Frequently Asked Questions
- When do I need a building permit to do work in the Regional District?
A building permit is required before:
(a) constructing, reconstructing, repairing or altering a building or structure,
(b) removing or relocating a building or structure,
(c) changing an occupancy or use of a building or structure,
(d) conducting a “tenant improvement” in an existing commercial or industrial suite,
(e) removing, altering or adding a plumbing distribution system and or drain, waste and venting system,
(f) demolishing a building,
(g) constructing or adding a fireplace, woodstove or chimney,
(h) constructing or altering a farm building or,
(i) constructing or altering a retaining structure.
Note: Gas and Electrical Work is regulated by Technical Safety BC
- How do I get a building permit?
- How much does a permit cost?
Please refer to the Building Permit Fee Schedule found in the CVRD Building Bylaw for new residential construction . For Renovation or Complex projects, fees will be 1% of the estimated construction value.
Please include this data with your application.
- How can I pay for my building permit?
You will pay for your building permit when the permit has been issued and it is time to pick it up. Permit fees shall be paid by cash, debit or cheque payable to the Cowichan Valley Regional District. Please note: credit card is not accepted.
- How long does it take to process a building permit?
We are committed to processing all permit applications as quickly as possible. For residential construction (new houses, additions, alterations and accessory buildings) the processing depends on the time of year and volume of permits. Please contact the building department at 250-746-2610 to get an estimate of the current processing times. Incomplete applications are often the main reason for an increase in processing times.
- Can I get the permit process started before I have a complete application?
This will be at the discretion of the Area Building Official. Receiving an incomplete application can result in a longer wait time than an otherwise complete application as incomplete applications are placed in a suspension queue while they wait for additional submission.
- How long is a building permit valid?
Typically, 2 years. If the first inspection is not called for within the first 6 months, or work discontinues for 12 months, a permit can expire. It is recommended to maintain communication with your Building Official regarding expiration.
- How and when can I request building inspections?
By calling 250-746-2610 or by e-mailing email@example.com. You MUST have your permit number and civic address. Please also be prepared to leave your name, phone number and the date requested. Special instructions or information is also required, for example; a gate code, key location or the presence of a dog. See here for more information on booking inspections. See here for more information on the building permit process, including required inspections.
- What building inspections are required in the CVRD?
Please see our list of required inspections here.
- What time will my Building Official come to do the inspection?
Inspections will occur between 8am - 4:30pm on the day of your request. Building Officials will not call ahead to meet you. It is the responsibility of the inspection requestor to be available between 8am and 4:30 on the day of the inspection.
- Where can I get a copy of the BC Building Code?
You can view a copy of the BC Building Code here.
- Do I need a permit for a deck or garden shed?
Sheds that are a maximum of 10 sq. m. (107 sq. ft.) do not require a Building Permit provided that they do not create a hazard. Minimum setbacks to property lines apply and depend on which zone the shed is located in. Larger sheds do require a permit. If your shed is under 10 sq.m. and contains plumbing, a building permit will be required. If a deck structure is 24” or less in height throughout the perimeter of the structure without manipulating grade, a building permit is not required. Measurements are taken from existing grade to the top of the walking surface. A building permit is required for ALL elevated decks. In all cases, setbacks apply to deck structures. If you are unsure about a specific project, contact our office.
- Do you release copies of building inspection records?
To obtain copies of building inspection records for a specific property you must complete a request for information form and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to include the property owner's consent and what information you require so we can determine if releasing the records is in keeping with policies and legislative requirements. Charges may apply for copying plans or other large documents.
- Where can I find information on my septic system / well?
The CVRD may have septic and well information on file if building permits were previously issued on a property. This information may be obtained through a Property Information Request. The majority of this information however comes from the Island Health Authority.
- Do I require a building permit for a farm building?
Yes, in order to ensure that required agricultural setbacks and uses are adhered to. See here for the Farm Siting permit form.
- I have a general question, who should I talk to?
For general questions contact 250-746-2610 or email email@example.com. Questions often cannot be completely answered without specific parcel information.
- Can I use lumber cut from timber on my property to construct my house or accessory building?
Lumber used for structural components must be graded in accordance with National Lumber Grades Authority (NLGA) standard grading rules for Canadian lumber.
Typically, lumber is graded and stamped at the source of manufacture. With site cut lumber, the grading can be done on-site by a qualified grader who provides the necessary certification for the owner and subsequent verification by the Building Official where required by the BC Building Code.
- What Climate Zone is my property in?
All of the CVRD is within Climate Zone 4 with the exception of the Western Portion of Lake Cowichan which is Climate Zone 5. See here for more information.
- What is my Seismic Sa(0.2) value?
