Secondary Suites Guide - Legalizing Existing Secondary Suite

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Recognizing a Suite that existed as of November 16, 1995

Suites that existed as of November 16, 1995 may be exempt from having to comply with the City’s Zoning By-law regulations related to Secondary Suites in accordance with Ontario Regulation 384/94 (Apartments in Houses)

  1. To qualify, the suite must have existed on November 16, 1995
  2. Be located within Principal Dwelling that is:
    • a single detached house
    • a semi-detached house that was not created by the alteration of a single detached house
    • a row/townhouse dwelling that was not created by the alteration of a single detached or semi-detached house
  3. As of November 16, 1995, the dwelling must have:
    • been used for, or was intended to be used for, residential purposes
    • contained no more than one suite
    • not been ancillary to any other house or use
    • been located in a zone that permits residential use as a primary use
    • been serviced with municipal water and sanitary sewers
  4. Property Owner must provide the following to the Building Division
    • a declaration sworn in front of a Commissioner of Oaths (or a lawyer) by a person with personal knowledge of the property declaring that the house was used or occupied as two residential units on November 16, 1995
      • Person could be the current owner, a previous owner, a relative of an owner, neighbour, tenant, realtor, etc.
    • printed documentation establishing the suite’s existence as of November 16, 1995
      • Examples: rent receipts, income tax records, service records from contractors/utilities, etc
    • Documentation of successful Fire Code Compliance inspection and Ontario Electrical Safety Authority inspection
    • Applicable Secondary Suite processing fee

Legalizing an Existing Suite Built after November 16, 1995

  1. Lot and suite must comply with the Zoning By-law requirements.
  2. A building permit must be obtained to recognize the existing construction.
  3. The secondary suite must pass all required inspections associated with the building permit.
  4. Detailed requirements are outlined on our "Secondary Suite Guide - Building A New Secondary Suite"


 What if my existing suite does not meet the Zoning By-law regulations?
One of the following may be required: 
  • Alterations to the suite or property layout (e.g. removing a bedroom, expanding a driveway) to bring the suite or property into compliance with the Secondary Suite regulations;
  • An application to rezone the property to allow for more than one Principal Dwelling such as a duplex or a semi-detached dwelling; or,
  • Renovating the house to incorporate the living space associated with the suite into the Principal Dwelling, thereby removing the suite.
What if my existing suite does not meet Building Code or Electrical Safety Code regulations?

The suite cannot be legalized if it does not meet applicable law such as the Building Code and the Electrical Safety Code

Renovations may be required to bring the suite into compliance with the Building Code

Code compliance will be addressed through the process to obtain and complete a building permit

What if my property cannot meet the minimum parking requirements?
If additional parking cannot be provided on the property, the suite may need to be removed or the property may need to be re-zoned

What if I am unable to prove that my suite met the criteria listed as of November 16, 1995?

  • You may be eligible to legalize the suite under City’s Secondary Suite regulations
  • The lot and suite would need to comply with Zoning By-law requirements
  • A building permit would be required to recognize the existing suite
  • The suite would need to pass all required inspections associated with the building permit
My house was legally constructed with a secondary suite, but the Zoning By-law no longer permits a suite on my property
  • The suite may be considered a “legal non-conforming use” if it was legally constructed in accordance with the applicable Zoning By-law in effect at the time and the Zoning By-law was subsequently changed to prohibit the use
  • To be considered a legal non-conforming use, the Owner must be able to demonstrate that the suite was once a permitted use and that the suite has continuously been used that way since the Zoning By-law changed
  • A legal non-conforming use may continue to exist despite the Zoning By-law change as long as it continues to be used for the purpose that lawfully existed prior to the Zoning By-law change

Disclaimer: The design examples, including sample drawings, in this guide are not advice nor do they address all the requirements for legally establishing a secondary suite. It is each property owner’s responsibility to ensure compliance with all current applicable law, including the Ontario Building Code, the City’s Comprehensive Zoning By-law and any other provisions or regulations applicable to secondary suites. A copy of the Ontario Building Code (Ontario Regulation 332/12 made under the Building Code Act, 1992) is available online through the e-Laws website.