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All about your property

All about your property


Fences are regulated by the City of Ottawa’s Fence By-law.  The By-law states that no person may erect a fence taller than 1 metre in a front yard and 2.13 metres in any other yard in a residential property.  There are also regulations that govern the size of gates, archways and decorative caps.

For non-residential properties, the height limit is 3 metres.  The City’s By-law also governs the types of materials that a fence may be made out of, as well as the expectation that any fence is to be kept in a state of good repair.

Heritage Properties

There are approximately 3,500 properties in the City of Ottawa designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.  There are a variety of mechanisms through which heritage properties are identified and protected, including being listed on the Heritage Register, individual designation under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act or by being designated as part of a heritage conservation district.  Properties can also be included under the Zoning By-law’s Heritage Overlay.

The effect of these various designations can be to limit the demolition or alteration of such properties.  More information can be found through Heritage Conservation.


The term setback refers to the distance between the wall of a property and the lot line.  The Zoning By-law prescribes setbacks for all properties in Ottawa, which will vary depending on the specific zoning designation under the By-law.

There are four setbacks:  front yard, both side yards and rear yard.  The setback is expressed in terms of metres.  It is important to note that the front yard lot line is often not the same as the point at which your property meets the street or sidewalk.  The exact location of lot lines can only be determined by a Plan of Survey, although the City’s geoOttawa program can provide a rough guide as to where the lot lines lie. 

City right-of-way

This term refers to the City-owned portion of a piece of land.  It is very often wider than the road and sidewalks that may abut your property and can extend to a considerable extent onto your property.  The City maintains a right-of-way wider than the width of the road in the event that a road widening becomes necessary at some point in the future.

Notwithstanding this, a property owner is still responsible for maintaining the City-owned portion of their land, with respect to matters such as grass cutting and snow clearance.  The exact extent of the City’s right-of-way can be determined through a Plan of Survey and the City’s GeoOttawa program can provide a rough guide as to the exact extent of the right-of-way.


Pools are considered landscaping under the Zoning By-law.  Consequently there is no prohibition as to their location on your property.  However, pools must be enclosed (fenced) for safety reasons.  This includes any body of water on your property with a depth equal or greater than 600 mm.  A permit from the City is required. 

Private Approach

A private approach refers to a depressed curb that allows vehicular access to your property.  Very often, private approaches are approved as part of the Site Plan Control Process.  Notwithstanding this, the City has a Private Approach By-law that governs the location of such facilities.  A permit is required if you wish to establish, widen or close your driveway. 

Front Yard Parking

The Zoning By-law governs the location of parking on private property.  In general, front yard parking is prohibited.  For example, you cannot park your vehicle in the front yard of your property, in front of the front walls of the building. 

You can park your vehicle in a garage attached to your property, and in the driveway leading to the garage or in the sideyard abutting your property.  For more information, and diagrams showing where you can and cannot park on your property, please see the relevant section of the Zoning By-law. Please refer specifically to the section addressing residential zones.

Secondary Dwelling Units

A secondary dwelling unit is permitted in any detached, linked-detached , semi-detached or townhouse dwelling  in any zone where that dwelling type is a listed permitted use provided in the Zoning By-law.  The proviso is that the secondary dwelling unit cannot change the streetscape character of the road on which it is located and cannot be capable of being severed into a separate property.  It must also be located within the same building as the principle dwelling unit with which it is associated.

For more information, please see the relevant section of the Zoning By-law or contact a Development Information Officer (DIO) by calling 3-1-1.

Coach Houses

Secondary Dwelling units in accessory structures, termed Coach Houses in the City of Ottawa, were approved by Council on October 26, 2016. A Coach House means:

A separate dwelling unit that is subsidiary to and located on the same lot as an associated principal dwelling unit, but is contained in its own building that may also contain uses accessory to the principal dwelling.

These new housing units are permitted in Ottawa’s urban, suburban and rural areas subject to Section 3.1 of the Official Plan and Section 142 of the Zoning By-law.

The City has created a document, titled: How to Plan Your Coach House in Ottawa. This document helps to understand the process and costs associated with building a coach house. This guide also provides answers to many questions associated with constructing a coach house.

Renting Rooms

Depending on your property’s Zoning designation and type, you can rent up to three rooming units.  For more information, please see the relevant section of the Zoning By-law.

Determining the Zoning of a Property

The zoning of a property determines certain factors:

  • Permitted size/height of a new structure
  • Permitted location of a new structure
  • Permitted use of land/building
  • Possibility of rezoning of an existing property
  • Possibility of lot severance
  • Use of temporary garage (plastic portable winter garage)

General Zoning Information may be found online at the Zoning By-Law Information page.

For more information on zoning, and on appropriate land use, contact a Development Information Officer (DIO). Consult the online contact list for the appropriate Development Information Officer or visit any of City of Ottawa's Client Service Centre  at the Building Code Services counter.

Land Registry Office

ServiceOntario manages and operates 54 Land Registry Offices throughout Ontario which register, store and manage documents such as deeds, mortgages and plans of survey.

