As part of the City of Toronto's five-year Official Plan review, the City will hold a "Heritage Town Hall" meeting on December 1, 2011 to give members of the public an opportunity to share their ideas on Toronto's heritage policies. Over the past few years, much has been made in the media of the deterioration of heritage properties, which is sometimes referred to as "demolition by neglect".

Demolition by neglect is expected to be a topic of conversation at the upcoming Town Hall meeting. However, owners of heritage properties in Ontario should know that municipalities already have broad legislative powers to protect designated heritage properties.

What heritage property owners should know

The following is a brief overview of the law in Ontario regarding heritage property maintenance:

  • An owner of a designated heritage property is responsible for maintaining it.
  • According to Sections 35.3 and 45.1 of the Heritage Act, if a municipality has enacted a property standards by-law, it may, by by-law, identify minimum standards for the maintenance of designated heritage resources.
  • If an owner fails to maintain a property's heritage features to such minimum standards, a municipal licensing officer may issue an order pursuant to Section 15.2(2) of the Building Code Act requiring a property owner to maintain or repair a heritage property.
  • Upon receipt of a Section 15 order, an owner may appeal to a municipality's property standards committee. If no appeal is filed, or if an owner's appeal is unsuccessful, the order is confirmed.
  • Pursuant to Section 19 of the Statutory Powers and Procedures Act, a municipality may file a confirmed Section 15 order with the Superior Court of Justice to make it enforceable as a court order.
  • In the event that an owner does not complete the work required by a Section 15 order, a municipality also has the right, pursuant to Section 446 of the Municipal Act and Section 386 of the City of Toronto Act, to enter onto the owner's land to do the necessary work at the owner's expense. The municipality may register a lien against the land for the cost of such work, and may add any unpaid cost to the property's municipal tax roll for collection as municipal real property taxes.
  • The above-noted property standards requirements apply only to properties "designated" pursuant to Parts IV or V of the Heritage Act. Properties that are identified on a municipality's list of heritage properties but not designated under the Heritage Act are not subject to these requirements.
  • An order from a municipal property standards officer may require an owner to maintain and protect the heritage attributes for which a property is designated, including repairing or maintaining the structure of a building to protect the integrity of the heritage attributes that it contains.
  • Any proposed addition to or alteration of a designated building that will impact the building's heritage attributes requires Council approval. Council's decision on an application to alter a designated building is final and not appealable to the Ontario Municipal Board.
  • Demolition of a designated heritage building or structure or a portion thereof requires Council approval. If such demolition permission is denied by Council, the owner has the right to appeal Council's decision to the OMB.