This site uses JavaScript. Please enable JavaScript in your Browser and reload the page to view the full site.

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 side yard 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.


Provincial ban on pesticides

Pesticides can pose risks to human health and the environment. Once applied to a lawn or garden, a pesticide may migrate into the air, soil and water. Studies in Ontario have detected some of our lawn and garden pesticides in both surface water and wells.

Ontario’s province-wide pesticide regulation bans the sale and use of cosmetic pesticides and came into effect on April 22, 2009.

The provincial pesticide ban only allows the use of certain lower-risk pesticides for controlling weeds and pests in lawns and gardens, and prohibits the sale and use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes (including many herbicides, fungicides and insecticides) on lawns, gardens, parks and schoolyards. However, it provides exceptions for public health or safety reasons, such as the prevention of West Nile Virus and the control of stinging insects, as well as the destruction, prevention or control of plants that are poisonous to humans by touch.

Proper disposal of pesticides

If you have pesticides stored in your garage or garden shed that are now banned, take them to the Household Hazardous Waste Depot for proper disposal. Left over pesticides should never be disposed in a way that would harm public health or the environment (like being poured down the drain, for example).

Weed killer alternatives

  • Remove weeds by hand.

Insecticide alternatives

  • Plant garlic cloves at 1-foot intervals in garden.
  • Use traps or spray soaps.
  • Blend 6 cloves crushed garlic, 1 minced onion, 1 tablespoon (14 ml) dried hot pepper, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure soap in 1 gallon (4.5 L) hot water. Let sit 1-2 days; strain; spray on plants.


  • Replace chemical fertilizers with peat moss, manure, fishmeal or organic compost.
  • Lawn fertilizer is unnecessary if lawn is watered properly and you practice grass cycling.
  • Grass Cycling: leave grass clippings on lawn; nutrients are reabsorbed into soil. Do not cut grass too short. Thoroughly water lawn (when necessary) in early morning (no more than a couple of hours).
  • Aerate lawn every few years.
For more information:

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment

Canadian Cancer Society – Pesticides

Frequently asked questions about lot grading

The grade of your property is designed to direct water away from your home towards ideal areas for drainage. Keep these frequently asked grading questions in mind before starting any landscaping projects.

Why is lot grading important?

Proper lot grading keeps surface water away from your home. Your lot should be sloped away from the home to allow all surface water to soak into the ground or flow to the property line. Changes to the grade of your lot can significantly impact how water flows across your property. This can damage your foundation, causing erosion or flooding basements and streets.

Lot Grading For Proper Drainage Ottawa

What am I responsible for as a property owner?

Property owners are responsible for maintaining the lot grade elevations established by the original grading plan. When hiring private contractors for landscaping or yard alteration, ensure that they respect the intended drainage design when carrying out work. This will reduce additional costs and stress that stems from improper lot grading.

Where can I obtain the grading plan for my property?

If a grading plan exists, residents can review the original plan by submitting an Access to Building Permit Records request. If there is no grading plan on record, please call 3-1-1 for additional grading inquires.

What is a violation of the drainage by-law?

Any action that negatively impacts the intended drainage of a lot violates the drainage by-law.  Swales are not to be filled, piped, or obstructed by any landscaping feature such as sheds or gardens. Consult the Site-Alteration By-law before altering your lot.

I’m planning minor landscaping, how do I know if I am violating the drainage by-law?

Small gardens are permitted just as long they do not interfere with the intended drainage of your property.  Do not fill in sloped swales or depressions. Never cover a catch basin, they are designed to help remove excess water from your lawn.

Why do I have a catch basin in my backyard?

Catch basins assist both you and properties abutting your lot in removing excess water. Never block a catch basin as that may increase the chances of local flooding. Never pour anything down a catch basin as this leads directly to a nearby waterway. To find out how to dispose of household hazardous waste, please consult the Waste Explorer.

Where should water be redirected?

Water from a downspout should flow onto your property and soak into the ground. Never direct water onto a neighbour's property, a sidewalk, right of way or easement. If space is limited, redirect water to the intended drainage point. Your downspout should be directed away from your home to a permeable surface such as grass. Extend your downspout at least four feet away from your foundation while respecting your neighbour’s property.

Water is pooling on my lawn, is this normal?

Your lot is designed to allow water to infiltrate back into the ground while draining excess water away from the property. This recharges ground water aquifers and reduces the strain on the municipal storm sewer system. If water has not disappeared after 48 hours, please call 3-1-1.

What should I do if my neighbour’s downspout drains on to my property?

Speaking with your neighbour is the first step. Inform them on how their drainage may negatively impact your property. If this does not work, call 3-1-1.

If you still have grading inquiries that have not been answered, please call 3-1-1 for more information.

Create a water-efficient garden

Follow these steps

Soil preparation

Prepare the soil to provide nutrients and moisture to help plants grow.

  • Add compost, peat moss, or manure to enrich your soil
  • Mix the compost or other organic materials into the top 30 centimetres of soil

Plant selection

Choose drought resistant plants to conserve water use.

  • Group plants by their water and sun/shade requirements
  • Use grass only for well-travelled areas or as a backdrop for flowerbeds
  • Use water efficient irrigation techniques, such as soaker hoses for vegetables because they require more water


  • Dig an appropriately sized hole for plants
  • Add compost mixed with native soil to the bottom of the hole
  • Centre the plant in the hole and water, covering the roots to ensure adequate moisture at the time of planting
  • Cover the plant with soil matching the soil level of the neighbouring area. Create a ring around the plant and water


Mulch helps control erosion, suppress weeds, retain moisture, control soil temperature and reduce disease transmission. Bark, wood chips, compost, grass clippings and crushed river rock can all be used as mulch material.

  • Spread the selected mulch in a layer about 10 cm deep over the garden


Proper irrigation techniques ensure that your garden receives enough water.

  • Use soaker hoses or a drip irrigation system to water once a week. This will reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation
  • Position sprinklers to avoid paved and hard surface areas
  • Take into account the amount of rainfall before watering. Leave a measuring container out in the garden to help assess how much rain falls each week
  • Water, if necessary, in the morning. Avoid watering in the afternoon or on windy days when water can be wasted to evaporation
  • Collect rainwater in a barrel for garden use
  • Reduce the amount of asphalt or concrete around the garden to reduce run off and allow the rain to soak into the ground