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Rules Of Secondary Suites And Basement Apartments

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Basement apartments and secondary suites are emerging as a preferred housing option for tenants and Renters, alike.

Basement rental play a significant role in the Toronto Real Estate Market. In the year 2020 alone, of the total houses sold and rented 21% contained basement apartments.

Basement apartments offer a great opportunity for homeowners to earn an additional or supplementary income.

Many legal professionals, homeowners, and tenants fail to properly understand the concept of a legal basement apartment or secondary suite. This failure to comprehend the specific requirements of a secondary suite or legal basement apartment is partially due to the seemingly great complexity of understanding building codes and related regulations, as well as municipal by-laws and rules for the rental of secondary suites.

Hence, ‘in this eleventh hour when opportunity is knocking at the door’ it is essential for homeowners to consider all of the requirements of converting a finished basement into a secondary suite or legal basement apartment.

According to the laws of the Province of Ontario laws, “legal basement apartments are the second dwelling units that meet the requirements of the Ontario Building code, fire code, electrical safety authority, and municipal zoning by-laws”. Precisely, these requirements apply only to properties older than 5 years and which are deemed to be secondary units.

Properties that are less than 5 years old, but which adhere to the new Ontario Building Code are, therefore, considered ‘new’ units. Before undergoing the process of setting up a legal basement apartment, it is crucial to seek permission from the local municipality, through complete of prescribed application forms and by submitting required documents for review, by the Building and Zoning department.

In Toronto, Canada, homeowners must fully comply with section 150 of the City of Toronto BY-LAW NO. 569-2013. As well, Landlords seeking to rent out their secondary suite should seek out and retain the legal services of a Real Estate Lawyer that specializes in areas of law that relate to property rentals, specifically laws for renting out basement apartments.

Upon meeting all legal requirements of the local municipality a landlord should also fulfill all legal requirements to qualify for a Certificate of Compliance from the Building and Zoning department.

Reasons To Choose Secondary Suites

Secondary suites have to offer a comfortable living place. They shall fully adhere to all requirements for design, functionality, and size, as set out by the Building and Zoning department.

  • The legal basement shall have a minimum ceiling height of 1.95m.
  • Basement apartments that provide kitchens, bedrooms, and living room areas, must be at least 145 square feet, in size.
  • The dining room area should be at least 5% of the floor area. Whereas the window size for bedrooms and living rooms must be equal to 2.5% of the floor area.
  • All secondary suite units are required to have special smoke detectors and at least one fire extinguisher. A fire alarm may be installed, as well for added safety. Furnaces and air ducts may be common elements that are shared by the household.
  • Legal secondary suites must be properly fitted with adequate plumbing pipes that properly funnel cold water and hot water for readily available use in sinks, showers, and toilets.

There must be a properly functioning and fully tested light switch that is correctly connected to lights, in each room of the basement apartment. As well, there must be a light switch connected to a fully functioning light at the top and bottom of the stairs that lead into the basement apartment. A licensed Electrician should initially inspect, test and certify that all lights, light switches, circuits, and electrical wiring meet applicable electrical safety standards.

Extra Information About Secondary Suites & Basements

The authorized Chief Electrical Engineer from the local utility department will inspect all electric items and their components, to ensure that they meet technical standards requirements. Once satisfied that electrical standards have been met, the Chief Electrical Engineer from the local utility department can issue an ESA (Electrical Standards Association) Certificate, along with an ESA compliance sticker, to be prominently displayed in the secondary suite or basement apartment rental unit.

According to the Ontario Building Code: “(3) Dwelling units that contain 2 or more storeys including basements shall be separated from the remainder of the building by a fire separation having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 1 h.” (

Fire safety certificates should be prominently affixed on the walls of the basement apartment. The fire chief ensures all the safety measures have been adhered to and implemented. Thereafter, the Fire Marshall can issue a Fire Safety Certificate.

Most importantly, there must be separate entrances and exits to the basement apartment rental unit for landlords and tenants. An exception to this requirement may be allowed, if the smoke alarms are interconnected, then the legal basement apartments can share a common exit with the main unit.

Ideally, if you aim to rent your legally compliant basement apartment, then you have to begin by researching more thoroughly the proscribed laws and regulations.

We understand that this may initially seem to tedious. To benefit from great resources related to renting your basement apartment, please visit us at:, to resolve your questions or concerns. This rental portal is the perfect interface for landlords and tenants to meet one another. Moreover, tenants will be able to find the perfect place to rent, with the expert resources available on:

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