Things to Know About Second Suites
Turning your basement into a second suite is a great way of adding to your monthly income. Maybe the kids have flown the nest and you are considering whether you should look at downsizing, but at the same time you have so many fond memories of the house and you love the area that you live in. Now is the time to consider making those changes. By renting out your basement you don’t have to downsize, renting is a profitable business and this can contribute to you paying off that mortgage a bit earlier than expected.
However, basements and second suites can be a minefield and you need to know what you are doing in order for it to be classified as a legal second dwelling. What is a second dwelling? It is a second unit, with a private kitchen, bathroom and sleeping areas.
Important note: If your property is less than 5 years old, different Building Code rules apply. Contact your local building department for more information.
Second suites are only permitted in residential zones and in existing dwellings that have frontage on a municipal street. Buildings that are on condominium roads and other private roads are not permitted to create new second suites.
Some points to be aware of:
- Due to fire safety, every basement level that contains a bedroom must have a properly sized egress window. The window must have a minimum unobstructed opening of 0.35m2 with no dimension being less than 380mm. This may come as a surprise, but this does not necessarily have to be located in the bedroom of the property, there just needs to be one egress window in the suite.
- The building code states that the ceiling height must be at least 1.95m (6 feet 5 inches) and the width of the entrance doors are to be at least 0.81m (32 inches).
- Basement apartments must be smaller than the main unit.
- The minimum ceiling height is 6’5″. The ceiling must be continuous. Suspended (T-bar type) ceilings and exposed joists are not acceptable. The furnace room ceiling must be drywalled or plastered too.
- Bathrooms must have either a window or extractor fan.
- Legal Second Units must have 30 minutes of fire separation between the suite and the main unit. This fire separation can be in the ceiling or the walls, depending on the orientation of the Second Unit. If the whole house has interconnected smoke alarms, the minimum required fire separation is reduced to 15 minutes.
There are four standards that second suites in Ontario must meet:
- The Ontario Fire Code (or Retrofit Fire Code)
- The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) Certification
- The Ontario Building Code for Secondary Units
- Local Municipal By-Laws and Regulations
How can you know if the property that you’re purchasing is being sold with a legal basement or second suite?
Owners of Legal Basement Apartments should possess and be able to present, upon demand, the following proof that the Basement Apartment is Legal:
- Fire Certificate from Local Fire Authority (or Fire Chief)
- ESA Certificate, or ESA Sticker
- Building Permit Completion or Certificate of Compliance from the Municipal Building Department – In some Municipalities this could also be proof of Registration
This is just a brief overview of what it entails to convert your illegal suite to a legal suite that can generate a generous monthly income. There is some great information on the City of Barrie website, information can be found by clicking the link provided: https://www.barrie.ca/Doing%20Business/Building-Services/renovations-and-projects/Pages/Second-Suites.aspx
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you are looking for an agent to help you through the home-buying or the home-selling process, please get in touch. I would love to work with you!