What Is a Legal Secondary Suite?

Legal Secondary Suite Living Room Image

What is a legal secondary suite?

A second suite is self-contained, and it is an independently accessible private property within an existing home that the homeowner can rent to another person or family. It is also known as an in-law suite, additional unit, or basement apartment. While most secondary suites are in basements, others extend the existing structure.

A legal secondary suite is an apartment within a home that is registered with the city municipality.

A basement can be very useful in providing a secondary suite that a homeowner can rent out to tenants or use as an in-law suite for guests. This is a great way to create another stream of income for your home.

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There are financial advantages to having a secondary suite in your home, however, there are legal guidelines that your basement needs to comply with in order to make it a legal secondary suite. If you are thinking about renting out your basement in Ontario, there are several things you need to consider.

How to Make a Basement Apartment Legal

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If you plan to remodel your basement for the purpose of creating a basement apartment, you will need a basement permit. There are also safety and zoning codes that your basement apartment needs to comply with, and housing standards by-laws that must be met.

RELATED ARTICLE: Basement for Rent: Preparation for Rental

Legal Secondary Suite Requirements

● Your home should be at least 12 months old. 
● You must only make minimal changes to your house’s exterior appearance.
● The secondary suite should be smaller than the main dwelling unit.
● The ceiling should be soundproofed and at least 6’5’’.
● Bathrooms must have a fan.
● Doors in the basement need to be at least 1.75” thick and made of solid wood or metal, with a ½ inch gap at the bottom to ensure adequate air movement.
● The egress window ⓘ in a sleeping area must be openable from the inside without having to use tools.
● The exterior door must be a minimum of 32” x 78”.

● Windows must be at least 18” with an opening of at least 600 sq inches. 
● The kitchen must have a refrigerator and stove that are in good working condition. Cupboards should have the capacity of at least 4 cubic feet multiplied by the total occupancy of the apartment.
● The kitchen stove should also have an exhaust hood fan with a direct vent to the outside of the building.
● Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms must be installed and maintained.

The best way to ensure your basement meets the necessary requirements is to hire a basement renovation contractor to conduct a basement inspection.

Why It Is Important to Have a Legal Secondary Suite

Making sure your basement apartment is legal is important because it ensures the overall safety of all occupants of your home. It’s also worth noting that the requirements for basement apartments are subject to change from city to city. This is why it’s essential to check your city’s specific laws before you take on a basement remodeling project. The benefits are certainly worth it:

Basement Living Area Richmond Hill
  • Minimize fire risks and health hazards
  • Prevent unsafe utility connections such as electricity, plumbing, and HVAC
  • Avoid faulty or incomplete basement remodeling, renovation, and jobs
  • Save money on potential utility overload problems and legal trouble
  • Rent out and protect your legal secondary suite under the Residential Tenancies Act

RELATED ARTICLE: Convert Your Basement Into a Basement Apartment

Have an Expert’s Opinion

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Although knowing the city’s legal basement requirements is the contractor’s responsibility, it’s still good to have for homeowners to have that knowledge. After all, complying with municipal standards is the best decision for you and your tenants. So, educate yourself about basement apartment guidelines before reaching out to a basement contractor.