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Long Grass, Weeds and Natural Gardens

What are the standards for lawns, grass and vegetation?

Municipal Code Chapter 489, Grass and Weeds and Chapter 743, Streets and Sidewalks outline outlines standards with respect to grass, weeds and vegetation on private property, streets and sidewalks. These standards apply to properties in Toronto  and include standards for any gardens on the public portions of a property. The owner or occupant of private land is required to cut the grass and weeds on their land, and remove the cuttings whenever the growth of grass and weeds exceeds 20 cm (8 inches) in height.

This includes vegetation growth that does not form part of a natural garden (described below) that has been deliberately implemented to produce ground cover, including one or more species of wildflowers, shrubs, perennials, grasses or combinations of them, whether native or non-native, consistent with a managed and natural landscape other than regularly mown grass.  Weeds are described as in the Weed Control Act.

What if a property doesn’t meet City standards?

If you notice a property which does not appear to meet City standards, please contact 311.  You may also visit one of four ML&S district offices, open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. To determine which office serves your area, verify your ward here and use the table below to find the appropriate office.

When a complaint is received, an Advisory Letter is sent out to the property owner quoting the bylaws and the requirements for maintenance within 14 days.  If the owner does not comply after the Notice expires, the City can do the work and the costs and administration fees may be added to the property taxes.

ML&S District Office    Scarborough District, Scarborough Civic Centre, 150 Borough Drive, Toronto, ON M1P 4N7

What is a “natural garden”?

A natural garden is designed to have environmental benefits and create a habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife. It is managed within a certain boundary and may contain both native and non-native plants. Unlike neglected properties, a natural garden will not contain overgrown plants or invasive weeds.

If a property is considered a “natural garden”, it is exempt from some Municipal Code standards. To apply for a natural gardens exemption, a property owner can complete the Natural Gardens Exemption application form and submit it by mail or in-person to any of the ML&S District Offices (above).

There is no charge for this application.

If a property is not in compliance with Chapter 489 and Chapter 743, the property owner may be issued a Notice of Violation (NOV). If the owner would like to contest the NOV and apply for a natural gardens exemption, they should apply within 14 days from the NOV date.

Learn more about vegetation in this Natural Gardens Fact Sheet.

The application review process will include:

  1. a completed application form;
  2. inspection by a City horticulturalist with recommendations for either the approval or refusal of the exemption;
  3. inspection by Transportation Services if a portion of the natural gardens extends onto the public boulevard; and
  4. notification of the request for exemption to the ward Councillor by staff.

What will happen if the natural gardens exemption is approved?

If the natural gardens exemption is approved, an authorization letter will be sent advising of the following:

  1. approval of the natural garden;
  2. that the natural gardens has to be maintained;
  3. that the natural gardens has be kept free of noxious and/or invasive weeds;
  4. any other required conditions respecting health, safety and nuisance that the Executive Director of ML&S considers advisable; and
  5. that the exemption shall take effect 21 days after the issuance of the letter of approval and that any related NOVs will be cancelled immediately.

What will happen if the natural gardens exemption is refused?

If the natural gardens exemption is not approved, a letter will be sent indicating the following:

  1. the reason for the refusal;
  2. a copy of the horticulturalist report and recommendations to bring the gardens into compliance; and
  3. information on how to appeal the decision.

If the property owner chooses to appeal the decision, they must do so within 21 days from the date on the notice indicating the refusal. To file an appeal there is a $200 application fee. Once the application and fee are received, City staff will prepare a report on the property and the appeal will be heard by the respective Community Council. A Notice of Hearing will be sent to all residents within 100 metres of the location.

Note: In the instance that a portion of the gardens extends to publicly-owned land and Transportation Services staff refuses the natural gardens exemption, you cannot appeal this decision for the portion of the land on the public property.

If the property owner would like to bring the property into compliance based on the recommendations provided by the City horticulturalist, the City will work with the owner to create a natural garden and confirm approval of the exemption.

What if a property is not brought into compliance?

If an owner or occupant fails to comply with the original notice, or is refused an exemption and then fails to comply with the original notice given, City staff may perform the necessary work to bring the property into compliance. The cost of this work and administration fees may be charged to the owner’s property taxes