March 8th - 2010

Get to know MTO policies for real estate signage

REALTORS® working with properties that enter onto public highways in Ontario need to be aware of guidelines for entrance permits as well as real estate signage.

REALTORS® working with properties that enter onto public highways in Ontario need to be aware of guidelines for entrance permits as well as real estate signage.

The Ministry of Transportation (“MTO”) administers permit control within 800 m of a provincial highway under the Public Transportation & Highway Improvement Act (PTHIA). Permits are required for entrances onto the highway, construction of buildings, land development adjacent to the highway and placement of signs visible from the highway.

“MTO has a provincial policy in place to maintain the efficiency of the highway system and to ensure public safety,” says Tony DiFabio, Senior Planner and Policy Advisor. “All development next to highways must comply with standards and requirements set by the ministry not only for safety reasons, but also for aesthetics as well as future expansion and highway widenings.”

Although the policy guidelines are province-wide, DiFabio says REALTORS® and property owners should always check with the MTO office in their region. “Some regions may have site specific issues such as setback differences or other local requirements.”

It’s important to note that permits for entrances to a provincial highway are issued to the property owner and are non-transferable. Anytime the property is sold, the new property owner is required to obtain an Entrance Permit from MTO to recognize their entitlement to retain the existing access connection. The permit also clearly states the permitted use of the existing entrance. “However, if the use of the entrance is not changing, there is no fee for obtaining a new Entrance Permit for a change in property ownership,” says DiFabio.

When selling property that requires an entrance to a provincial highway, REALTORS® should consider drafting a clause indicating that Entrance and Sign Permits do not survive closing and should be a condition of the offer (obtaining or transfer).

MTO also offers a free, pre-consultation service for proposed property purchasers or their REALTORS®, advising if the entrance to the highway is recognized by MTO, whether there are certain conditions as to the use of the entrance or whether the entrance is temporary in nature and therefore cannot remain if the lands are sold.

Placement of real estate signs
As long as they don’t exceed 3.7m2 (40 square feet), MTO has no restrictions for real estate signs placed on properties listed for sale. Up to this size limit, no permit or fee is required. Any sign larger than 3.7m2 such as Temporary Development Signs that advertise future subdivisions or commercial development do require a permit and a fee will be charged. Other restrictions for commercial development signs include : a maximum of two sign structures per development site, they require a sign permit that will be valid for two years and the total area of these signs cannot exceed 46m2 (500 sq. ft).

Although regular sized real estate signs do not require a permit, they must be situated inside the property limits of the parcel of land for sale. According to the MTO, signs placed within MTO’s right-of-way will be removed without notice to either the property owner or their agent. Placement of signs by private individuals within MTO’s right-of-way is also not allowed. This includes signs such as open house ‘A’ frames, portable read-o-graph signs, fingerboard signs attached to telephone or fence posts, or signs advertising directions to a property that is for sale at intersections, either on or off MTO’s right-of-way.

DiFabio says understanding ministry requirements and procedures will prevent unnecessary delays or hassles during a real estate transaction. “A call to the local MTO Corridor Management Officer prior to property negotiations is not only good planning, but can often make the difference in a smooth transition of ownership from one party to another.”

Depending on the specific situation, your client may require one or more of these permits:

Entrance permits: new entrances to the highway, change in use of existing entrances (field use to residential use), relocation of existing entrances, paving of existing entrances, temporary entrances, change in ownership, change in design, altering any existing entrance.

Building/land use permits: new building and structures, additions to existing buildings, wells and septic systems, underground and above ground storage tanks, fences and hedges, trees, shrubs, gravel pits, parking areas.

Sign permits: All signs within 400 m of the highway (including temporary and portable signs) require ministry permits.

Encroachment permits: All work and installations, municipal or private, within the highway right-of-way (including landscaping, placing of culverts or pipes, paving, etc.) require encroachment permits.

For more information and permit forms contact your local MTO Corridor Office at or call toll free at 1-800-268-4686 or 416-235-4686.

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For more information contact

Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

416-445-9910 ext. 246