Registration of real property is done under either the Land Titles Act or the Registry Act.

All registered and deposited records are available to the public (for a fee) to search title or obtain information about the ownership of real property.

Contact Land Registry Office in Ottawa:
Ottawa-Carleton No. 4
Court House
161 Elgin Street 4th Floor
Ottawa ON K2P 2K1
Tel: (613) 239-1230
Fax: (613) 239-1422

Non-Conforming Rights

A Non-Conforming Right is the right to a particular land use that is no longer legal for the property in question.  In order to be eligible, the original land use has to have been legal at the time it was established and has to have been continuous in use since that time.

How to Establish a Non-Conforming Right

In some instances, it is possible to formally establish a Non-Conforming Right.  This is done through the submittal of an affidavit to the City of Ottawa.  Pre-consultation with a Development Information Officer (DIO) is recommended.  For further information see Development Application Highlights.

Property Tax Deferral Program

The City of Ottawa offers two property tax deferral programs for low-income seniors and low-income people with disabilities. Eligible homeowners may apply for a full or partial deferral of annual property taxes. Application for tax deferral must be made annually to the City of Ottawa to establish eligibility or confirm continued eligibility.

For general information regarding both programs, consult the Low-income Seniors & Low-income Disabled Persons Tax Deferral Program information page.

Privately Owned Trees

The City of Ottawa does not regulate the location of a tree on private property.   Any complaints regarding a neighbour's tree, hedge, bush being too close to the property line or infringing upon another property, it is a Civil Matter and cannot be dealt with or solved by the City. This also applies to trimming overhanging branches from another private property.

When a tree trunk is located exactly over the property line and the tree technically belongs to both residents, it is regulated by the Ontario Forestry Act. For more information consult either the Ontario Forestry Act or contact Service Ontario at 1-800-268-8758.

For dead or dangerous trees on private property, consult the Dead or Dangerous Tree procedure in Property Standards.

Property Easements

An easement is a right held by one property owner to make use of the land of another for a limited purpose, for example as a right of passage.

Easements are usually indicated on the title of a property.   There may be a plan of survey accompanying the title. To obtain a copy of your property’s title, contact the Land Registry Office at 613-239-1230.

There are four types of Property Easements:

Behind townhomes, on private property When a new block of townhomes is built, the developer usually has the buyer sign a purchase agreement stating that owners of end units will leave access at rear of property for residents in the middle units, to access their rear yard from the outside (to bring their lawnmowers, etc.). The agreement will state that if end unit owners build a fence, they must leave a gate for residents of middle units to go through.

NOTE: This is not part of any City bylaw and has nothing to do with the City. If there is a disagreement, it is a civil matter. If the owner of an end unit blocks off the easement, nobody at the City can have it rectified.

Utility easements (non City) on residential private properties Residents may have a utility pole in their yard on their own property. Utility workers must have access to the property for maintenance purposes. A utility easement can also be a passage only (no poles, etc., on property, just a right of passage). These easements occasionally include a height restriction for structures on the property.  Residents are not supposed to build structures, plant trees, etc., in utility easements. If a homeowner blocks a utility easement, it is a civil matter between the homeowner and the utility; the City will not get involved.

Utility easements on utility owned land These are usually strips of land, sometimes many kilometres long, which run along the back of residential/commercial developments. They usually have major hydro lines, and are maintained by Hydro.

City Sewer easements Some properties have a catch basin or manhole cover in the rear or side yard.  The City may require access for maintenance, and will approach property owner if easement has been blocked.

Note: When a property is purchased, the homeowner should check for easements in case they plan on building something (swimming pool, etc.) in the future. Lawyers usually look into this. As a homeowner, you will not necessarily be informed about existing easements and can purchase Title Insurance (A policy that protects a buyer against omissions or errors or defects in the title of the property).

Property Lines - Land Survey

The City of Ottawa does not regulate property lines, it is managed by the province.

To determine the location of a property's lot line, consult a copy of a registered survey of the property. When a house is purchased, the new homeowner's lawyer usually provides a copy if it exists. There might be a copy on file at the Land Registry Office at the Provincial Courthouse at 180 Elgin St.

If no survey exists, a private surveyor will need to survey the property.

Determining Ownership of a Property

Names and mailing info for property owners are available in the City's Roll Books, prepared by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).

The Roll Books are available for viewing at the nearest Client Service Centre to the property in question.   The City Hall Client Service Centre has Roll Books for the entirety of the City.


Blasting is an acceptable construction practice within the City of Ottawa for the purpose of removing rock. The use of explosives may be required in a variety of construction projects including the construction and/or installation of roads, sewers, water mains, utilities, foundations, tunnels, etc. To prevent flooding, blasting is also used to clear ice blockages in the Rideau River. In either case, stringent rules and a process for notification must be followed. The former Cities of Ottawa and Kanata, and the Region had blasting by-law?s that were repealed in 2003 following this report.