines on what you can – and can’t – do with your property.
3) Q: I’m in a rural area. If there’s no planning statement, I can build where I want, right?
A: Maybe. Yeah, I know, you’re growing tired of these “maybe” answers. But here’s the thing: even if there’s no planning statement limiting land use, or setbacks, there may be other provincial regulations that impose restrictions. For example, if you’re near a wetland or watercourse, there may be limits on what you can do within 30 metres of the designated edge of that wetland area. Alternately, there is a default regulation in the province that limits construction within 7.5 metres of most public roads and highways. That restriction is boosted to 15 metres for properties abutting highways numbered 1-199.
4) Q: What do I need to obtain a building permit?
A: Ready for another vague answer? It depends. For rural construction, if you’re looking at a new building, you will need to show a legal access to the property (ie: a driveway to a private or public road, or at least the paperwork from the Department of Transportation showing you have applied to obtain a driveway), an approval to install a septic system (or evidence that one exists already) and details on the building plan, including where the building will be located on your property. If on or near a wetland, you will need to either show that you have a permit to work within the wetlands, or a site plan showing you will not be encroaching on a wetland. If you are building within 30m of a designated public road in a rural area, you will also require what’s called a “certificate of setback” from DTI.
Requirements are a little less onerous for municipal construction: but you may need a more detailed site plan.
6: Q: I'm not adding to the footprint of my home, just renovating. Do I need a permit?
A: Stop us if you've read this before, but .... Maybe. It depends. In our office (Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission) our policy is that a permit is needed for any structural changes (ie: increasing window width on a load-bearing wall), adding beams, and that sort of thing. We will also require a permit to change a bedroom window if there is no evidence of another egress-compliant window - it's a fire-safety thing. We don't require a permit for re-roofing or re-siding a home, renovating a kitchen if there's no structural changes, etc. At the same point, if you're doing a total gut-and-rebuild of an older home, we may require a permit to ensure the renovation meets insulation codes, ventilation requirements, etc. This is a local policy that other jurisdictions - especially municipalities - may not follow, so.... in this and most other cases, it's best to contact your local building officials for guidance.
7) Q: Who the heck do I contact?
A: If you live in a municipality, call the Village/Town/City office.
If you live in a rural area, you ought to contact the Service Commission serving your region. This map should help guide you in the right direction.
More info here:
8) Q: I want to live off-grid, but I heard you can't do that. What's up?
A: Of course you can. There is no requirement to be connected to grid power in this province, and many people do live without NB Power or other forms of outside electricity. That said, a building permit structure must meet minimum requirements for the National Building Code for electrical outlets, lights and so on. There is no requirement for licences/permits to work with low-voltage gear (ie: 12, 24-volt battery systems) but there is a requirement that high-voltage systems (ie: most modern solar modules in series, inverters) be installed by a qualified electrician.