Basement and accessory apartments

Accessory apartments are defined as “dwelling units” located within, and subordinate to, another dwelling. They are often referred to as “granny flats”, “basement apartments” or “in-law suites”.  When a dwelling contains an accessory apartment, it becomes a “two-unit house”, and must be registered with the City of Guelph.

All accessory apartments are required to be registered with the City as per the Two-unit Registration By-law.  An accessory apartment cannot be created or registered until all applicable zoning, building code and fire code requirements have been met.

Zoning regulations

Accessory apartments are permitted in R.1 and R.2 residential zones. They are not permitted in townhouses or row-houses.  They are subject to zoning regulations such as a maximum size, minimum parking requirements and a maximum of two bedrooms.

Once a two-unit house is registered, the property owner is sent a registration letter from Zoning Services.  These letters may serve as proof that the use of the property for two dwelling units is legally recognized by the City.

Coach houses and accessory buildings used for residential purposes are not permitted under the Zoning By-law. These are not covered under the two-unit house registration by-law and would require a Zoning amendment to be permitted

Houses with more than two dwelling units (triplex, four-plex, etc.) are also not covered under the Two-unit Registration By-law.  R.1 and R.2 zones do not permit buildings with more than two units.  Older buildings may be considered legal non-conforming.  Please contact Zoning Services regarding legal non-conforming status.

Many illegal properties are discovered every year.  Consultation with Zoning Services staff is recommended to ensure any property you are considering purchasing is permitted to have the number of units in existence.  Zoning Services can be reached by email at [email protected] or by calling 519-837-5615, extension 1.

General information

Your property taxes may be affected by the creation of an accessory apartment.  Property taxes are based on the value of your property.  Specific questions about your property taxes and how they are calculated should be directed to the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.

Applying for a building permit

New proposals to create an accessory apartment require a building permit.  Where existing accessory apartments were created without a building permit, the current owner is still required to obtain a permit.

Forms

Building permit applications are required to be submitted online. Please register at  guelph.ca/building to create a user account. Please ensure to have your drawings ready prior to applying. The drawings must be attached in vector-based PDF format (i.e. created electronically, not scanned). All files must be unsecured and not password protected.

A Schedule 1 Designer Information form is required to be submitted and must be completed by the person taking responsibility for the design activities. This must be filled out by a qualified designer with a Building Code Identification Number (BCIN). Alternatively, the owner may take responsibility for the design activities without meeting the qualification requirements. If the owner is taking responsibility for the design, sections A, B and D have to be completed. In this case, the basis for exemption from qualification and registration would indicate “homeowner”.

A Two-unit Registration Form is also required to be submitted. This form is to be completed by the owner.

You will be notified if any other forms are required to be submitted.

Fees

Please visit guelph.ca/building for the current fee schedule.

In addition to the building permit fee, there is a one-time registration fee for two-unit houses.  The fee varies based on:

  • Whether or not the second unit was built with a permit, and
  • Whether or not the owner lives in one of the units.

Registration fees are as follows:

  • Permit (owner occupied) $150
  • Permit (non-owner occupied) $300
  • No permit (owner occupied) $300
  • No permit (non-owner occupied) $600

Drawings

All drawings must be drawn to a recognized scale (e.g.: ¼ inch = 1 foot) and dimensioned to the outside of exterior walls. Partial floor plans or photos will not be accepted. Single line drawings will not be accepted. Building permit fees are calculated based on measurements to the outside face of exterior walls. For this reason drawings must illustrate wall thicknesses.

The following drawings are required to be submitted:

  • A survey or site plan illustrating the location of the required parking spaces
    • A minimum of two parking spaces are required.
    • At least one legal off-street parking space shall be provided in a garage, carport or side yard that is at least 3m x 6m.
    • Exterior parking spaces shall be at least 2.5 metres by 5.5 metres each.
    • Only one space can be stacked behind the legal off-street parking space.
  • All floor plans of the house
    • Each floor level shall indicate the total square footage of that level.
    • The floor level containing the accessory apartment shall indicate the size of the apartment measured to the outside of exterior walls and to the centreline of interior separating walls.
    • Location of fire separations and fire doors.
    • Room sizes and types (e.g. washroom, bedroom)
    • Ceiling heights for each room
    • Window sizes, including any window wells, depth from base of window to window well and sill height from grade level.
    • Type of wall and ceiling finishes in all rooms.

Accessory apartment registration and building permit information

Inspections

Once the building permit has been issued, construction can begin.  The required inspections identified on the building permit must be called for.  Inspections do not occur automatically.

Please book an inspection through the Building Services online portal. Please allow 48 hours’ notice for inspections.

Note: An Accessory Apartment Electrical Form is required to be submitted at time of the final building inspection, to be completed by a licensed electrical contractor. This will confirm that they have inspected the apartment and there are no visible signs of fire or shock hazards associated with the electrical system. This report will be required for both new and existing accessory apartments. This form is in addition to other Electrical Safety Authority inspection reports, permits or certificates as may be required by the inspector, dependent on the scope of the work.

Refer to the Guide to Building Permits for Home Owners / Renovators for additional information.

Building and zoning requirements

Building Code requirements

The following tables outline minimum Building Code requirements for room sizes, as well as minimum glass areas for windows serving these rooms.  These minimum requirements for room and windows sizes are referenced in Sections 9.5 and 9.7, respectively.

Individual rooms

Room Room size (minimum, measured to the inside face of walls) Glass area (minimum required in windows)
Living room 145 square feet
  • Houses less than 5 years old: 14.5 square feet
  • Houses more than 5 years old: 7.25 square feet
Dining room 75 square feet
  • Houses less than 5 years old: 7.5 square feet
  • Houses more than 5 years old: 3.75 square feet
Kitchen
  • One bedroom: 40 square feet
  • Two bedrooms: 45 square feet
Windows not required
Master bedroom
  • With closet: 95 square feet (not including closet)
  • Without closet: 105 square feet
  • Houses less than 5 years old: 5 square feet
  • Houses more than 5 years old: 2.5 square feet
Second bedroom
  • With closet: 65 square feet (not including closet)
  • Without closet: 75 square feet
  • Houses less than 5 years old: 3.75 square feet
  • Houses more than 5 years old: 1.9 square feet
Bathroom, utility room, other rooms No minimum  (bathroom must be functional and usable)  Windows not required

Combination rooms (open concept primary rooms, not including bathrooms)

Number of bedrooms in apartment Room size (minimum, measured to the inside face of walls) Glass area (minimum required in windows)
Two bedrooms
  • Living room plus dining room plus kitchen: 225 square feet
  • Living room plus dining room only: 180 square feet
  • Houses less than 5 years old: 18 square feet
  • Houses more than 5 years old: 9 square feet
One bedroom
  • Living room plus dining room plus kitchen: 193 square feet
  • Living room plus dining room only: 153 square feet
  • Houses less than 5 years old: 15 square feet
  • Houses more than 5 years old: 7.5 square feet
Bachelor apartment Living room plus dining room plus kitchen: plus bedroom: 145 square feet
  • Houses less than 5 years old: 14.5 square feet
  • Houses more than 5 years old: 7.25 square feet

Zoning By-law requirements

The following requirements related to the design of accessory apartments can be found in Section 4.15. of the Zoning By-law:

  • Cannot exceed 80m² (861 ft²) measured to the outside of exterior walls and to the centreline of interior separating walls and cannot exceed 45% of the gross floor area of the building (all floor levels included)
  • Can have a maximum of two bedrooms
  • Interior access is required between floor levels and between the accessory apartment and the host dwelling unit.

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