Basement Apartments/Second Suites are now legal in Toronto

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Basement Apartments/Second Suites are now legal in Toronto

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Wed May 01, 2019 1:18 pm

Basement Apartments/Second Suites are now legal in Toronto

For many years the legal status of basement apartments, flats and other accessory residential units which have been added to houses has been unclear. Many municipalities passed zoning by-laws prohibiting these types of apartments in houses. Nevertheless, many thousands of basement apartments and other accessory rental units were constructed. Although the exact number is unknown, it is estimated that as many as 100,000 illegal units were in use across the province in 1993.

In 1994 the N.D.P. government proclaimed Bill 120 the Residents Rights Act. This Bill permitted second units in houses, regardless of Municipal Zoning, provided that Health and Fire safety standards were met. The Ontario Fire Marshal's Office proclaimed Ontario Regulation 385/94 in July of this same year. (retrofit section dealing with Two Unit Residential Occupancies). These two pieces of legislation both mandated the permissibility of, and the safety requirements for Basement Apartments in Ontario.

On November 26, 1995 the new Conservative government introduced Bill 20 restoring back to municipalities the right to outlaw Basement Apartments. This in effect drove these second units back underground. Owners feared prosecution from not only safety authorities, but also local zoning regulations.
Units built prior to November 16, 1995 are grandfathered:

If the unit existed prior to this date (November 16 1995) it was grandfathered, provided it met health and fire standards. The onus is on the owner to prove that this is in fact the case and can be accomplished through the production of rent receipts, presence of tenants on voters list or in some cases the signing of an affidavit for the municipality.
Toronto's Second Suites By-law

On July 6, 2000, the City of Toronto's new "second suites bylaw (493-2000)" came into effect. This bylaw permits second suites in all single-detached and semi-detached houses throughout the City of Toronto, with certain conditions.

Some of the conditions include:

the second suite must be self-contained with its own kitchen and bathroom;
the house, including any additions, must be at least five years old;
the floor area of the second suite must be smaller than the remaining part of the house;
in most cases, a home with a second suite must have at least two parking spaces;
all existing second suites must comply with the Ontario Fire Code, zoning and property standards

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