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Second Suites Legal in Toronto
In an effort to increase the supply of affordable housing, Toronto City Council passed a by-law in 2000 that legalized second suites, also known as accessory apartments.
As a result, second suites are now legal in the City of Toronto in all single family and semi-detached homes, providing they meet certain criteria, including fire and building codes.
Following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding the legalization of existing second suites and the creation of new second suites in the City of Toronto. This background information was adapted from information provided by the City of Toronto planning staff. For legal and zoning information on second suites in other Greater Toronto Area (GTA) municipalities, please contact your local building or planning department. For all other information, including help with locating an apartment or house to rent, contact Tara today!
Frequently Asked Questions:
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.
No! In the past, second suites were permitted in some areas of the city (York, East York and 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 the creation of second suites in all areas of the province.
In July 1999, City Council adopted the second suites by-law. This by-law was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) by a number of residents' groups and individuals. The OMB held a hearing on the appeals in February 2000. The OMB issued a decision in April approving the city's by-law but directed that two amendments be made. The amendments dealt with: (1) parking provisions in some neighbourhoods in the former Toronto, and (2) building alterations.
The final by-law was approved by Order of the OMB on July 6, 2000. As a result of the Order. the second suites by-law (including the amendments) is now in effect.
The new by-law permits second suites in all single-detached and semi-detached homes throughout the new City of Toronto... with certain conditions.
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 two 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 R districts) where only one 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.
The unit will have to be inspected by Fire Department staff. There is a fee for the inspection and you may need 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.
There are currently no grant or loan programs for second suites that we know of. The city is discussing the potential for a program with senior levels of government. The Toronto Real Estate Board's Government Relations staff is monitoring this initiative and will inform us if the city implements such a program.
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 property.

Once again, for specific zoning, property standards or fire and building code questions please contact your city's local building or planning department.


Source: ©Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). Re-Printed by permission on