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Legal Apartments in Barrie, ON
Effective January 1, 2004 the City of Barrie requires every two-unit house within the city to be registered. As part of the registration process, the City will confirm that the two-unit house is legal under the City’s Zoning By-law, and that the house complies with several health and safety regulations.

For detailed information, please call the Zoning Branch of the Building Services Department at (705) 739-4212.

What is a Two-Unit House?

A two-unit house is a building that contains two residential dwelling units. Commonly, a two-unit house starts as a single dwelling unit (detached, semi-detached or townhouse) with a second dwelling unit created within the house later on. The second unit is sometimes referred to as a second suite, an in-law suite or a basement apartment.

Why Do Two-Unit Houses Need to be Registered?
For a variety of reasons, some property owners have created a second dwelling unit within an existing dwelling unit. In many cases, the two-unit house is within a single family residential zone, where such a use is prohibited. Because of the illegal use, work to create the second suite was done without permits or inspections. In some situations, bad ventilation, electrical wiring or plumbing may be unsafe for the occupants.

The City of Barrie wants to ensure all legal two-unit houses are safe. To do so, we have adopted a by-law to require every two-unit house to be registered. Through the registration process the house will be inspected to confirm compliance with the Zoning By-law, the Building Code, the Fire Code and the Property Standards By-law.

Once cleared by the Zoning Branch, inspections need to be arranged with the Fire Department and the Building Department. They need to inspect the entire house, meaning both dwelling units and any common areas (i.e. laundry room and furnace room). If any deficiencies are found, you will need to correct them before the inspectors can pass the inspection.

A letter confirming registration of your two-unit house will be sent to you by the registrar when all approvals have been granted. The registration letter will indicate that on the date of registration, your two-unit house satisfied the zoning, safety and maintenance regulations of the day.

What Will This Cost?
Safety within two-unit houses requires special construction. For instance drywall is an important component of a fire separation between the two units. If the existing materials do not create the required separation, new materials may be required. Overall, the costs will depend on how the units have already been constructed.
Costs will include;

1. The costs to achieve the base construction requirements, if not already done, plus
2. The costs to apply for registration, plus
3. Any costs to upgrade the building or to do repairs as neces-sary to meet the maintenance requirements.

1. The base construction requirements are the upgrades necessary to convert a single dwelling unit to a two-unit house. The requirements depend on the date of conver-sion.

(a) Two-unit houses created on or before July 14, 1994 must comply with Section 9.8 of the Fire Code. The cost of an inspection by the Fire Department is $200. If construction upgrades are necessary additional fees must be paid for a building permit.
(b) Two-unit houses created after July 14, 1994 must com-ply with the Ontario Building Code. A permit will be re-quired and the fee is based on the area of the second suite. A permit for a 500 sq. ft. suite would cost about $200.

2. All two-unit houses must be registered, including those previously ap-proved and inspected under building permits. The registration fee will depend on the inspections that will be neces-sary:

(a) All applications are subject to a $75 administration fee.
(b) Unless there was a permit previously issued to create the two-unit house, a Zoning review fee of $25 will be charged.
(c) The Fire Code inspection will be $200 for units not previously in-spected, and $100 for a maintenance inspection for those previ-ously inspected and approved. Units created within the recent two year period under a building permit does not need a Fire Code inspection.
(d) The Property Standards inspection will be $200 for units not pre-viously inspected, and $100 for a maintenance inspection for those units previously inspected and approved. Units created within the recent two year period under a building permit do not need a Property Standards inspection. The minimum registration fee is $75 for two-unit houses created under a building permit within the most recent two year period. The maximum registration fee is $500, except that a maximum fee of $250 is available for all registration applications received prior to December 31, 2005.

3. Building upgrades, repairs and renovations will vary depending on the extent of the required work. Any material alterations to the building will require a building permit at an additional cost.

What If I Can’t Afford To Comply With The Technical Standards?
In most cases, the rental of a second suite is a ‘business’. As with any business, you must balance your costs with your revenues. If the costs exceed your revenues, you would make a business decision to either cease the business or obtain a loan where you expect, in the longer term, the revenues to cover the costs.

If you decide to cease the business, you will need to evict the tenants and convert the house back to a single dwelling unit. If the ‘tenants’ are family members or close friends, the conversion to a single dwelling unit means you must live as a single housekeeping unit. By removing the second kitchen and opening access between the two areas, you can achieve the single unit status.

