Legalizing Your House for a Secondary Dwelling in Toronto: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you live in Toronto and are looking for a way to generate extra income, renting out a secondary dwelling unit (SDU) on your property could be a great option. However, before you can start renting out your SDU, you need to make sure that it is legal. In this blog, we will discuss the steps you need to take to legalize your house in Toronto for a secondary dwelling.
What is a Secondary Dwelling Unit?
A secondary dwelling unit, also known as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), is a self-contained unit that is located within the same building as a primary dwelling unit. SDUs can take many forms, including basement apartments, attic apartments, or additions to the main dwelling. These units often have their own separate entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and living space, and can be rented out to tenants.
In Toronto, SDUs are governed by the city's zoning bylaws. The city defines an SDU as a self-contained dwelling unit located within a single-detached house, semi-detached house, or townhouse, or within a structure ancillary to such a building. SDUs must have their own separate entrance, kitchen facilities, and bathroom facilities, and must be located entirely within the main building or the ancillary structure.
Why Legalize Your House for a Secondary Dwelling?
There are many benefits to legalizing your house for a secondary dwelling. First and foremost, legalizing your SDU ensures that it meets all of the city's health and safety standards, which protects your tenants and your property. In addition, legalizing your SDU can help you generate extra income by renting it out to tenants.
Furthermore, legalizing your SDU can increase the value of your property. According to a study by the Appraisal Institute of Canada, a legal secondary dwelling unit can increase the value of a home by up to 20 percent. This means that legalizing your SDU can be a smart investment that pays off in the long run.
Step 1: Check Your Property's Zoning
The first step in legalizing your house for a secondary dwelling is to check your property's zoning. The City of Toronto has different zoning bylaws for different areas of the city, and these bylaws dictate what types of secondary dwelling units are allowed in each zone.
You can check your property's zoning by visiting the City of Toronto's Zoning Bylaw Maps website. Simply enter your property's address into the search bar, and the website will display the zoning information for your property.
If your property is zoned for residential use, it is likely that you will be able to legalize a secondary dwelling unit. However, if your property is zoned for commercial use, you may not be able to legalize a secondary dwelling unit without obtaining a zoning amendment.
Step 2: Check Building Code Requirements
The next step in legalizing your house for a secondary dwelling is to check the building code requirements for SDUs. The building code sets out the minimum requirements for building, plumbing, and electrical systems, and ensures that buildings are safe and accessible.
The City of Toronto has specific building code requirements for SDUs. These requirements include:
Ceiling height of at least 2.13 metres (7 feet) throughout the unit
A separate entrance that is directly accessible from the exterior of the building
A kitchen that is separate from other habitable rooms and has at least one sink, one range, and one refrigerator
A bathroom with a sink, a toilet, and a shower or bathtub
A separate heating and ventilation system that is independent of the primary dwelling unit
It is important to note that building code requirements may vary depending on the type and location of the SDU. For example, if you are converting a basement into an SDU, you may need to install additional fire safety measures, such as smoke alarms and fire-rated doors.
To ensure that your SDU meets all building code requirements, it is recommended that you work with a licensed contractor or architect. These professionals can help you design and build your SDU in compliance with all relevant building codes and standards.
Step 3: Obtain Permits
Once you have confirmed that your property is zoned for an SDU and have designed your unit to meet all building code requirements, the next step is to obtain the necessary permits from the City of Toronto. In general, you will need the following permits:
Building permit: A building permit is required for any construction or renovation work that affects the structure, plumbing, or electrical systems of your SDU. You will need to submit detailed plans and specifications of your SDU to the City, along with any required fees.
Plumbing permit: If you are installing new or modifying existing plumbing systems in your SDU, you will need a plumbing permit. This permit is separate from the building permit and requires a separate fee.
Electrical permit: If you are installing new or modifying existing electrical systems in your SDU, you will need an electrical permit. This permit is also separate from the building permit and requires a separate fee.
Zoning review: Depending on the location and type of your SDU, you may need to obtain a zoning review from the City. This review ensures that your SDU complies with all relevant zoning bylaws and regulations.
To obtain these permits, you will need to submit detailed plans and specifications of your SDU to the City, along with any required fees. The City will review your plans and specifications and may require modifications or additional information before granting the permits.
Step 4: Pass Inspections
After you have obtained all necessary permits and have completed construction of your SDU, the next step is to pass inspections from the City of Toronto. The City will inspect your SDU to ensure that it meets all building code requirements and that it is safe and habitable.
The City may require multiple inspections throughout the construction process, including framing, plumbing, electrical, and final inspections. Once your SDU has passed all required inspections, the City will issue a Certificate of Occupancy, which confirms that your SDU is legal and can be rented out to tenants.
Step 5: Register Your Secondary Dwelling Unit
After you have obtained all necessary permits and passed all required inspections, the final step in legalizing your house for a secondary dwelling is to register your unit with the City of Toronto. This registration is required by law and ensures that your SDU is compliant with all relevant bylaws and regulations.
To register your SDU, you will need to provide the City with the following information:
The address and legal description of your property
The number of bedrooms and bathrooms in your SDU
The maximum number of occupants allowed in your SDU
The name and contact information of the property owner
The name and contact information of the tenant(s) renting the SDU
Registration fees may apply, and the City may require periodic inspections to ensure that your SDU continues to meet all relevant bylaws and regulations.
Legalizing your house for a secondary dwelling in Toronto can be a complex process, but it is essential if you want to rent out your SDU and generate extra income. By following the steps outlined in this blog, you can ensure that your SDU meets all relevant zoning bylaws, building code requirements, and safety standards, and can be rented out to tenants with peace of mind. Remember to work with licensed professionals, such as contractors, architects, and inspectors, throughout the process to ensure that your SDU is compliant with all relevant regulations and standards.
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