The Ontario Building Code (OBC) requires that laneway 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.
See OBC Div. B. 126.96.36.199 for reference.
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’.
A pair of sketches are available showing the laneway suite fire access travel distances on a sample site plan.
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:
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.
Must have a strobe light on the exterior side of the building facing the laneway:
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
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.
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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
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.