How Often Do I Have To Register?
Registration of a two-unit house is a one-time event. Under the current legislation, you do not have to re-register.

Can the City Revoke My Registration?
Yes. The registration does not need to be renewed, but you must always continue to maintain your building in compliance with Part 2 of the Fire Code and with the Property Maintenance By-law.

If your building is inspected, usually at the invitation of a disgruntled tenant, and contraventions of the maintenance regulations are found, you will be served an order to remedy the contraventions within a time limit. If you do not make the repairs within the time specified, you may face penalties under either the Fire Code or the Property Standards By-law. In addition, the registrar may revoke your registration. Any continued use of the house as a two-unit house without being registered would be a separate violation, subject to its own penalties.

Registration can also be revoked if the house ceases to be used as a two-unit house.

Applications to re-register a two-unit house would be subject to the rules and fees in effect at that time.

How Do I Know If My Two-Unit House Is Legal?
A two-unit house is legal under the City’s Zoning By-law where;

a) A two-unit house is a permitted use, such as in zones RM1, RM1-SS, RM2, RM2-TH, RA1, RA2, C1 and C2.
b) The two-unit house is within a house constructed prior to 1945 and complies with the ‘converted house’ requirements of the Zoning By-law;
c) The two-unit house was legally established under a former Zoning By-law, and has continued in use ever since; or
d) The two-unit house existed on May 22, 1996 and complied with the requirements of the Resident’s Rights Act, 1994, and has continued in use ever since.

What If My Two-Unit House Is illegal?
An illegal two-unit house is in contravention of the City’s Zoning By-law. Even if the house was in compliance with the Building Code and Fire Code, it cannot be registered. An unregistered two-unit house is a contravention of the registration by-law.

To avoid a conviction in Provincial Offences Court, the illegal two-unit house must be converted back to a single dwelling unit.

What If I Don’t Know When the Second Suite Was Created?
Unless there is evidence produced that clearly confirms the second suite was created before May 22, 1996 the City must conclude that the unit was created after May 22, 1996.

Building permits or inspections by the Fire Department are good sources of evidence. Without permits, the City will consider other evidence such as lease agreements or affidavits from former owners, tenants and neighbours, as outlined in our registration application form.

What Technical Standards Must My Legal Two-Unit House Comply With?
There are three categories of technical standards that will need to be verified to register your two-unit house:
1. Zoning By-Law Requirements,
2. Base Construction Requirements, and
3. On-going Maintenance Requirements.

Under the Zoning By-law, the two-unit house must be connected to municipal water and sewer services, and must meet certain lot frontage, lot area, floor area, building setbacks and off-street parking requirements, depending on which zone you are located.

The base construction requirements will be found in the Ontario Building Code and the Ontario Fire Code. For units that existed on July 14, 1994, Section 9.8 of the Fire Code requires compliance for fire separations, exits, smoke alarms and electrical safety. For units created after July 14, 1994, the Ontario Building Code Act requires that a permit be obtained, and that fire separations, exits, smoke alarms and heating/ventilation systems comply with Parts 9, 10 and 11, depending on whether construction renovations are required.

The on-going maintenance requirements are found in Part 2 of the Ontario Fire Code and in the Property Standards By-law 84-200. All of the base requirements noted above plus the house and property in general must be maintained in good repair at all times.

What Happens When I Apply For Registration?
Your application for registration of your two-unit house will consist of;
• A completed application form
• Proof of the date when the second suite was established
• Sketch of the property indicating building setbacks and parking
• Floor plan sketches of the two-unit house for all floors
• Payment of the registration application fee

Staff of the Zoning Branch will receive your application on the 8th floor of City Hall at 70 Collier Street, Barrie during regular office hours.

Your application will be reviewed to confirm compliance with the Zoning By-law. You may be asked to provide additional information.

Once you have satisfied the zoning requirements, you will be required to arrange the appropriate inspections and/or to obtain necessary permits from the City.

Once all necessary works are completed, the City will be in a position to issue a Certificate of Registration.

Where Can I Get More Information?
To discuss the specifics of your own two-unit house, please contact the Zoning Branch of the Building Services Department by dropping into City Hall, 8th floor, or by calling 739-4212. You can also e-mail us at

Barrie Home Inspector
Barrie Home Inspections

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