Guide for New Businesses

Welcome to Richmond Hill. We are thrilled that you have chosen to join our business community and we would like to make your move to Richmond Hill as easy as possible.

The Richmond Hill Economic Development Team is your key contact and source of information. We will help you work through your unique requirements both at the beginning and throughout the entire process. Our team is ready to answer your questions and provide you with business support services. We assist local businesses to connect to resources which can help meet corporate growth goals, as well as help attract and support new investment to Richmond Hill.

Finding the Right Site
There are various ways you can search for a site in Richmond Hill. Some companies choose to hire a site selector or commercial realtor, while others use in-house staff to conduct their search. Regardless of the method, be sure to also contact Richmond Hill Economic Development staff as we work with commercial realtors and property owners and are often aware of sites that are available or coming on the market. Before signing a lease or buying a property, check with the City’s Zoning staff as they will assist you in determining if the proposed use for that site is permitted. You may find the following information helpful as you begin your search.
Remember to check the zoning

Congratulations! You’ve found a site that you would like to lease or buy. Before you commit, be sure to contact Richmond Hill’s Zoning staff, as they will assist you in determining if the proposed use for that particular site is permitted.

If you would like more information about zoning in Richmond Hill, please see the zoning information on the web site, and the zoning index map.

For Zoning By-law related inquiries and to receive a written response, to request a formal Permitted Use letter for a fee and to request a Compliance letter for a fee (expedited service is also available) please see the Zoning and Compliance Letter Requests webpage.   

Zoning staff can be reached at zoninginfo@richmondhill.ca. If zoning staff recommends that you speak with a Planner, contact planning staff at planning@richmondhill.ca.

Do I need to speak with a Planner?

You should contact a Planner in our Planning and Infrastructure Department if:

  • you are involved in any aspect of land development and construction of buildings (such as designing and constructing a new building or an addition to an existing building) or are submitting plans of subdivision or site plan
  • you require an Official Plan amendment or Zoning By-law amendment, or Site Plan approval
  • you have a question about heritage buildings or designations
  • you require a minor variance from the Committee of Adjustment 
For more information about the planning approval process or contacting a planner, visit RichmondHill.ca/DevelopmentApplications. Planning staff can be reached at planning@richmondhill.ca or by phone at 905-771-8910.

What is a building permit? Do I need one?

A building permit is your formal permission from the City of Richmond Hill to begin a building project in Richmond Hill, such as the construction, demolition, alteration and/or changing the use of any building. Richmond Hill Building staff must review your plans to ensure that they comply with the Ontario Building Code, local Zoning by-laws and other applicable regulations. The Ontario Building Code requires that you obtain a building permit before you start work on a new building (or structure), an addition or any significant alterations to an existing structure. Significant alterations would include additions, structural changes and openings, changes to plumbing and heating systems and in some cases a change of use (such as from personal business use to a restaurant use). Permits help ensure buildings are safe with respect to public health, fire protection and structural sufficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions about building permits will answer your questions on how to apply for a permit, who will review the application, where to find information on fees, etc.

Details about when a permit is, or is not required are found in Building Permits.

  • Examples of when a permit is required include: constructing or renovating a building, altering the interior of a building, changing the use of the building, remodelling plumbing systems, etc.
  • Examples of when a permit is not usually required include: painting and decorating, landscaping, eavestroughing, minor repairs to bricks or blocks, etc. 

What is a tenant permit? Do I need one?

A tenant permit for a business is the permission to allow for an occupancy after construction, alteration and /or a change in occupancy of the tenant space. This is to ensure that the business is a permitted use in accordance with the Zoning by-law, the use/occupancy complies with the Ontario Building Code (OBC), and the premises is safe to occupy.

Examples where a tenant permit is required:

  • Alteration to existing or newly occupied space
  • Where there is a change of use to the occupancy type as defined by the Ontario Building Code of the premises. In this case, a tenant permit is required even if no construction or alterations are anticipated or, where the intended use results in an increase in hazard (such as from personal business use to a restaurant use).

Once the tenant permit is issued and a final inspection has been completed, an occupancy certificate or a building permit sign off certificate is issued. You may then occupy the premises defined in the permit.

