Know Your By-Laws Before You Put Up A Sign

Among the plans to design and order a sign, it’s important to consider local by-laws. Cities will often impose a licensing fee or tax as a way to raise funds. They will also employ enforcement officers to inspect city streets. Check with your municipality to ensure the smooth installation of your sign.

Restricted and residential areas

Certain parts of a city will not permit companies or individuals to erect a sign. There may be many reasons for doing so, one of them being safety. By-laws may protect visibility triangles for drivers and pedestrians in the designated area of traffic. Note that all highways and streets are municipally owned land. Always check with the city for their guidelines on putting up signs along roadways.

In some communities residents and businesses are in close proximity to one another. Illuminated signs can interfere with the enjoyment of homes for people who live nearby. The city may enforce laws controlling the brightness of the sign or the times of operation, for example from 7AM to 11PM. An inspector may check where the light lands and how it affects adjacent residents.


Signs that haven’t been processed by the city can lead to its removal at the owner’s cost. Additionally, hefty fines may be imposed. When applying for a permit, include processing time into your schedule. Understand the terms of renewal and your rights as license holder. You may be entitled to exercise the rights as permit-approved owner of signage despite changes to by-law.

Rules vary by city

Not every city has the same by-laws. If you plan on advertising across the country, it’s important to contact the office of each. Even if you intend on putting up signs in a particular region, make note of municipal boundaries. The laws for erecting a custom sign on one side of a boundary street can differ from the other.

Prohibited signs

Roof signs and mobile signs tend to be heavily regulated. Some cities do not allow for roof signs, in an effort to manage neighbourhood appearance. Although mobile signs are designed to spend time on the road, municipalities have rules for how they’re used as well.

What they look for

Even if you’re looking at private property, by-laws will have guidelines on the size, location, and number of signs used. When drawing up plans for signage, maintain copies of your work to submit to the city office. Other free-standing signs, even if they’re intended for temporary use, may require licensing under municipal laws, such as banners, inflatable advertisement, or pylon signs. Ones that are affixed to existing structures are under consideration too, such as a wall-sign.

Content of signs

Some by-laws impose a standard on how the sign affects passersby. For example, in Burlington, a sign is meant to direct people well enough to your place of business. Other rules may require that signs are consistent with the general appearance of the city. Signs that are so distracting as to be hazardous for drivers will probably fail to pass the application.

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License: Image author owned

License: Image author owned

License: Image author owned

Melissa Young was born in Ontario in 1986, sixth of seven children. Born and brought up in Toronto, she was graduated from the University of Western Ontario. Her father was a local social worker and he has been serving people through social work. Like her father, Melissa is also interested in doing social work and she has spent almost two years doing MSW in Counseling. For more information, catch her on twitter.

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