Second Suites


What Is a Second Suite?


Also called a secondary suite, in-law suite, accessory unit or basement apartment, a  second suite is a self-contained, independently accessible private unit within an existing home that can be rented out to another person or family. While most are found in basements, others are an added onto the original structure. These spaces have their own bathroom, kitchen, and living areas, and may share certain amenities with the rest of the home (like a laundry area, yard, or storage).


Read what the CMHC has to say about Second Suites.

Read what the Provincial Government has to say about Second Suites.

Why build a Secondary Suite?


Rental housing can be hard to come by in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond, and second suites are starting to fill a demand for affordable housing. In the GTA, according to the CMHC, the rental vacancy rate for one-bedroom apartments is only 1.1%, which can make it a struggle for some families and individuals to find an affordable home in which to live. As second suites utilize existing infrastructure to create a rental unit, they usually cost less than traditional apartments and they fill a gap in the housing market for low- and medium-income households, students, or new city residents. Click here to try out our 2ND SUITE CALCULATOR!


In spite of a pull-back in 2018, when the Ontario Government enacted new mortgage qualification rules, property values in the GTA have continued to increase year over year putting pressure on first time homebuyers. See the latest numbers here. Great news for people who bought early, but it leaves new home buyers and investors looking for alternatives. 


There are many reasons a homeowner may want to consider becoming a landlord. They may have an older family with children who have moved out and want to make use of the now-available space. Perhaps they want to increase the value of their home when it’s time to sell. To make renting a second suite even more attractive to homeowners, the Canadian Mortgage Housing Corporation provides 100% offset for rental income produced by legal second suites in an owner-occupied property.

The Benefits of a Second Suite.


Building a second suite in your home gives you the opportunity to create a safe and affordable rental unit for residents. It also allows you to maximize under-utilized space and transform it into a steady income.


Pay off your mortgage sooner, fund renovations to increase your property value, or consider other investments. Creating a legal second suite is one of the best upgrades you can make to increase the resale value of your property. Planned and managed properly, a second suite can also be your first step in building a Propery ladder to build real, real estate wealth.


Read the Provinces official policy on Second Suites.


The Second Suite Solution.™


Extra income from the second suite rental can:

● Help homebuyers afford higher priced neighborhoods
● Reduce debt by helping to repay the mortgage faster
● Help first-time homeowners be able to afford property
● Fund property renovations to increase a home’s value
● Provide a source of back-up income if a household earner loses a job
● Provide more senior renters help with property tax or maintenance costs


Download the Government of Ontario’s Secondary Suites Info Guide

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• Increase Living Space or Income
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Building a Second Suite with us.


At Penguin Basements, we work with hundred of homeowners a year to create beautiful and functional basements and income properties.


Our trusted team starts by inspecting your property to ensure that adding a second suite is feasible. If we determine that it is, we then put together a proposal based on your design ideas and your budget. We also have skilled design consultants on hand to help you come up with ideas for how to best use the available space effectively.

The next step is making sure that all of the appropriate permits are obtained. It’s crucial to follow all local legislation when creating an income property.


We make sure that you new suite is compliant with ALL residential zoning requirements, property standard, occupancy standards, health and safety requirements and fire and electrical codes.


When you work with Penguin Basements to create your Second Suite, you’re working with an experienced team that knows what it takes to design and construct a beautiful, functional and legal secondary suite in your home.


We make it our priority to take the stress, guesswork and hassle out of the process, leaving you with peace of mind, beautiful renovations and an outstanding opportunity for profit!


Thousands of people across the province of Ontario are already taking advantage of second suites to generate monthly income and improve their properties. Shouldn’t you?


Generally, second suites can be created inside an existing home with only internal alterations. Suites vary in size depending on the design of the original house and the lot on which it sits. Many of these suites are located in basements because it gives both parties better separation and privacy — but suite options can be developed in almost any kind of home with the help of a solid design.
If you’re creating a secondary suite in your home, you must find the right help for your home’s unique layout. Working with a contractor experienced in creating these suites is essential to the success of the project. Penguin Basements will be able to guide you through what can be a complicated process of planning, getting permits, inspections and buildout.


We handle the entire permit process, including drawings, engineering and application. We take full responsibility for all revisions and approvals prior to building. We have qualified in-house architects who can coordinate the entire process on your behalf.


Our project managers will meet with the appropriate city officials to review the drawings and project milestones. We will continue to handle the entire process throughout the build. We follow a systematic process so that you, the homeowner can relax and enjoy the process, confident that the project will be complete on time and on budget.

At Penguin Basements, we have comprehensive knowledge of the Ontario Building Code and its application. Working in the municipalities of York Region, Peel, Halton, Durham and Toronto on a regular basis, we are familiar with each city’s or town’s interpretations, zoning and detail requirements.


Our experienced design consultants will happily show you some of our projects in your area and share some of our experience with your municipality. And thanks to the Provincial Government, getting permission for a second suite is about to become even easier.

Second Suite Bedroom

Halton Region Secondary Suites Pilot Program.


Currently being re-evaluated by Halton, the region tested a Second Unit Pilot Program that ran from August 1, 2016 to November 1, 2017. During this 16-month period, 20-25 Halton homeowners were to be provided with financial assistance to support the creation of a second unit within their home. The program ended early and we were told, being evaluated for a return in early 2018. Well it’s mid-2019 and no new news from the powers that be. As the program was created to address population growth in Halton that is outstripping housing supply we suggest you contact your local representative to inquire about this program and whether, or something similar will return. Halton’s population is expected to increase by almost 50% to 780,000 over the next 13 years.

Considering a Build without a Permit?


If you’re not building your basement apartment with a permit we strongly encourage you to speak to the municipality, your insurance agent and research the civil and criminal liability of operating an “illegal rooming house“. One of the fundamental reasons for permitting a basement apartment is to ensure that proper steps were taken to create a safe living environment for the occupants on the lower and upper levels of the home.


Please feel free to review the consequences of building a non-conforming or un-permitted basement apartment.

building-permit pic

Permit Drawings



Whether you are building a finished basement for personal or rental use, we strongly recommend that you obtain a building permit.  We can help by providing you with Permit Drawings.

Home Insurance


Insurance policy statements instruct that a home owner must inform the insurer of any alterations made to the home. This maintains the validity of your home insurance. If converting a single-family home to a two-unit suite the homeowner must inform the insurance company of this change whether for personal use or rental purposes.


Any space that is not reported, would not be insured under the policy. The insurer can also render this a breach of condition, and the policy may be void or voidable. A property must also be completed to the standards of the municipal building code to maintain the status of the insurance.

Finished Basement