Preparing the plans for building permit application

A building/tenant permit application typically requires drawings such as architectural, mechanical (HVAC, plumbing, sprinkler) and electrical that clearly demonstrate the full scope of the proposed work. Structural drawings may also be required if the scope of work includes a new and/or a modification to the existing structure.

One of the goals of the Building Division is to provide the most efficient service to our customers. Delays in the issuance of your permit can arise if your drawings are not complete and/or do not conform to the OBC and the applicable laws. For this reason, it is important that the drawings are prepared and reviewed by a qualified professional as outlined in the Ontario Building Code.

Who are the qualified professionals?

Qualified designer

The Ontario Building Code requires that designers preparing plans are qualified and registered by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH). Individuals and, in some instances, their firms must file with the MMAH to obtain a Building Code Identification Number (BCIN). When hiring a qualified designer, please ensure that the designer is qualified in the area(s) of design that fits your project and registered where required, with the MMAH – QuARTS (Qualification and Registration Tracking System).

Licensed Architect or Professional Engineer

For certain scope of work, a qualified designer is not sufficient and the drawings must be reviewed and stamped by an architect, professional engineer or both. Architects are qualified by the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) and Engineers are qualified by the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO). Architects and Engineers are not required to be registered or qualified with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

How do I find a qualified professional?

There are several resources available to find a qualified professional including local online classified listing and internet searches. The following internet search terms may help you find a qualified designer: 

  • BCIN drafting services commercial
  • BCIN qualified designer commercial
  • BCIN designer York Region

In addition to the internet search, the following Associations and Organizations have listings or contact information for local qualified professionals:

Need more information? Contact the Building Division at

Do I need a sign permit?

The Sign By-law (52-09) and/or the Ontario Building Code regulates the size, location and number of signs that are permitted on any property, business and/or at special events within the City of Richmond Hill. Its intent is to regulate signs for the purpose of improving community appearance, as well as traffic, structural and fire safety, land use compatibility and the ease of property or premises identification and for the purposes of carrying out the objectives of Richmond Hill’s Official Plan and the public interest. All businesses looking to put signage on their premises, whether for an existing building or a new design-build space, ground signage or mobile signs will be required to obtain a sign permit and will require permission from the owner of the property. (This by-law does not apply to Municipal signs such as parking signs, accessible signs and reserved parking signs). If you have any questions about sign permits, please contact Community Standards Division at bylaw@richmondhill.ca or 905-771-0198. 

What are the development charges? Do they apply to my project?

Development charges are a way of recovering the net cost of capital infrastructure expenditures attributable to growth.

Pursuant to the legislation, the municipality is authorized to collect development charges on behalf of the Regional Municipality of York and the York Catholic and Pubic District School Boards. The rates are subject to indexing in accordance with the various by-laws. Each jurisdiction is responsible for setting the rates of its own development charges, indexing and for determining any exemptions.

You may be required to pay development charges for any residential or non-residential development if you are:

  • Erecting a new (not replacement) building(s);
  • Making an addition or alteration to an existing building(s) which increases the gross floor area or number of units; and /or
  • Re-developing a property or properties which result in a change of use

Contact the City of Richmond Hill Finance staff at 905-747-6313 to confirm whether development charges apply.

Area Specific Development Charges, if applicable, are payable at execution of Site Plan/Subdivision Agreement/Land Severance/Building Permit issuance. For the Region of York Development Charges, the hard service charges are paid to the Region of York directly by the developer at the time of the registration of the agreement. The balance is collected at the building permit stage by the area Municipality.

All other development charges must be paid in full prior to the issuance of a building permit.

Development charges information and schedule for non-residential development are found on RichmondHill.ca.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss your project as it relates to development charges, please contact the Financial Services Division at 905-747-6313. 
Are there other business resources I should know about? 

There are many business resources and organizations that we can connect you with to help you grow your business. Our Economic Development staff would be happy to meet with you to learn more about your business and connect you with the appropriate resource. Please contact our Economic Development staff at 905-771-5483 and 905-747-6382. Below is a sample of some of the resources that are available:

  • Calendar of business events in Richmond Hill and the Greater Toronto Area. The Economic Development staff maintain a list of events that might be of interest to our local businesses. The events range from seminars put on by our Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC) and networking events from the Richmond Hill Board of Trade, to industry association events such as those from TechConnex or Life Sciences Ontario. Check the calendar periodically and let us know if you would like us to research and post any other type of events.