Building occupancy permits
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A building occupancy permit is used by the City of Winnipeg to help regulate building code requirements and other applicable codes and standards. It is required for the construction, substantial alteration or change of use of portions of most buildings, except for single-family dwellings, two-family dwellings and multi-family dwellings without shared exits. Some temporary buildings and events, such as weddings with large tents, also need a building occupancy permit.
A building occupancy permit identifies how a space can be used. Per the Winnipeg Building By-Law No. 4555/87, it is your responsibility to get a permit before occupying a space.
Occupancy permit search
Find out if you have an existing building occupancy permit
View the status of your permits
Permits Online occupancy features
Access building occupancy permit information through Permits Online.
All registered Permits Online users can:
- view a list of required documents for life safety tests and occupancy
- submit required documents (e.g. certifications, shop drawings, test reports)
- track the status of active building occupancy permits (including document review, inspections, and outstanding items of non-compliance)
- pay occupancy fees
- submit requests for occupancy (e.g. final, interim, partial interim, interim extensions)
All permit applicants can:
- view document submission requirements
- receive email notifications if documents have been rejected
Who needs a building occupancy permit?
- building owner, when constructing a new building or addition
- existing occupant/tenant who has to vacate the building, floor, wing, or unit to accommodate alterations, or if the Authority Having Jurisdiction determines alterations are significant enough to warrant one
- occupant/tenant expanding their unit within a building
- occupant/tenant who wants to increase the occupant load of the space
- new occupant/tenant establishing a use that does not have a valid occupancy permits in place
- new occupant/tenant undertaking alterations to a space that warrants an occupancy permit according to the Authority Having Jurisdiction
When is a building occupancy permit not required?
- change in tenant/occupant that does not involve alterations or change in use
- change in business name and/or business ownership shared occupancy, where an occupancy permit for the use is already in place and no alterations are being proposed
Change in occupancy requirements (discontinuation of occupy only permits)
Occupancy permit information for election offices
This document informs registered election candidates about the applicable legal requirement to get an occupancy permit for their office before occupying the premises.
How do I get a building occupancy permit?
First, submit a building permit application. Once a building permit is issued (see commercial permit resources for permit application requirements) construction can begin. Progress and final inspections must be requested at each mandatory stage for building and related trade permits. Inspections must be completed to the final stages before requesting a building occupancy permit.
Schedule an inspection using the commercial inspection request form.
Who can apply for a building occupancy permit?
An application can be made by the building owner or authorized agent. This can be the property manager, intended occupant/tenant, general contractor, or a designer (architect, engineer, or interior designer).
How do I ensure my building occupancy permit application is complete?
Submit all required occupancy documents including certifications, test reports and shop drawings. (Shop drawings must be accepted before applicants can request occupancy). Completion of progress and final inspections for the building and related trade permits and completion of the life safety test, where applicable, are also required.
For partial interim occupancies (the use of a part of a building or tenant space like a floor, wing or defined contiguous area), see the guidelines for partial interim occupancy permits.
Permit applicants will receive a notification about a complete building occupancy permit application within five business days after the day of request.
Learn more about the procedural change to structural shop drawing submission for occupancy permits.
Are more inspections required for building occupancy permits?
Upon notification of a complete building occupancy permit application, building, mechanical and electrical inspections will:
- review and process your request administratively, or
- contact you or your licensed trade contractor(s) by email or phone to arrange for an inspection to process your request.
Upon notification of a complete building occupancy permit application, Fire Department inspections may be required.
If mechanical, electrical, or plumbing trades are involved, the licensed contractor must be on-site for inspections.
Will I receive a decision on a building occupancy permit application?
Once all required disciplines have completed their review, a written decision will be sent via email. Occupancy is either approved on an interim basis or as a final approval. If there are serious deficiencies, a denial letter will be sent.
- Final occupancy is approved. You will receive your permit via email once any outstanding fees have been paid.
- Interim occupancy is approved. Interim fees are owed to cover the next round of inspections. Once fees are paid, you will receive a deficiency letter via email and an interim building occupancy permit with an expiry date.
- Occupancy is denied. Denial fees are owed to cover the next round of inspections. You will receive a deficiency letter and be required to fix the deficiencies and call for inspections. Occupancy is prohibited.
If you do not have an email address, please contact us for other arrangements.
How do I request an interim extension?
Interim extensions requests are processed through the building occupancy permit request form on Permits Online.Before requesting an extension of your interim or final occupancy permit, ensure your design professional certification(s) and updated documents, if required, have been submitted. Refer to your account in Permits Online to confirm.
What if I occupy a space without a valid building occupancy permit?
