There are plenty of benefits to having a basement apartment in your home. You can make some extra income to help pay off your mortgage or support yourself through retirement. You can provide a separate living citation for your elderly parents or adult children. You can offer affordable housing for someone in your area. There are so many perks that it’s no wonder basement apartments have become so popular in Ontario.

But did you know that you need a permit in order to have a regulated, safe basement apartment? Whether you’re building a new basement apartment or have been enjoying the benefits of a second unit in your home for years, if you don’t have the correct permits, you could find yourself in major trouble.

Don’t worry, we’re here to break everything down for you to make the process easy to understand. Read on to learn more about what a second unit/basement apartment technically is, why you need a permit, and how to get one in Ontario.

Guide to Basement Apartment Permits in Toronto

What Is A Second Unit?

Basement apartments, sometimes called secondary suites, fall under the category of “second units,” when it comes to legal terms. According to the Ontario government’s official website, a second unit is defined as “a self-contained dwelling unit with a private kitchen, bathroom facilities, and sleeping areas.”

This second unit can be attached to your house (this included attic apartments, over-the-garage apartments, and basement apartments) or on your property (like a coach house).

Why You Need A Permit

You might be confused as to why you need a permit to have a second unit in your own home. The reason is that the Ontario Building Code has certain requirements for every individual dwelling. If your basement apartment does not follow these codes, you could place the occupants of either unit at risk.

A basement apartment that isn’t up to code is both dangerous and undesirable, as it may:

  • Not have enough fire exits
  • Not have adequate fire separation between units
  • Not have working smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors
  • Have illegal and unsafe utility connections
  • Have illegal and unsafe building renovations
  • Lead to excess driveway and street parking
  • Lead to excess garbage production
  • Depreciate the surrounding property
  • What happens if you don’t get a basement apartment permit?

If you decide to have an unpermitted basement apartment that isn’t up to code, you won’t just be placing yourself and other occupants of the house in danger. You’ll also most likely get in trouble with the government.

If someone suspects that your basement apartment is not up to code, they can report you to the Fire Department. The Fire Department will then send a Fire Prevention officer to your residence in order to conduct an initial inspection of the apartment. The officer will make sure the residence is up to Fire Code. However, it is important to note that even if the basement apartment meets the Fire Code does not mean that it meets the required Second Unit regulations.

Homeowners who don’t meet applicable Building Codes can be fined up to $50,000 for a first offense and as much as $100,000 for a second offense.

If you ever plan to sell your home, not having a permit for your basement apartment could also hurt your chances of finding a buyer. If a potential buyer finds out that you do not have a permit for the basement apartment, they may ask you to obtain one before they commit to buying. They could also ask you to reduce your asking price, as having an unpermitted basement apartment is an obvious financial and legal risk.

Even if you’re not trying to sell your house any time soon, you could even have trouble getting your home refinanced without a proper permit.

Whether you’re planning on building a new basement apartment or have an unpermitted existing one, it is clear that not having a permit is not worth the financial trouble or legal risk.

How to Get A Second Unit Permit:

First, Do Your Research

If you’re thinking of adding a second unit to your home in the form of a basement apartment, the first thing you need to do is contact your local municipal planning and building departments. They can tell you about local zoning requirements, what building permits you will need, and which by-laws will apply to your unit.

It is very important that your basement unit complies with all applicable planning and Building Code requirements, as well as your municipalities by-laws. If you do not, you will not be able to successfully get a second unit permit.

Getting A Building Permit

After you do your research, you can apply for a building permit. To do so, you have to go to your local building department and submit the following:

A filled-out application form
Any municipality-specific forms and supporting documents
At least 2 sets of construction drawings
Payment of the permit fee

Depending on where you live, your municipality may also need you to hire a licensed contractor to do the work.

After you submit all the necessary forms, documents, and payment you should receive notice of your application’s approval or denial within 10 business days. If your municipality accepts electronic payment for applications, this may happen even quicker.

Basement Apartment Design and Permitting

Need help with adding an apartment basement? Permit Works is Toronto’s favorite one-stop-shop for home design and permit service. Simplify the process of adding a basement apartment to your home with Permit Works. Reach out today to learn more about how they can help you with your basement apartment!