Ontario Human Rights Code

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to occupancy of accommodation, without discrimination because of protected grounds such as age.

The Ontario Provincial Policy Statement requires planning decisions in Ontario to be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Building Code

Building Code requirements apply when there is construction, renovation, demolition and change of use for buildings in Ontario. These requirements are a comprehensive set of minimum building and construction standards.

There are several important factors you need to consider when doing renovation or construction work to your co-owned house, including :

  • designing the renovation or construction work to comply with the Building Code
  • obtaining necessary building permit(s)
  • obtaining a licensed contractor to do the work
  • fulfilling required building inspections during the work

Before issuing a building permit, the municipal building department must confirm that the proposed work complies with the Building Code requirements, municipal zoning and other local by-laws. See the Municipal zoning requirements section.

In Ontario, municipalities administer Building Code regulations and zoning by-law requirements.

You should speak with your local building and/or planning departments if you have questions about building regulations, zoning by-law provisions and any other by-law requirements that may apply to ensure that your co-ownership home is a legal, safe and healthy place to live.

Building regulations apply to your co-owned house if you are planning for renovations or construction work, such as :

  • adding ensuite bathroom(s)
  • renovating common spaces
  • subdividing an existing home to create additional individual dwellings

To help you through the sometimes-complex approval and building process, we recommend you hire at least one of the following :

These professionals and your builder can help you get all necessary approvals, building permits and arrange construction inspections.

Building permits

To get a building permit, you must submit the following to your local building department :

  • a completed application form
  • any forms and supporting documents requested by the municipality
  • construction drawings (most municipalities require at least two sets of drawings)
  • payment of the building permit fee

Once you have submitted your completed application, you will hear back within 10 business days if it has been approved or not.

Incomplete applications or improper design may mean your permit will be delayed or rejected.

After you receive a permit

Once your building permit has been issued, building inspectors from the municipality must review work at various stages during construction.

You or your agent are responsible for informing your building department when different stages of construction are ready for inspection.

Zoning by-laws

Zoning by-laws are established and administered by municipalities under the Planning Act. Local zoning by-laws control how land may be used and regulate the physical form of communities, such as :

  • where buildings can be located
  • types of buildings permitted
  • how buildings can be used
  • lot sizes and dimensions
  • parking requirements
  • building heights and setbacks from the street

Municipal zoning requirements

As noted in the Building Code construction standards section, when co-owners apply for a building permit for renovation or construction work for their home, the building department reviews and determines that the proposed work complies with :

  • the Building Code
  • other regulatory requirements such as municipal zoning by-laws for the lands that are the subject of the application

To verify compliance with zoning requirements, the building department may request that the planning department examine the application to ensure compliance with zoning for the property.

Consult your municipality

Co-owners who are planning to make changes to their home (for example, create new separate self-contained units) should consult with their municipal planning departments to determine if this may be considered a change in use and what zoning requirements would apply.

It is important that you first check with your local municipality before making changes to the use of your property. If in doubt, ask.

Zoning by-laws and ownership type

Municipal zoning requirements do not include the authority to distinguish between persons who are related or unrelated in respect of their occupancy or use of a building. In other words, zoning by-laws cannot be different for a house that is owned by a family and a house that is owned by unrelated co-owners.

Municipalities may create specific zoning by-laws for other land uses that may appear similar in structure and facilities to a co-ownership home, such as a single dwelling house that is used as a rooming house, a small student residence, or a small care home. Municipalities are responsible for applying the zoning requirements that they create and ensuring that their zoning by-laws do not distinguish between persons who are unrelated or related for living in and using a building.

Adding a second unit

For co-owners who are creating new separate units with their own kitchens and bathrooms, the Building Code sets out minimum construction standards for how to build a second unit in a house. More information about this is in the guide “Add a second unit in your house.”

Development charges are not required to be paid for the construction of a second unit in an existing house (subject to rules set out in regulation).

If co-owners are planning to subdivide a house to create three or more units, we recommend you hire a qualified professional such as an architect, professional engineer or designer registered with the Ontario government to assist with :

  • any local zoning requirements
  • the complexities of design and Building Code requirements

Shared living spaces

For co-owners who plan to share living spaces like kitchens and bathrooms, it may be useful to know that there are specific requirements in the Building Code and Fire Code that apply to boarding, lodging or rooming houses.

Boarding, lodging and rooming houses may have similar structures and facilities to a co-ownership shared home, but these specific rules only apply when the residents provide renumeration (for example, rent) or services in return for lodging. Therefore, they do not apply to co-ownership housing.