The Winnipeg Building By-Law states that occupying a space without a valid building occupancy permit is committing an offence. Where a building occupancy permit is required but has not been obtained, and the space is found to be in use or occupied, the City may issue a Penalty Notice (ticket) under the Municipal By-law Enforcement Act. Notices can be issued until compliance has been achieved. Enforcement action can be taken against the occupant and building owner. If directors and/or officers of the companies involved have personal knowledge of the offence, enforcement action may include charges against them as individuals.
Types of building occupancy permits
- Final building occupancy permits: issued for any building, provided the construction work under permit, including all associated mechanical and electrical installations have, to the best of the City’s knowledge, been completed in accordance with the requirements of the building bylaw.
- Interim building occupancy permits: issued for a building or suite pending completion of construction when minor defects are outstanding. This type of permit will list conditions and/or outstanding defects or work yet to be completed and will provide a time limit for its validity.
- Partial interim building occupancy permits: may be considered for the use of a part of a building (wing, floor or contiguous defined area) pending completion of the remaining construction area. This type of permit will typically list conditions and/or outstanding defects or work yet to be completed and will provide a time limit for its validity. Certain construction and life safety systems must be complete before issuance. Partial interim occupancy requires pre-approval before making a request. See the guidelines for partial interim occupancy permits for more information.
- Base building occupancy permits: issued in cases where all spaces to be occupied have yet to be developed. This building occupancy permit means that core building life safety systems have been established, which may be a pre-requisite for the development of interior spaces. These units must not be occupied before the issuance of individual building occupancy permits.
- Temporary building occupancy permits: issued for special events allowing occupancy for specific dates. If structures, such as stages over two feet in height, bleachers, or tents with cumulative floor area of over 900 sq. ft. are installed, a certification letter from a professional engineer must be submitted. Inspections may be required before permit issuance.
Life Safety Tests
What is a life safety test?
It is a process of proving that the intended level of performance of a building's life safety systems has been achieved. These systems are required to conform to adopted measures for life safety in designated buildings and include, but are not limited to:
- Smoke controls systems
- Fire alarm system
- Voice communication capability of a fire alarm system
- Standpipe and sprinkler systems
- Fire pump
- Emergency generator
- Emergency lighting
Buildings that need a life safety test include:
- High-rise buildings
- Buildings of special design
- Buildings specified above, where alterations affect existing life safety systems
- Buildings specified above, where upgrading to life safety systems occur.
The degree of testing will vary, depending upon the types of building alterations and changes to the life safety systems.
Professional certifications are required before submitting a building occupancy permit request form if design professionals were involved in the project.
All fees are determined by the Planning, Development and Building Fees By-Law. The guiding principle behind the collection of these fees is cost recovery for services rendered.
Final occupancy fees: paid upfront at the time of building permit application. See section 2.5 of the bylaw for how these fees are calculated.
Denial/interim fees: more inspections and/or administrative work will be required before a final occupancy can be issued. These fees offset that work. See section 2.5 of the bylaw for how fees are calculated.
Partial interim occupancy fees: these permits are a specialty product that require more resources to evaluate. They fall in two general categories: minor and major. Applications under the minor category can be evaluated more quickly, require less resources and cost less. Fees for these applications are calculated in accordance with Section 2.1.5. Applications under the major category require more time and resources and come at a higher cost. Fees for these applications are calculated in accordance with Section 2.1.7.
Life safety test fees:When this test is required before occupancy can be requested, the City compiles a team of subject matter experts who review documentation, attend a mandatory pre-test meeting, and witness the life safety test. The City offsets the associated cost by charging a fee, which is calculated in accordance with Section 2.6 of the bylaw. This fee is due before the pre-test meeting.
All outstanding fees must be paid before a building occupancy permit is issued.
History of building occupancy permits
Building occupancy requirements in Winnipeg were established in 1965. Between 1974 and 1987, jurisdictional authority was exercised under several bylaws governing different parts of what is today known as the City of Winnipeg.
In 1987, jurisdictional authority was unified under Winnipeg Building By-Law 4555/87 and requirements for occupancy were applied to all regulated buildings.
The last significant amendment to occupancy requirements was made in 1994 and included the introduction of occupancy permits for a new tenant or occupant. The discontinuation of the occupancy only permits occurred on April 4, 2022.
The amendments of the governing bylaw are not retroactive. Therefore, spaces and uses that were established with a proper building permit in the past did not need a new occupancy when a subsequent amendment to the bylaw was passed. However, if a space or use was not legally established through the building permit process, upon discovery of the violation, the current tenant could be ordered to obtain an occupancy permit as per current bylaw requirements.
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