Building a Basement Apartment: The Secondary Suite By-law


A question I get asked a lot as a REALTOR® in Vaughan is, “can I rent out my self-contained basement apartment legally?” and the answer is yes!

Many homeowners have no idea that within the last few years, the City of Vaughan passed a new bylaw, which means that anyone with a self-contained suite, also known as a secondary suite, CAN legally rent to tenants. 

This new bylaw is fantastic for several reasons. It increases affordability for homeowners. It makes the process of renting out space a lot easier for first-time buyers or first-time landlords, and the additional income is an excellent mortgage helper.

What is the definition of a secondary suite?

On the City of Vaughan’s website, they say a “secondary suite is a self-contained unit within a house that has its own kitchen, bathroom facilities and separate entrance. Secondary suites can be a viable housing option provided the units are constructed safely.”

How do I get a secondary suite?

If you’re going to build or renovate your home to include a secondary suite, the first thing you’ll need to do is contact Vaughan’s Building Standards department to discuss your plan and get the necessary information regarding zoning and building permit requirements.

The City of Vaughan also requires that all contractors or builders must be licensed to work in Vaughan.

You also have to make sure your home fits the city’s requirements. This means your home must be a single-detached, semi-detached, or street townhouse, your lot must have a minimum frontage of nine metres, and the unit must have its own entrance. For more information about what is required and which homes are exempt, we recommend reading the full list of rules from the City of Vaughan linked here

As the homeowner, you will also be responsible for installing smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and fire separations between the secondary suite and primary home. To learn more about the safety requirements, click here.

Lastly, you’ll need to submit a building permit application to the Building Standards department. In your application, you must include a professional drawing that includes the construction details and compliance with the Ontario Building Code. If the unit was built BEFORE July 14, 1994, then please click here for more information.

How big can a secondary suite be?

According to the City of Vaughan, secondary suites can take up 45% of the home’s total floor area but can’t be less than 35 square metres.

How many parking spaces do I need to have to be eligible? 

3! You will need to have room for 3 cars on your driveway and/or garage. 

Please click here for an extensive homeowner’s guide to secondary suites created by the City of Vaughan for even more information.  

It’s essential to follow the above rules and regulations when building or renovating a secondary suite. We’ve heard of people going about it the wrong way and not following the rules, and the fines can be huge. It’s not worth the risk, trust me! 

If you’d like to receive a list of homes with secondary suites for sale in Vellore Village or Vaughan right now, click here!