North of Valley View Centre in Cobble Hill is 1.2 or less, South of Valley View is greater than 1.2.
See here for more information.
- What is zoning?
Zoning is a land management tool used by local governments to separate uses. Each of the nine Electoral Areas has a Zoning Bylaw with regulations specific for each zone, including; use, density and siting (e.g. setbacks). Permitted uses are identified for each zone additionally, each Zoning Bylaw is equipped with a section on definitions and general regulations. The CVRD web map can help you quickly determine what your property is zoned. For more information on how to use the Web Map see "What is the Web Map and how do I use it?"
- What is a Riparian Area?
Riparian areas can be defined as the area of land adjacent to a watercourse or body of water, a ditch, spring or wetland, whether or not usually containing water (see image below). The entire CVRD is within a Riparian Protection Development Permit Area (DPA). It is the responsibility of the property owner(s) to ensure there are no activities in the riparian area, or apply for a development permit. For more information on Riparian Areas, please click here.
For visualization purposes only.
- What is the Web Map and how do I use it?
The online Web Map allows anyone to search their property and find important information like zoning, OCP designations, development permit areas, service areas and more. To use the Web Map simply go to the Web Map and click on desktop icon (see image #1). From there a disclaimer statement will appear, click 'accept'. The map will launch and show the entire Regional District. To find your property you can either search by scrolling in and navigating to it, or use the address tool or parcel identifier (PID) for bare land (see image #2). Once you have found the property, use the 'identify tool' (top left - see image #3) by clicking on the tool and then on the property. By doing this, information should populate on the left side. From there you can click on any of the items shown in that list for more information. Links to other relevant bylaws are also provided (see image #4).
- What is an accessory dwelling unit?
An accessory dwelling unit, also known as granny suite, separate suite, small suite or carriage house, is a smaller house located on the same lot as a single-family dwelling. The building can be purpose built or may be a conversion of/or to an existing garage or accessory building. The maximum permitted size of these units varies across electoral areas and can be found in the applicable Zoning Bylaw.
- Can I have an accessory dwelling unit?
Accessory dwelling units are allowed in many zones throughout the CVRD (with the exception of Area G). This specific use, however, depends on the size of the property and the level of servicing. To find out if your zoning allows an accessory dwelling unit first check the specific zone in the zoning bylaw, then confirm the size of your property meets the minimum parcel size required depending on its level of servicing. Not sure what your zoning is? Check out our Web Map! Please make sure to check with the Building Department for code and permit requirements prior to undertaking any work.
- What is a secondary suite?
A secondary suite is a self-contained residential unit within a home. They can be located in a basement of a dwelling or attached at ground level to the dwelling. The CVRD zoning bylaws for each electoral area regulates the maximum size of the secondary suite and do vary by electoral area. Always consider the specific zone, general regulations and definitions when determining eligibility for a secondary suite. To find out if your zoning allows a secondary suite on your property, first check the specific zone in the zoning bylaw, then confirm the size of your property meets the minimum parcel size required depending on its level of servicing. Not sure what your zoning is? Check out our Web Map!
- Can I have a secondary suite in my home?
Secondary suites are permitted in many residential zones throughout the CVRD. This specific use, however, depends on the size of the property and its level of servicing (e.g. connection to water and sewer). To find out if your zoning allows a secondary suite on your property, first check the specific zone in the zoning bylaw, then confirm the size of your property meets the minimum parcel size required depending on its level of servicing. Not sure what your zoning is? Check out our Web Map!
- What are Development Permit Areas (DPAs)?
Development Permit Areas (DPAs) require permits under certain circumstances. Local governments have the authority to designate development permit areas in an official community plan. These identify locations that need special treatment for certain purposes including the protection of development from hazards, establishing objectives for form and character in specified circumstances, or revitalization of a commercial use area. This authority can also be used to achieve climate action goals for energy conservation, water conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Unless a development permit is obtained, development in such areas is restricted.
- What is a Development Permit?
A Development Permit (DP) is a land use permit used by local governments to review proposed developments to ensure they meet the policies and objectives of the Official Community Plan (OCP), and satisfy all required regulations in the zoning bylaw. A Development Permit may specify requirements respecting the character of development, including landscaping, and the siting, form, exterior design and finish of buildings and structures; environmental protection; protection from hazardous conditions and protection of farming. DP's may also impose conditions respecting the sequencing and timing of construction. Within designated Development Permit Areas (DPAs) land must not be subdivided or altered and buildings or structures cannot be constructed or altered, unless the owner has first obtained a DP. Once approved (by the General Manager or CVRD Board), the DP is registered against the title of the land and becomes binding on future land owners.
- How do I know if I need a Development Permit?
