Types of housing units
The information on this page can help you understand how By-law 14-2023 defines the residential structures and spaces that it applies to.
On this page
- What is a dwelling unit?
- What is a building?
- What is a rental housing unit (RHU)?
- RHUs versus lodging houses
What is a dwelling unit?
A dwelling unit is one or more rooms that are kept by one or more people as a single housekeeping unit. Most dwelling units include at least:
- A kitchen that is used to cook and prepare food;
- A bathroom with a toilet and a shower or tub for washing, personal hygiene and sanitation,
- A bedroom for sleeping in, and,
- Another room for general living or recreation that is not used for the functions listed above.
To be considered a dwelling unit, the required rooms listed above must be exclusively accessible to, and maintained by, the people that live in the unit. Stairs or hallways used to access a unit, or a shared laundry room people in several dwelling units can access, are not part of a dwelling unit.
A single bedroom is not considered a dwelling unit. If a dwelling unit is rented out by the room, it may be a lodging house.
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What is a building?
A building is a structure with walls and a roof that people can live in. A building can contain a single dwelling unit, like a detached house, or more than one dwelling unit, like a duplex or an apartment building.
Sometimes, buildings are modified from their original construction to increase or decrease the number of dwelling units they contain. Provincial legislation now allows a typical house to be renovated to create an additional dwelling unit (ADU). When this happens, the same building that previously contained a single dwelling unit now contains two separate dwelling units.
When the number of dwelling units in a building is altered properly under a building permit, each dwelling unit usually has a unique street number or sub-address (e.g. Unit 1, Lower, etc.) and mailing address associated with it.
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What is a rental housing unit (RHU)?
A rental housing unit (RHU) is a dwelling unit that is occupied by, or offers occupancy for, one or more people in exchange for rent. By-law 14-2023 requires any RHU in a building with one to four dwelling units to have a residential rental licence.
A dwelling unit operated by specific businesses or institutions already regulated by other statutes is not an RHU.
A dwelling unit the property owner or their immediate family (spouse, parents, children) lives in is not an RHU.
For more information on exclusions from By-law 14-2023, please see our Frequently Asked Questions.
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RHUs versus lodging houses
The Ontario Building Code defines a boarding, lodging, or rooming house ("lodging house") as a building:
- That does not exceed three storeys in height or a building area of 600 square metres (m2),
- In which lodging is provided for more than four persons in exchange for remuneration (i.e. rent), and
- In which the lodging rooms do not have both bathroom and kitchen facilities for the exclusive use of individual occupants.
Rooms in a lodging house are considered residential suites, as they do not contain the minimum rooms for exclusive use of the occupant that define a dwelling unit. The Ontario Building Code also requires residential suites to meet different construction standards than other rooms in a dwelling unit, particularly regarding fire separations and safety systems. Because of this, lodging houses and dwelling units operated as rental housing units (RHUs) are mutually exclusive, meaning one cannot be used as the other.
A licensed rental housing unit (RHU):
- Must be a dwelling unit
- Can generally be located anywhere zoned for residential use
- Has the same Building and Fire Code requirements as an identical unit that is not rented
- Has fewer application requirements and involves less complex Building and Fire evaluations
- Costs $466 for new applications and $275 for annual renewals
In comparison, a licensed lodging house:
- Must contain four or more residential suites that are rented under separate tenancies
- Cannot be located in most areas zoned for residential use
- Must meet additional construction and life safety system requirements under the Ontario Building and Fire Codes
- Needs more documentation and longer inspections to get a licence
- Costs $616 for new applications and $575 for annual renewals
For more information on lodging house licences, please see the lodging house licence page.
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