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 zoning@guelph.ca 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.

In rare circumstances, accessory apartments created prior to July 1, 1993 may not require a building permit.  However, they may still need to meet Fire Code requirements through the Fire Prevention Office.  If your accessory apartment was created prior to this date, and you would like to determine if it qualifies, please contact Zoning Services.

Forms

An Application for a Permit to Construct or Demolish is required to be submitted with every building permit application.  All four pages are required to be completed.  The person taking responsibility for the design is required to complete page three. (Schedule 1: Designer Information)  This is typically the qualified designer, or in some cases, the home owner.

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

Fees

All building permit fees are required to be paid when the application is submitted.

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.  Single line drawings will not be accepted.

The following drawings are required to be submitted:

  • A survey or site plan illustrating the location of the required parking spaces
    • A minimum of three 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.
    • All drawings shall identify all room names, room sizes, ceiling heights (including under bulkheads), window sizes (rough opening, glass area and size of openable portion), wall finishes, ceiling finishes and location of all plumbing fixtures.
247 KBAccessory apartment sample floor plan 145 KBEgress window requirements

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.

To book an inspection, please call 519-837-5614.  Inspections requested by 3:00 p.m. on a regular business day can be done the next business day.

Note:  A report will be required to be submitted at time of the final building inspection, from a licenced electrical contractor or the Electrical Safety Authority, certifying the accessory apartment has been inspected and there are no visible fire or shock hazards associated with the electrical system.  This report will be required for both new and existing accessory apartments and is in addition to any other electrical permits, inspections or certificates that may be required.

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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