Hi. We recently got a notice saying we have second dwelling in our house. We actually do not. We just have fridge and sink in basement. No separate entrance. Washroom is there since the house was made, as it is an old house. Is this considered second dwelling? Can someone provide guidelines exactly what is a second unit and what is allowed in basement?
A second unit also referred to as a basement apartment, in-law suite or accessory dwelling is a self-contained living space with cooking, sleeping and sanitary facilities within a detached, semi-detached house or townhouse.
All second units must meet the Ontario Building Code, Ontario Fire Code and Zoning By-law requirements and must be registered with the City as stated in the Second Units Registration By-law.
You will need a building permit if you're planning to construct a new second unit or if your second unit was built after July 14, 1994.
In Alberta a dwelling is described in the Alberta Building Code as "a suite operated as a housekeeping unit, used or intended to be used by one or more persons and usually containing cooking, eating, living, sleeping and sanitary facilities".
There are many requirements described in the Code for 'Secondary Suites'. The dividing line is usually the presence of a stove. You can also have an 'in-law suite' (not described in the Code), which wouldn't necessarily include cooking facilities but being a space intended to be occupied by family members.
A legal secondary suite can have a single shared exit (doesn't require its own dedicated exit). If you have some cabinetry, a fridge and a sink and a bedroom perhaps this was done without permits and you simply need to get it approved or remove it. There are many Code requirements to consider; separate receptacle for fridge, smoke alarm(s) egress window for bedroom, counter receptacles, correct plumbing, etc.
You haven't said if someone is occupying your basement without having access to the rest of the home in which case it could be viewed by your municipality as meeting the definition of a dwelling. Usually this kind of thing would result from a complaint by a neighbor or tenant.
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