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Second Suites Legal in Toronto


Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a second suite?
A second suite is a self-contained unit (rental or rent-free) in a single-detached or semi-detached house.  Most second suites are basement apartments. 
They have also been called granny flats, in-law suites and accessory apartments.


Are second suites new?

No! In the past, second suites were permitted in some areas of the City (York, East York, and other parts of former Etobicoke, North York and Toronto).  Some parts of the City have had a long experience with this form of housing.  As well, provincial legislation, in force between July 1994 and November 1995, allowed for the creation of second suites in all areas of the province.


Where are second suites permitted in the City?

The new by-law permits second suites in all single-detached and semi0detached homes throughout the new City of Toronto – with certain conditions.


What are some of the conditions that apply to second suites?
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 5 years old;
  • The floor area of the second suite must be smaller than the remaining unit
  • In most cases, homes with a second suite must have at least 2 parking spaces and parking can be in tandem (one behind the other).  There is an exception for parts of the former City of Toronto (R2, R3 and R4 districts) where only 1 parking space is required for a house with a second suite.  Please contact the City of Toronto’s Urban Planning and Development Services Department to determine if a property is located in a R2, R3, or R4 district.
  • Before planning any changes to the outside appearance of a dwelling the homeowner should contact the City of Toronto’s Urban Planning and Development Services Department; and
  • All new second suites must comply with the Ontario Building Code and require a building permit.  Existing second suites must comply with the Fire Code as well as zoning and property standards.


How can I find out if an existing second suite complies with the regulation?
The unit will have to be inspected by Fire Department staff.  There is a fee for the inspection and you may be required to upgrade the suite to meet the code requirements and other standards. 
Contact the City’s Urban Planning and Development Services Department for more information (see phone numbers below).


Does the City provide grants or loans to encourage the creation of second suites?
There is currently no grant or loan program for second suites. 
TREB’s Government Relations staff is monitoring this initiative and will inform members if the City implements a program.


Will a second suite impact property taxes?
In most cases, there will be little impact on property taxes. 
A major exception would be where the second suite is created by constructing an addition, thereby significantly adding to the value of the house.



For specific zoning, property standards, or fire and building code questions please contact the City of Toronto’s Urban Planning and Development Services Department:

East District
:                          396-7304

North District:                        395-7000

South District:                        392-7522

West District:                         394-8002

Before buying a property for investment or rental purposes a client will want to know if the property meets the applicable Retrofit Section of the Ontario Fire Code, O. Reg.388/97. Retrofit is the upgrading of existing buildings to meet the minimum performance requirements for life safety for the building occupants.
Whether acting as the Listing or Selling Agent, if Retrofit is an issue (i.e. basement apt.), ensure you advise your client and insert the Appropriate CLAUSE in your offer.   
Retrofit Section 9.8 of the Fire Code regulates minimum provisions for fire safety in existing residential buildings, that existed on July 14,1994, which contain two existing dwelling units, in a detached house, semi-detached house or row house.
The five main principles of 9.8 Retrofit are:
  1. Fire alarm and detection systems
    • Suppression systems
      • Means of containment (smoke and fire)
        • Means of egress (exits)
          • Electrical safety inspection
I strongly suggest hiring a "Professional Home Inspector" that specializes in Retrofit Issues to guide your clients.
Contact Numbers for City Planning & Building Divisions
City of Mississauga - Planning & Building Department - 300 City Centre Drive, Mississauga - 905-896-5622
City of Toronto - Building Division - Toronto City Hall - 100 Queen St. W. - 416-392-7539

Online Reports

It is Office Policy that whenever a 2nd Kitchen is present in a home that the following report is given to a Buyer - please ensure you get acknowledgement of receipt.

Retrofit Office Policy
Download a compete office Policy Booklet in word format for your reference.
Retrofit Pamphlet - MS Publisher 98 Version
You must have MS Publisher 98 or higher to view this pamphlet. It is Office Policy that whenever a 2nd Kitchen is present in a home that the following report is given to a Buyer - please ensure you get acknowledgement of receipt.
First Name: 
Last Name: 
* * Maximum of 2000 characters


Office Policy Updates

To be reviewed along with TREB’S Secondary Units Phamplet !

