A two-unit residential occupancy is a detached or semi-detached house or row house that has a secondary suite [two (2) suites in total], with each suite occupied by a single household.

The Ontario Fire Code section 9.8 applies to two-unit homes that, as it already existed on or before July 14, 1994 that:

  • a) has one (1) suite or a portion of a suite situated above another suite, or
  • b) two (2) suites side by side and sharing a common interior means of escape.
  • Renovation (to add a secondary suite) typically done without required City review and approval (no building or zoning permits).
  • Non-compliant (no dedicated exterior door leading directly to ground level, shared means of escape forces residences to enter another unit, or does not lead directly outdoor at ground level) means of escape for each unit.
  • Lack of interconnected smoke/CO alarms and/or fire alarm system throughout the house (due to lack of City review).
  • Landlords often stop renting out one or both suites to single households and instead rent out bedrooms within each suite as rooming/lodging accommodations as this would be more lucrative, turning the house into a rooming house or hybrid arrangement (see above).
  • Lack of proper electrical upgrades to accommodate increased electrical loads, and/or electrical upgrades not ESA (Electrical Safety Authority) inspected and approved.

If you are considering renovating your property to add a secondary suite, please take some time to review the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website for more information on the process including a guide for homeowners.

Further application and requirements for two unit residential occupancies are found under Part 9 section 9.8 of The Ontario Fire Code.