The Ontario Building Code (OBC) requires that garden suites have acceptable emergency access. This is critical to saving lives in the event of an emergency. Toronto Fire Service must be able to access every building in the city with firefighting and other emergency equipment.

Ontario Building Code Requirements

  • Fire department access shall be provided to each building by means of a street, private roadway or yard.
  • Where access to a building as required above is provided by means of a roadway or yard, the design and location of such roadway or yard shall take into account connection with public thoroughfares, weight of firefighting equipment, width of roadway, radius of curves, overhead clearance, location of fire hydrants, location of fire departments connections and vehicular parking.
    See OBC Div. B. 9.10.20.3 for reference

Compliance with the Ontario Building Code for Fire Department Access to Buildings

Width & Height: Path of Travel for Fire Department Access

  • A minimum of 1.0 metres wide by 2.1 metres high.
    • Either on your own property or via a Limiting Distance Agreement with your neighbour
  • Hydro and gas meters and other similar localized protrusions are allowed to project into this required 1.0 metres path of travel width

Length of Path of Travel: for Fire Department Access

  • A maximum of 45 metres in length measured from the public street to the entry of the Garden suite, and
  • A fire hydrant must also be located within 45 metres of where a firefighting vehicle would park in front of the subject property or at the intersection of a flanking street.

A sample sketch is available showing the Garden Suite Fire access Travel distances on a sample site plan.

In cases where it is not possible to provide the minimum 1.0 metre wide path of travel for fire department access, this required width may be shared with a neighbouring property, provided both owners enter into a Limiting Distance Agreement with the City of Toronto.

The Solution: Establish Shared Access through a Limiting Distance Agreement.

  • Execute a Limiting Distance Agreement for fire access that provides 1.0 m of access

1. Download this template agreement that has been prepared by the City of Toronto. [Garden Suite LDA Fire Access Template]
The template gives prompts for where the relevant property details are to be entered.

2. An owner of property will likely want to retain a lawyer to assist them with the following:

    1. Filling out the template agreement with the relevant property details;
    2. Providing the property owner with any necessary legal advice in relation to the agreement;
    3. Registering the agreement on title of the property once it has been signed; and,
    4. Preparing and submitting the required title opinion.
      It is highly recommended that property owners refer their lawyers to this webpage and these instructions

3. Establish communication and coordinate with the adjoining owner of land. It is likely best to give the adjoining owner of land a link to this webpage and these instructions.

4. Fill out the template agreement with the relevant property details. Have a sketch prepared for schedule C of the agreement. For an example of an acceptable sketch, refer to the sketch showing the Garden Suite Fire access Travel distances on a sample site plan.

5. Once the template agreement has been filled out (changes must be tracked), submit it to one of the following Toronto Building contacts.

  • Rocco Nardi, Building Consultant, North York Civic Centre, 5100 Yonge Street, 1st floor, Phone:416-395-7510, Email: rocco.nardi@toronto.ca, City of Toronto, Toronto Building
  • Nathan Wood, Building Consultant, City Hall, 1st floor, 100 Queen St. W. Phone: 416-392-7575, Email: nathan.wood@toronto.ca, City of Toronto, Toronto Building
  • Marseel Shehata, Building Consultant, 2 Civic Centre Court, 1st floor, Phone: 416-394-8024, Email: marseel.shehata@toronto.ca, City of Toronto, Toronto Building

6. Toronto Building will forward the filled out template agreement (ensure sketch at Schedule C is included) to the City’s Legal Services Division for review by a City Lawyer

7. Assuming the agreement is in a form that is satisfactory to the Deputy Chief Building Official, the City Lawyer will advise that the agreement can be executed by the non-City parties. An invoice will also be provided to the property owners for the City’s fees related to the limiting distance agreement. *Pursuant to Chapter 441 of the Municipal Code there is a Solicitor Fee for the time spent by the City’s Legal Services division. The fee is $240.01/hour. A typical limiting distance agreement will require between one and four hours of time spent by the City’s lawyers.

8. Property owners sign the agreement and submit it to the City to the attention of the City Lawyer along with the required fees pursuant to the invoice provided. The agreement can be sent by email.

9. The City will execute the agreement and return it to the property owners. It will generally be sent to the attention of the lawyer that the property owners have retained to register the agreement on title.

10. Property owners, through their lawyers, attend to the registration of the agreement. They should advise the City, by notifying the City Lawyer, once the registration has occurred. Upon registration, the agreement can be relied upon for Building Code purposes

11. Property owners submit to the City, to the attention of the City Lawyer, the title opinions required by the agreement. A template opinion letter is provided here for the property owners’ lawyers’ consideration. [LDA Opinion Letter Template]

Important Notes:

  • Questions about the process should be directed to Toronto Building staff whose contact information is provided above.
  • The City cannot give the property owners any legal advice.

Q1 – How long does it take to get a limiting distance agreement reviewed, signed and registered on title?
A1 – The timing depends on how quickly the property owners can address the steps that they have to take. The City’s review can be done quickly and coordinating the signing of the agreement generally takes a couple of days. Realistically, the quickest that an agreement can be completed is a week. However, it generally takes more time for the property owners and their representatives to tend to their tasks.

Q2 – Can the property owners add terms to the template agreement?
A2 – First, any changes to the template agreement must be tracked. Second, yes, it is possible to add terms to the agreement as long as the terms are generally consistent with the purpose of the agreement and they do not impact the City’s rights. The City’s lawyer will review any proposed changes and advise the property owners if they are acceptable.

Q3 – Does the template agreement give people other than Toronto Fire Services staff access over the neighbouring property (the limiting distance area)?
A3 – No, the template agreement is not intended to give other people, such as potential tenants of a proposed garden suite, access over the neighbouring property. If the property owners want to allow access by people other than fire fighters, they should consider making a separate agreement regarding those matters.

Q4 – What does the sketch referred to in the template agreement have to provide?
A4 – An example sketch is available (for reference only) . Generally, the sketch must identify the limiting distance area. The limiting distance area should be uniquely hatched and noted in a legend to the sketch. The sketch should have a directional indicator and accurate property details, including any existing buildings or structures.

Q5 – Can the limiting distance agreement be entered into before a building permit application for a garden suite is made?
A5 – Yes, it is possible to start with the limiting distance agreement and only proceed to a building permit application once the agreement has been signed and registered on title to the properties. Please note that while this can occur without any detailed designs for a garden suite being produced, the ability to secure a building permit for a garden suite will depend on the building permit application for the garden suite complying with the Building Code and all applicable law, including the City’s zoning by-laws. Providing sufficient fire access to a proposed garden suite is only one of several hurdles that must be cleared to ultimately construct a garden suite. Entering into a limiting distance agreement will not guarantee that a building permit for a garden suite will be issued. It is a solution to address fire access, a consistent issue that we see for some garden suite applicants.

Q6 – Can both properties subject to the limiting distance agreement use it for fire access to potential Garden Suites?
A6 – While it can depend on the specific properties, yes, generally the limiting distance agreement can facilitate fire access to garden suite on both of the properties impacted by the limiting distance agreement.

Q7 – Can the City recommend a lawyer to the property owners?
A7 – No, the City does not make recommendations as to what professionals property owners should use. If you do not know how to obtain legal advice or hire a lawyer, the Law Society of Ontario has a lawyer referral service that you can consider.