In the event of an emergency Toronto Fire Service needs to be able access every building in the city with firefighting and other emergency equipment.

This requirement is critical in order to save lives and is why the Ontario Building Code (OBC) requires new laneway suites have acceptable emergency access that meets the operational requirements of Toronto Fire Services.

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

In November 2020, the City updated how Laneway Suites can achieve Ontario Building Code compliance for fire department access. Further information is available in staff report PH16.10 ‘Laneway Suites: Fire Access Requirements’.

Width & Height: Path of Travel for Fire Department Access

  • A minimum of 0.9 metres wide by 2.1 metres high
    • Either on your own property or via a Limited Distance Agreement with your neighbour (hyperlink to below)
  • Hydro and gas meters and other similar localized protrusions are allowed to project into this required 0.9 m 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 laneway suite,
  • A maximum of 90 metres in length measured from the public street or a flanking street through the laneway to the entry of the laneway suite along with at least one additional fire-safety measure, acceptable to the City of Toronto (see below- hyperlink in web).
  • 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 and the laneway.

A pair of sketches are available showing the Laneway Suite Fire access Travel distances on a sample site plan.

Additional fire-safety measures

There are two options for fire-safety measures developed by the City of Toronto that designers may incorporate within their Laneway Suite designs to allow the maximum travel distance to increase from 45 m to 90 m:

Option 1: Automatic sprinkler; exterior strobe light and smoke alarms/warning system

Option 2: Increased fire protection materials and building methods; exterior strobe light; and smoke alarms/warning system.

Projects must include:

Automatic sprinkler

  • Incorporate within the building an automatic sprinkler system designed to NFPA 13, 13R or 13D standards
  • Design of the automatic sprinkler system to be prepared by a Professional Engineer.

Exterior strobe light

  • Must have a strobe light on the exterior side of the building facing the laneway.
  • Must conform to CAN/ULC-S540, “Residential Fire and Life Safety Warning Systems: Installation, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance”
  • Must comply with CAN/ULC-S526, “Visible Signal Devices for Fire Alarm Systems, Including Accessories”.
  • Must be rated for exterior use and activated by the interconnected smoke alarms/warning system located within the laneway suite.
  • The strobe is to be located at a minimum height of 1.8 m above the adjacent ground level and be visible from the laneway with consideration of obstructions such as trees and fencing.

Smoke alarms/warning system

  • Must have a residential fire warning system that is inspected, tested and maintained in accordance with CAN/ULCS540 and the applicable provision in the Ontario Fire Code (OFC).
  • Design of the warning system shall be prepared by a professional engineer.

Increased fire protection materials and building methods

Designs must incorporate within the building increased fire protection on the exterior walls, reduce the required openings on the exterior walls and clad exterior building faces with non-combustible materials under certain conditions.

  • Where available limiting distances are not less than 2.4 m:
    • the area of glazed openings in the exposing building face shall conform to Article 9.10.15.4 of Division B of the Building Code considering the available limiting distance as halved.
  • Additionally, where the limiting distance is less than 2.4 m,
    • No unprotected openings are permitted,
    • the exposing building face will require a fire-resistance rating of not less than ¾-hour, AND
    • Where the available limiting distance is less than 1.2 m:
      • the exposing building face is required to be clad with non-combustible cladding.

Exterior strobe light

Must have a strobe light on the exterior side of the building facing the laneway:

  • Must conform to CAN/ULC-S540, “Residential Fire and Life Safety Warning Systems: Installation, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance”
  • Must comply with CAN/ULC-S526, “Visible Signal Devices for Fire Alarm Systems, Including Accessories”.
  • The strobe is to be rated for exterior use and activated by the interconnected smoke alarms located within the laneway suite.
  • The strobe is to be located at a minimum height of 1.8 m above the adjacent ground level and be visible from the laneway with consideration of obstructions such as trees and fencing.

Smoke alarms/warning system

  • Must have a residential fire warning system that is inspected, tested and maintained in accordance with CAN/ULCS540 and the applicable provision in the Ontario Fire Code (OFC).
  • Design of the warning system shall be prepared by a professional engineer

 

The City of Toronto is in the process of developing detailed guidelines to assist with incorporating one of the solutions into Laneway Suite design. In the meantime, staff are available to discuss these options. For questions on current applications please contact:

Selva Panchanatham, P.Eng.
Manager, Plan Review
Toronto Building, City Hall, Floor 16E
Toronto & East York District,
City of Toronto
416-392-7627
Selva.Panchanatham@toronto.ca

In cases where it is not possible to provide the minimum 0.9 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.

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

  • Execute a Limiting Distance Agreement for fire access that provides 0.9 m of access
    • The agreement is an obligation that cannot be broken without all parties consent (includes The City)

1. Download this template agreement that has been prepared by the City of Toronto. [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:

a. Filling out the template agreement with the relevant property details;
b. Providing the property owner with any necessary legal advice in relation to the agreement;
c. Registering the agreement on title of the property once it has been signed; and,
d. Preparing and submitting the required tittle 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. Here is an example of an acceptable sketch with notes about key features of the sketch: (sample for reference only)

 

5. Once the template agreement has been filled out (changes must be tracked), submit it to Rodney Gill, Solicitor, Legal Services, City of Toronto, by email for review by the City. Mr. Gill’s contact information is as follows:

Rodney Gill, Solicitor, Litigation Section, Metro Hall, 26th Floor, 55 John Street, Toronto, ON, M5V 3C6, Phone: 416.392.8051, Fax: 416.397.5624, email: rodney.gill@toronto.ca, City of Toronto, Legal Services

 

6. Assuming the agreement is in a form that is satisfactory, Mr. Gill or one of his colleagues 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 $231/hour. A typical limiting distance agreement will require between one and four hours of time spent by the City’s lawyers.

 

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

 

8. 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.

 

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

 

10. Property owners submit to the City, to Mr. Gill’s attention, 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 Mr. Gill 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 laneway 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 accessible here: (sample 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 laneway suite is made?

Q5 – 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 laneway suite being produced, the ability to secure a building permit for a laneway house will depend on the building permit application for the laneway suite complying with the Building Code and all applicable law, including the City’s zoning by-laws.  Providing sufficient fire access to a proposed laneway suite is only one of several hurdles that must be cleared to ultimately construct a laneway suite.  Entering into a limiting distance agreement will not guarantee that a building permit for a laneway suite will be issued.  It is a solution to address fire access, a consistent issue that we see for some laneway suite applicants. 

 

Q6 – Can both properties subject to the limiting distance agreement use it for fire access to potential laneway suites?

A6 – While it can depend on the specific properties, yes, generally the limiting distance agreement can facilitate fire access to laneway suites 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.  Here is a link to information on that referral service:

https://lso.ca/public-resources/finding-a-lawyer-or-paralegal/law-society-referral-service.