If you are planning to develop your property and it's located within one or more Development Permit Areas (DPAs), you will need a Development Permit (DP) prior to obtaining a Building Permit or obtaining subdivision approval, unless otherwise exempt. It is important to remember, a DP is not a building permit. To find out if your project requires a DP application you can call staff or follow the instructions below:
- Visit the online Web Map tool, search your property using the address tool or Parcel Identifier (PID)
- Identify your property using the 'identify' tool (top left) - click on your property. Information should populate on the left side including the parcel boundaries, survey plans and development permit areas.
- If your property is within a Development Permit Area it will appear in that list as 'DPA #'. Click on the DPA. At the bottom there will be a hyperlink to the Official Community Plan for the Electoral Areas.
- Schedule C of the OCP is where you will find the Development Permit Area guidelines, definitions and exemptions. If your project does not meet one of the exemptions under the applicable DPA you will need a DP, prior to altering the land in anyway.
- What is a Development Variance Permit?
A Development Variance Permit (DVP) is a land use permit used by local governments to 'vary' or relax a regulation. A DVP is required whenever proposed development does not meet a regulation in a zoning bylaw, sign bylaw, subdivision bylaw or parking bylaw. Examples of regulations that may be varied include building setbacks, height or site coverage. Keep in mind - a DVP cannot vary land use or density. In order to do change a land use or the density of that use you will require a rezoning application. DVP applications are discretionary, which means depending on the merits of the situation it may be denied. All DVPs are first heard by the Electoral Areas Services Committee (EASC) and then approved/denied by the CVRD Board.
- Can I have an Air B&B?
Although 'Air B&B Inc.' is a specific short term rental marketing company, it is commonly used as a blanket term when talking about short term rentals. Zones that permit short term rentals are limited in the CVRD. Bed and breakfast short term rentals are permitted within most single-family dwellings, however they are regulated, and generally require that it be contained within a single family dwelling (not an accessory building), and that the owner reside in the single family dwelling. To determine if your property is within one of these areas, please consult the Zoning Bylaw to determine the permitted uses on your property. You can find your zone and a link to the zoning bylaw using the Web Map. Note: secondary suites and accessory dwelling units/detached suites are typically intended for long term rentals.
- Can I cut down a tree (or trees), and do I need a permit?
The CVRD does not have a tree cutting bylaw. The CVRD does, however, regulate the cutting of trees in certain areas that have been designated as a Development Permit Area (DPA) and may even prohibit the cutting of trees and other vegetation. The Riparian Area Protection DPA is one of these areas that will require a permit prior to cutting or removal of any vegetation. Other areas that may require a permit prior to cutting trees are areas designated as a sensitive ecosystem and/or steep slope.
Tree cutting should occur during identified low-risk timing periods (mid-September to January). If tree cutting must occur outside this time window, a thorough nest search should be conducted. Removal or modification of a nest tree requires written permission (permit) from the Province (MoE) and may also require a federal permit.
- Can I have a 'tiny home'?
The BC Building Code requires all dwellings to be code compliant, have permanent foundations and be connected to an approved septic system. It is not the size that counts, but the connection to services and compliance with the BC Building Code. The zoning bylaws regulate the maximum size of a dwelling but not the minimum (except some in Area D). Note: tiny homes on wheels, or recreational vehicles on wheels, are not permitted to be used as full time dwellings because they do not meet BC Building Code Regulations.
- Does CVRD enforce or require compliance with the BC Energy Step Code?
No, CVRD does not currently enforce the Step Code, nor do we have any incentive for voluntary compliance. CVRD will begin to enforce the step code once it becomes amalgamated into the BC Building Code.
- What are my Snow Loads?
See link here for information on climatic data by Electoral Area.
- Are there requirements for fence construction?
Although we don't require a building permit for the construction of a fence, we do regulate the height of fences in the zoning bylaw. Make sure to check the 'general regulations' section in the zoning bylaw before you dig.
- How can I get information on a building file?
Once we receive your email, you will be notified if information is available. Printing documents is provided for $0.25 per page. When your package is ready for pick up you may pick it up at 175 Ingram Street, Duncan. Unfortunately we cannot send documents electronically. Please note, identification is required at time of pick up.
- Do I need a building permit for a pool?
Yes. The CVRD requires building permits for pools in order to enforce setbacks, and ensure proper fencing and gating. The reason for which is to ensure the safety of children, pets and wildlife. Similarly, if a retaining wall is required for a pool, you may need a building permit for it as well.
A 'swimming pool' means any structure or construction intended primarily for recreation that is, or is capable of, being filled with water to a depth of 0.6 metres (2 feet) or more. For the purpose of this definition a hot tub shall not be considered a swimming pool.