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Please review the following frequently asked questions about Second Residential Units.

What is a Second Residential Unit?

A Second Residential Unit, also known as a basement apartment, secondary suite, or in-law suite is a self contained accessory dwelling located within a single-detached, semi-detached, or row house dwelling and consisting of a separate entrance, washroom, kitchen, and living area. Second Residential Units are smaller than the primary dwelling unit within which the Second Residential Unit is located. To be considered a legal Second Residential Unit, the dwelling must meet applicable zoning and Building Code regulations in order to provide healthy and safe living conditions while integrating appropriately within the neighbourhood.

Why is the City permitting Second Residential Units?

Second Residential Units are an affordable housing option that meets the needs of many households including seniors, extended families, smaller households and singles, people on low incomes, and in-house caregiver living arrangements. In addition, Second Residential Units can assist homeowners that need the additional rental income to enter or stay in the housing ownership market. From a neighbourhood sustainability perspective, Second Residential Units help to repopulate neighbourhoods where declining household sizes have reduced overall populations in locations where existing services and infrastructure capacity remains available.

Are Second Residential Units permitted in all areas of the City?

No. Second Residential Units are only permitted within specific areas of the City as identified within the applicable zoning bylaw.  Mapping is provided at the end of this guide identifying where Second Residential Units are permitted within the City.

What are the size limitations for a Second Residential Unit?

A Second Residential Unit can have a floor area of up to 40% of the gross floor area of the primary residential structure and in no circumstances may it exceed 90 square metres (970 sq. ft.). In accordance with the zoning bylaw, gross floor area shall refer to the total area of each floor, including finished attic spaces, whether located above, at, or below grade, measured from the interior of outside walls and including floor area occupied by interior walls but excluding:

  • floor area occupied by mechanical, service and electrical equipment that serve the building;
  • an open porch or balcony; and,
  • areas internal to the building that are intended for the storage of vehicles.

Does my Second Residential Unit need a separate access?

Yes. All Second Residential Units are required to have a separate entry either from a shared entrance or directly from the exterior of the building. Safe entrance and exit must be provided in accordance with the requirements of the Building Code.

Do I need to provide vehicle parking for my Second Residential Unit?

Yes. A Second Residential Unit requires a minimum of one parking space that can be provided in a tandem (one vehicle behind the other) arrangement.

How can I legalize my existing Second Residential Unit?

Given that the City's historical land use planning framework did not typically include permissions for Second Residential Units, unless you have received previous zoning approval or the second unit has existed for a significant period of time, it is likely your unit is not legal.

If you are planning to continue occupation of your second unit you must ensure the unit meets appropriate Building Code and zoning requirements. Be aware that renovations may be required to bring the dwelling up to zoning and Building Code compliance. An inspection conducted by a Building Inspector will determine any existing deficiencies and any required renovations to meet the requirements.

Owners of illegal Second Residential Units who do not act in good faith to legalize their unit may be required to remove the unit and/or be subject to a fine.

Can I construct or legalize a Second Residential Unit on a property that is not located within the areas prescribed within the zoning bylaw?

Yes. To construct a new or legalize an existing Second Residential Unit outside of the area prescribed within the zoning bylaw, a zoning bylaw amendment that is specific to your particular property must be obtained. By requiring site-specific zoning bylaw amendments for areas outside of the prescribed locations, City staff is able to assess the impacts of additional residential development within neighbourhoods with servicing concerns (e.g. available water and sanitary sewer capacity).  

Of note, locations north of Highway 401 will be required to submit a special application, associated fees and technical reporting evaluating the capacity and quality of the private services (septic and water) servicing the property. See section 2.5 for more detail.

Will the City assign a new municipal address to my Second Residential Unit?

Yes. To assist emergency services, home delivery, and mail services the City will assign an additional municipal address through the building permitting and zoning review process to recognize your Second Residential Unit.

Once I develop a Second Residential Unit what are my responsibilities as a landlord?

Owners of Second Residential Units are subject to the responsibilities outlined within the Residential Tenancies Act.  Other property related requirements beyond the Building Code and zoning provisions, that all property owners must adhere to, include the City's Property Standards Bylaw which sets out standards for the reasonable upkeep and maintenance of buildings and properties including responsibilities such as yard maintenance and snow removal.

Will the City pickup one untagged garbage bag from my Second Residential Unit?

Yes. An untagged bag of garbage will be collected at the curbside from a legally created Second Residential Unit.

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