On December 15, 2015, sections 5, 7, 9 and 43 of the British
Columbia Building Act came into force (see BC Reg. 233/2015). Section 5 states that
a local building requirement has no effect to the extent that it
relates to a Provincially-prescribed building requirement.
Section 7 enables local governments to request variances to
Provincial building requirements, and section 9 enables the
Province to retain a consultant to consider such variance
requests. Finally, section 43 is the transition section which
states that section 5 does not apply until 2 years after it comes
The Province's website (updated on
December 15, 2015) recommends that local governments start
reviewing their bylaws for consisitency with Provincial
requirements (including the Building Code).
restrictions: This section has a significant effect on
local governments and other local authorities. Local governments
are advised to review their bylaws and to eliminate any existing
building requirements before December 15, 2017 – after that
date, those requirements won't have any legal force. Until the
two-year transition period ends, local governments will continue to
be subject to the concurrent authority provisions of the Community
Charter with regards to building requirements.
Section 7 variation
requests: The Province recognizes the goal of greater
consistency needs to be balanced against a reasonable ability for
local governments to meet unique local needs. For this reason, and
in limited circumstances, local governments will be able to request
what the Building Act calls a variation—meaning, building
requirements that differ from or exceed those in provincial
building regulations such as the BC Building Code. The Province
will establish criteria that variation requests must
The scope of section 5 (and, consequently, sections 7, 9 and
43), and the revisions that local governments must make to their
bylaws, clearly depends on the regulations to be adopted by the
So what are the Provincial requirements at this time? To
date, the only regulation that has been deposited under the
Building Act is the UBC Tall Wood Building Regulation,
182/2015. As the name suggests, this regulation
prescribes building standards for student residences at Brock
Commons at UBC. No other building requirements appear to have
been formally set. Accordingly, it remains unclear what, if
anything, local governments should do to make their bylaws
consistent with the Building Act.
It is likely that the Province will - over the course of the
next two years - adopt additional building requirements which local
governments will have to take into account. Unfortunately, by
bringing section 5 into force before introducing substantive
building regulations, the Province effectively reduced the
transition period that local governments will have to conduct their
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Russell v. Township of Georgian Bay provides a useful reminder of the fact that while municipal officials sometimes appear to hold all of the cards in disputes with home owners, that is not always the case.
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