Everything You Need To Know About Building Secondary Suites In Toronto!

What Are Secondary Suites?

In the simplest terms, a secondary suite is a separate living unit inside a house with a primary living unit. The intent of secondary suites is to provide separate accommodation for rental purposes or multi-generational living. Each secondary suites contains its own living, dining, kitchen, sleeping space, and bathroom, exclusively used by the group occupying the secondary suite.

Secondary suites are permitted across Ontario. This means other cities in Ontario do allow them, but they generally have much stricter zoning requirements and by-laws to actually allow a homeowner to create one.

Because of Toronto’s lack of land to build out, our city has been making the secondary suites process much easier than other cities. Right now, you’re allowed to build secondary suites in all old and new detached homes, semis, and townhouses in Toronto.

Why Do Secondary Suites Make Sense For Real Estate Investors?

When a house it split up into two separate rental units instead of one, you can effectively maximize the rentable space and rental income in your investment property. This can mean the difference between negative cash flows and positive cash flows, bumps up your value-add appreciation, and maximize total returns.

Watch the video below as we walk through an example of how cash flows and returns can increase when you add a secondary suite in a single family home!

How Many Secondary Suites Can You Build In A Toronto Home?

Detached Or Semi In R Zone

More than one secondary suite is allowed

Other Detached, Semi, Or Town

A maximum of one secondary suite is allowed

Find out what zone your home is in: Toronto Zoning Map

What Are The Development Charges For Secondary Suites?

Detached In R Zone

Development charges are waived for up to two secondary suites

Other Detached, Semi, Or Town

Development charges are waived for one secondary suite

What Are The Parking Requirements For Secondary Suites?

One parking space is required for each secondary suite above the first secondary suite

See detailed parking requirements: Toronto Parking By-Laws Table 200.5.10.1

What Are The Egress Requirements?

If Separate Exit

One egress door required and it cannot be on the road-facing wall if the home is a detached or semi-detached home

If Shared Exit

One egress door required and it cannot be on the road-facing wall if the home is a detached or semi-detached home, plus one egress window required

Additional Notes On Egress Windows (If Required)

if Above Ground

H: Minimum 3'6" H
W: Minimum 1'10" W
Distance from ground: Maximum 2'11"

If Ground Or Basement

Area: Minimum 6.1 square feet
Opening width: Minimum 18”

What Are The General Window Requirements?

Living Or Dining

5% of floor area

Bedroom

2.5% of floor area

What Are The Ceiling Height Requirements?

If Above Ground

50% must be minimum 6’ 8”

If Basement

Minimum 6’ 4 3/4”

Other Fire Safety Requirements

Fire Separation: Floors

15 minutes (with interconnected smoke alarms) if building is more than 5 years; 45 minutes if building is less than 5 years

Fire Separation: Walls & Supporting Beams

30 minutes if building is more than 5 years; 45 minutes if building is less than 5 years

Fire Separation: Egress Door

20 minutes plus self closing device

Smoke Detector

Interconnected in each bedroom & common space

CO Detector

On each floor with bedroom

What Are The Size Requirements?

Secondary Suite

The total area of all secondary suites must be <45% of the entire dwelling; secondary suites in bungalows can occupy entire basement

Living + Dining + Kitchen (1 Bedroom Suite)

Minimum 118.4 square feet

Sleeping + Living + Dining + Kitchen

Minimum 145 square feet

Living

Minimum 145 square feet

Dining

Minimum 75 square feet

Kitchen

Minimum 45.2 square feet

Master Bedroom

Minimum 95 square feet

Other Bedrooms

Minimum 75 square feet

Here Are The Steps To Building A New Secondary Suite In Toronto

1. Check Zoning

All detached, semis, and town homes qualify for at least one secondary suite. If you already have one secondary suite, then you need to be in the R zone to add more secondary suites in your home.

If you want to confirm zoning requirements before you apply for a permit, you can apply for a Preliminary Project Review with the city.

2. Prepare Plans & Drawings

Before you apply for a building permit, you will need to provide floor plans, section drawings, construction details and notes, and a site plan. If you are making HVAC or plumbing changes, there are additional requirements.

For a list of requirements, please refer to the City Of Toronto Requirements List.

3. Apply For A Building Permit

A Building Code Examiner will review your building to make sure it complies with all aspects of zoning, Toronto by-laws, and the Ontario Building Code. If your building is compliant, then you will be issued a permit.

For more information, please refer to the Building Permit Application Guide.

4. Build It!

Once you obtain all necessary building permits, you may start demolition and construction. A building inspector will come onsite at various stages of the construction process to ensure your project is done according to plans.

Once all requirements are met, building and fire inspectors will approve and legalize your secondary suite!

How Do You Legalize An Existing Secondary Suite?

There are two ways to go about:

  1. Apply for a “Change Of Use Permit” with Toronto Building: This process is similar to building a new secondary suite. If your home is compliant with zoning, Toronto by-laws, and the Ontario Building Code, Toronto building will issue you a permit and your home will be inspected. If changes need to be made, you will be required to make corrections before your secondary suite can be legalized.

  2. Contact Toronto Fire Services (TFS) if your secondary suite existed before July 14, 1994: TFS will inspect your home to ensure it complies with Fire Code and the requirements under Part 9 Retrofit. You will also need to contact the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) to ensure electrical compliance. If changes need to be made, you will be required to make corrections before your secondary suite can be retrofitted. Toronto Building does not get involved in this option.
For more details, please refer to the City Of Toronto website.

Want More Information About Secondary Suites In Toronto?

For a complete list of requirements and details on how to get a building permit for a secondary suite in Toronto, you can visit the following links:

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