Download a Pamphlet & ensure one is left at your listing and given to the Selling Agent before presenting offers.



How to handle a Listing

Protect yourself & the Seller with a disclaimer

Disclaimer:  “Retrofit Documentation Available” Only if it really is!


In rare cases your Seller may have already received retrofit approval.  In this case, the home may become a more attractive and saleable listing and should be advertised on the MLS listing as having such a feature.  However, before you make your next move, ensure you receive copies of the following documents up front:


2)      A CERTIFICATE FROM HYDRO granting approval for both units.

3)      Municipal Building Department approval (this requirement varies, please refer to the Toronto Real Estate Board Retrofit  Booklet

You must protect yourself and the Seller, by receiving these two certificates upfront and attach copies to all offers!   As a Realtor, licensed under the act, the public will rely on your competence.  Not doing so will most definitely lead to law suits, fines and potential imprisonment.

An example of not following procedure could result in the following:

The purchaser buys a house and rents out the basement apartment.  His tenant subsequently complains to the municipality that he thinks the apartment does not meet fire standards.  The owner, “the new purchaser” may face:

1.   Cost to Retrofit                2.         Fines & Imprisonment                3.         A possible court case

And if the retrofit policy was not discussed and documented the realtor  will be involved in penalties named above.  Protect yourself and get everything in writing, it’s funny how a year down the road nobody remembers what was said to them.

Disclaimer:  “No Retrofit Guarantee” where there is a potential unit

If the Seller is currently utilizing the basement or upper level as a rental - and does not have the proper approvals from the Fire Department and Hydro extreme care must be taken.  Even, if there is the potential of adding on a second unit, an example being a second kitchen or something as subtle as an extra 3 piece bath the purchaser must be advised about Retrofit.  One of the reasons is, should the purchaser convert the basement into a secondary unit after the closing, and does not realize the necessary approvals, you too could be liable for not having explained Retrofit.

Always put the disclaimer “No Retrofit Guarantee or Not Retrofitted” on all your listings when there is the slightest doubt about present or future use or a secondary unit.


How to handle the Showings

Protect yourself & the Purchaser

Hand out:  “Retrofit Pamphlet & Acknowledgement”


If there is even the slight chance that your Purchaser may consider using part of the house as a secondary unit - you must provide them with the following two items:



You  should also add the appropriate clause to your offer:

It is your responsibility to explain the potential costs involved and the basic process.  Let a Home Inspector help you out in these cases.  Most Home Inspectors, for a fee, can help estimate the potential costs to retrofit.  Remember, it is not automatic that an individual will get approval to add a secondary unit to the home.  Each Municipality has it’s own cost list for issuing Letters of Compliances and the waiting time varies as well.

Selecting the Appropriate Clause

To be used in conjunction with appropriate forms

Offer clauses provided by the Toronto Real Estate Board




Clause Number #1 !

n        The Buyer hereby acknowledges that the lower level rental is not a legal apartment and may not have received approvals from the Fire Marshall's Office or Ontario Hydro as required in the Fire Marshall's Act amended nor City or required Municipal Approvals.  The Buyer confirms being advised that these approvals are mandatory by law should the dwelling be utilized as a rental or anything other than a single family dwelling in any manner whatsoever. Buyer agrees to assume all responsibility for effecting all repairs and cost to comply with Government Laws or removal compliance.

Clause #2 in the rare case that the property is retrofitted.

n        The Vendor warrants that the basement apartment has received approvals from all necessary authorities and attaches letter of compliance hereto.

Make sure all parties to the agreement acknowledge what state the property is in, as it pertains to retrofitting criteria, and REDUCE YOUR RISK!

Don't forget to leave the pamphlet on the kitchen table for all to see!