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; and,
- A bedroom for sleeping in.
Most dwelling units also include one or more rooms for general living or recreation. Some dwelling units, like bachelor or studio apartments, may combine that space with the bedroom.
A dwelling unit's spaces are only 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 generally not considered a dwelling unit except when part of 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 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 600m2,
- in which lodging is provided for more than four tenants, and
- in which the lodging rooms do not have both bathroom and kitchen facilities for the exclusive use of individual occupants.
Lodging houses and RHUs are mutually exclusive, which means a property used as one cannot be used as the other.
A licensed rental housing unit (RHU):
- Can be located anywhere residential use is permitted
- 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:
- 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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