Our Journey with Yurt Permits and Building Codes

Yurt Permits and Building Codes

By: Laura McLeod and Meredith Rush-Inglis

Thinking about building or purchasing a yurt? One of the largest obstacles for future traditional yurt owners is obtaining yurt permits and compliance with existing yurt building codes (or lack thereof). Sometimes this involves working closely with authorities to update building regulations. This change can be difficult and, in some cases, frustrating; you must adapt and become a change-maker. Here are some tips: 

  1. Determine Authority for Enforcing Building Code (Generally the Local Municipality) Before Purchasing a Yurt

In Ontario, Canada, the local municipality is the authority for enforcing the Building Code. Therefore, your first point of contact should be your local municipality to gain information about the Ontario yurt building codes and regulations. Get in touch with the municipal building department for information on the applicability of the Code and whether a building permit is required. If it is, prepare yourself to navigate the system skillfully and calmly. 

The process of permitting a yurt will take time, so it’s best to start as soon as you are thinking about a purchase. Please consult with your local municipality regarding building codes, by-laws, and permit fees before committing. For assistance with this process, you may wish to seek the services of a qualified engineer or planner. 

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Municipality’s By-Laws, Challenges & Building Code

You may need to politely argue for common sense. When dealing with a municipality, some challenges to consider are: 

  • Municipalities are inconsistent in their handling of alternative structures. Some municipalities have categorized yurts as temporary or non-permanent structures that do not require building permits. However, some building officials take the position that a yurt fits the Ontario Building Code definition of a structure and requires a permit based on its size and usage. 
  • Yurts often do not fit neatly into any category under municipal building by-laws and can be subject to the same categories and fees as more expensive permanent structures. 
  • As in all areas of life, personalities can be challenging and pride can be an obstacle, especially with those in positions of authority. A building official may not appreciate having their authority challenged by citizens or elected officials! 
  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Definitions of ‘Yurt’, ‘Building’ & ‘Tent’ 

Depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to politely argue for clarity on these terms. The Ontario Building Code does not specifically mention the word ‘Yurt’, but common definitions exist: 

  • “A circular domed tent of skins or felt stretched over a collapsible lattice framework and used by pastoral peoples of inner Asia.” 
  • “Type of round tent with a wooden frame, used traditionally as a home by some Central Asian people, and now sometimes used for camping in Western countries” 

The Code does, however, indicate what a building is: 

  • A structure occupying an area greater than ten square metres consisting of a wall, roof and floor or any of them or a structural system serving the function hereof including all plumbing, works, fixtures and service systems appurtenant thereto,
  • A structure occupying an area of ten square metres or less that contains plumbing, including the plumbing appurtenant thereto 
  1. plumbing not located in a structure, 
  2. a sewage system, or 
  3. structures designated in the building code 

And the Building Code indicates when a permit is not required for a tent: 

  • A tent or group of tents is exempt from the requirement to obtain a permit under section 8 of the Act and is exempt from compliance with the Code provided that the tent or group of tents are: 
    1. not more than 60 m2 in aggregate ground area 
    2. not attached to a building, and 
    3. constructed more than 3m from other structure
  1. Don’t Give Up!

Try not to get fed up with the challenge of blending nomadic and settler lifestyles. There is still much work to be done around sharing what yurts are and what benefits they can provide for people seeking alternative lifestyles. Your love of yurts and conviction will provide good fuel for inspired and considerate interactions within your municipality. Be a change-maker!

Sources:

1.  “Yurt.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yurt. Accessed 29 Nov. 2021.
 2. Yurt. Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/yurt.