The question, “If there’s a by-law enforcement officer at my door, do I have to let them in?” is a question that comes up frequently. The answer, like most answers that involve the law, is, “It depends.”
Municipalities in Ontario can hire law enforcement officers and inspectors to enforce various provincial statutes as well as local by-laws. These officers and inspectors are afforded very broad investigative powers, which can surprise property owners who might otherwise assume that such officers have lesser rights than police officers.
In fact, municipal law enforcement officers often have greater powers than the police in terms of access to private property.
When Can A By-Law Enforcement Officer Come Onto My Property?
The Municipal Act, 2001 permits municipalities to pass by-laws. These by-laws allow the municipality to enter onto your land at any reasonable time without a warrant for the purposes of investigating alleged by-law infractions or determining compliance with orders.
The province of Ontario states that powers related to by-law enforcement include:
- powers of entry for purposes of inspection to determine if a by-law is being complied with, and to search for and seize evidence with a warrant.
While police would generally need a warrant to enter your backyard looking for evidence, municipal by-law enforcement officers are permitted to bypass obsticles like fences, and peer through windows, and generally enter any exterior private property, without any judicial oversight or a warrant.
When Can’t A By-Law Enforcement Officer Come Onto My Property?
The major caveat to this broad right-of-entry power is that an officer shall not enter a room or place being used as a dwelling without your permission or a warrant.
So, in general, municipal by-law enforcement officers can access any part of your property without a warrant, except the inside of any building that is being used as a residential dwelling.
Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c. 25
Power of entry re inspection
436 (1) A municipality has the power to pass by-laws providing that the municipality may enter on land at any reasonable time for the purpose of carrying out an inspection to determine whether or not the following are being complied with:
1. A by-law of the municipality passed under this Act.
2. A direction or order of the municipality made under this Act or made under a by-law of the municipality passed under this Act.
3. A condition of a licence issued under a by-law of the municipality passed under this Act.
4. An order made under section 431. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 184.
Persons who may conduct inspection
(2) An inspection referred to in subsection (1) may be conducted by,
(a) a by-law enforcement officer of any municipality or of any local board of any municipality; or
(b) an officer, employee or agent of any municipality or of any local board of any municipality whose responsibilities include the enforcement of a by-law, an Act or a regulation under an Act. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 184
Building Code Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c. 23
Inspection of property without a warrant
15.2 (1) Where a by-law under section 15.1 is in effect, an officer may, upon producing proper identification, enter upon any property at any reasonable time without a warrant for the purpose of inspecting the property to determine,
(a) whether the property conforms with the standards prescribed in the by-law; or
(b) whether an order made under subsection (2) has been complied with. 1997, c. 24, s. 224 (8).
Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.13
Power of entry
49 (1) In this section,
“officer” means an officer who has been assigned the responsibility of enforcing section 46, orders of the Minister made under clause 47 (1) (a) or zoning by-laws passed under section 34.
Entry and inspection
(2) Subject to subsection (3), where an officer believes on reasonable grounds that section 46, an order of the Minister made under clause 47 (1) (a) or a by-law passed under section 34 or 38 is being contravened, the officer or any person acting under his or her instructions may, at all reasonable times and upon producing proper identification, enter and inspect any property on or in respect of which he or she believes the contravention is occurring. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.13, s. 49 (1, 2).
Where warrant required
(3) Except under the authority of a search warrant issued under section 49.1, an officer or any person acting under his or her instructions shall not enter any room or place actually used as a dwelling without requesting and obtaining the consent of the occupier, first having informed the occupier that the right of entry may be refused and entry made only under the authority of a search warrant. R.S.O. 1990, c. P.13, s. 49 (3); 1994, c. 2, s. 45 (1).
(4) No person shall obstruct or attempt to obstruct an officer or a person acting under the officer’s instructions in the exercise of a power under this section. 1994, c. 2, s. 45 (2).
Township of Guelph/Eramosa
8348 Wellington Rd 124 P.O. Box 700
Rockwood, ON N0B 2K0
Phone: 519-856-9596 Ext: 121