Who does the inspections in an unincorporated township?
—C. Frances, Toronto, Ont.

If you’re hoping the answer is “No one, so go ahead and build whatever the heck you want”—sorry. Even in territory without municipal organization there are still governing bodies. Matters involving land-use planning (building permits, zoning) fall under the control of the planning board covering that geographic jurisdiction. There are 16 in Ontario, created by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing under the Planning Act.

Requirements for on-site sewage systems, on the other hand, fit under the jurisdiction of either a conservation authority or a health unit, depending on where in Ontario the cottage is located, says Richard Stromberg of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Like anywhere else in the province, the Ontario Building Code applies, and you may need additional approvals to do work in the water. It’s the north, not the Wild West.

If you cottage in an unincorporated township and want to change anything on your property, first contact your planning board. (To find which townships fall under what planning board see mah.gov.on.ca.) You may need a permit. A board does not automatically inspect new structures, but, according to Selina Richter of the Sudbury East Planning Board, an inspector would go to check new construction if a neighbour complained.