Progressive Enforcement Procedure

Purpose statement

The Corporation of the Town of Oakville (town) supports compliance based enforcement of municipal by-laws. The purpose of this procedure is to provide guidelines for by-law enforcement that include a range of options to achieve compliance with progressive escalation when required.


This procedure applies to all enforcement actions taken by Town of Oakville municipal law enforcement staff (MLEO) or any other staff involved in enforcement activity.


Enforcement action should be undertaken on a continuum, starting with public education on by-law requirements to encourage voluntary compliance, progressing to warnings and finally to the pursuit of various penalties if the violation continues (i.e. administrative penalties, tickets, and long form charges).

Guiding principles

  1. Voluntary compliance
  2. Complaint and risk based investigations
  3. Reasonable, transparent and proportionate enforcement

Voluntary compliance

The first step on the progressive enforcement continuum is voluntary compliance, which involves education and outreach to ensure that residents and businesses are aware of by-laws that apply to them and why they apply. This includes: intent and purpose of by-laws to contribute to quality of life and health/wellness of the community and to be responsive to the community’s needs and concerns such as public safety, nuisance and consumer protection. Education and outreach also involves explaining how compliance can be achieved.  It is essential to begin compliance efforts with education and/or outreach since it is often the most successful means of ensuring long-term compliance and is generally less time-consuming and resource-intensive than responding to an investigation request.

Promoting compliance can take various forms including:

  • Providing education information pamphlets or material to businesses and residents including web based information and social media
  • Meeting with residents, resident groups and businesses to discuss compliance
  • Speaking at public venues or schools
  • Referring appropriate matters to community mediation services

Complaint and risk based investigations

Even with a strong voluntary compliance program in place, violations may occur and will require MLEOs to respond and conduct investigations based on complaint and risk assessment. It is important that all investigations be conducted with the notion that evidence collected will need to be presented in court.  Investigative procedures should be followed, evidence gathered in accordance with legislation, and the integrity of the investigation maintained at all times.

Reasonable, transparent and proportionate enforcement

The foundation of the investigative process is based on reasonable, transparent and proportionate enforcement. Officers involved in any investigation should ensure that their actions and reactions are reasonable and based on legal authority. Officers must clearly understand applicable regulations and possible outcomes should evidence prove a violation has occurred.  Finally, officers must ensure that enforcement measures are proportionate with the alleged violation.

Responding to Non-Compliance

The first step in enforcement is determining the relative significance of each violation.  When non-compliance with a by-law is identified, the most appropriate response to obtain compliance must be determined. In making this determination, the following factors are considered:

Life Safety

This takes into consideration the seriousness of the violation or potential non-compliance; such as the potential safety impact on residents, whether it be physical or by some other means.


The compliance history of the alleged violator is considered with respect to the existence of previous instances of non-compliance and the seriousness of past non-compliance. This consideration includes instances of non-compliance corrected before and after court proceedings.


Officers must consider the intent of violators to commit a violation, such as evidence that demonstrates a violator knowingly contravened regulations, when appropriate.

The goal is to achieve consistency and predictability in responses to non-compliance. Similar situations or incidents of non-compliance, regardless of where they occurred, will be considered when determining the appropriate enforcement action.

Prioritizing violations

The following criteria will be used by officers to identify and classify significant violations in order to help establish priorities for enforcement efforts.

High priority investigations (Life safety)
Class 1 investigations are those that pose an immediate and substantial life safety risk to residents, visitors, or businesses in Oakville.

High priority investigations can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Unsafe building
  2. Unsafe rental living condition (including mold)
  3. Unsafe tree
  4. Unsecure pool
  5. Health and safety complaint related to a licensed business
  6. Failure to obtain or renew a licence (if life safety could be affected)
  7. Nuisance (if life safety could be affected)

Medium priority violations (Nuisance)
Class 2 investigations are those that pose moderate, indirect or cumulative negative impact on residents, visitors and business. There may be intent and history, but there are not immediate life safety concerns.

Medium priority investigations can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Excessive noise
  2. Nuisance (annoyance but no life safety threat)
  3. Vermin or insects in rental dwelling
  4. Stagnant water
  5. Graffiti
  6. Shrubs/trees overgrown from private property onto sidewalk
  7. Pool drainage

Low priority violations (Regulatory)
Low priority investigations are those that pose a minor threat to residents, visitors or businesses or are purely regulatory in nature.  In these situations there may be no intent, history or life safety concerns.

  1. Parking violation (can be medium or high if causing safety concern)
  2. Regulatory licensing enforcement (taxi sign damaged, vehicle numbers not clearly visible)
  3. Mobile sign
  4. Idling vehicle

Violation response protocol

  1. High Priority Respond as quickly as practicable
    a. Respond as quickly as practicable
    b. Call in staff as needed to deal with concern
    c. Priority continues at high until life safety issue has been mitigated
    d. Once life safety concerns dealt with, issue may be downgraded to medium priority call if further response is required
  2. Medium Priority
    a. Respond within 1-3 days
    b. After-hours response may be approved
    c. Shifts may be switched to for investigative purposes
  3. Low Priority
    a. Respond within 1-5 days or as found
    b. See parking procedures for service standard

Complainant communications

Complainant relations are important to the success of every investigation and to improving community relations.  In order to ensure positive relations are maintained and appropriate information is provided to the community, officers shall be responsible for adhering to the complainant communications protocol.  The complaint protocol is not applicable to regulatory, low priority investigations.

Complainant Communication Protocol

  1. Initial contact by officer at onset of investigation
    - provide overview of investigation process, requirements of complainant (if any) and anticipated timing of next follow up contact
  2. Follow up contact as required to resolve investigation
  3. Final contact at close of investigation
    - provide overview of investigation results and any additional guidance as necessary

Frivolous and/or vexatious complaints

In situations whereby multiple meritless complaints are received from a single person at one time, where a single person continuously submits a variety of complaints on an on-going basis, or where a single complaint appears to be based on vendetta or retribution, the Director of Municipal Enforcement Services or designate is given the discretion to decide on an appropriate level of response.

In making this decision the following criteria will be considered:

  • Does the complaint deal with safety concerns
  • Does the division have available resources to respond to the concerns
  • What are the potential impacts on the complainant
  • What are the potential impacts of not responding
  • What are the potential impacts on the neighbourhood
  • Does the complaint appear to be frivolous or vexatious

The resulting level of response by staff may include acting on some or all of the complaints, not acting on the complaints, or responding to some or all of the complaints as resources are available.

Dealing with children under 16 Years

The Provincial Offences Act regulates how a Young Person is to be dealt with when issuing charges. Interacting with a Young Person for enforcement related concerns can create health and safety concerns. In order to ensure all of our interactions are conducted in the safest manner possible, the following criteria will help to guide officer interactions with a Young Person

  1. Officers will not issue charges to a Young Person;
  2. Once an officer identifies that they are dealing with a Young Person they will discontinue the conversation and, if necessary, contact the Young Person’s parents;
  3. If an officer is responding to a call involving Young Persons, Halton Regional Police (HRP) are required to be in attendance and any enforcement action will be taken by the HRP;
  4. An officer will not correspond directly to a Young Person, any correspondence should be addressed to the parents; and
  5. Any required meetings with a Young Person will only be held in the company of the parents.


Young Person(s): as defined in the Provincial Offences Act.

Procedure details

Procedure Number: MS-REG-001-004
Parent Policy: MS-REG-001
Section: Municipal Services
Sub-Section: Regulatory Services
Author: Municipal Enforcement Services
Authority: CAO
Effective Date: 2016 Nov 14
Review by Date: 2021


Provincial Offences Act