Toronto garden suites are becoming a popular solution for increasing housing options. As part of the city’s broader initiative to enhance residential density and provide more affordable housing, garden suites offer a unique and flexible living arrangement. This article explores the definition, regulations, and guidelines surrounding garden suites in Toronto.

What are Garden Suites?

What are Garden Suites

Garden suites are standalone residential units on the same property as a primary residence, which can be built in the backyard of properties without access to a public laneway. These units offer additional living space that can be used for renting out, accommodating family members, or serving as a home office. They are designed to harmonize with the existing property and neighbourhood, following specific regulations and guidelines set by the City of Toronto to ensure they enhance the residential environment while expanding housing options.

Garden Suites vs Laneway Suites

A laneway suite is situated on a lot that abuts a publicly designated laneway. A garden suite applies to properties that do not have public laneway access. Garden and laneway suites are regulated by two separate portions of the zoning by-law. Although they share similarities, they are tailored to different property configurations and urban planning needs.

Garden suites, also known as backyard homes, can be built in the backyard of properties without access to a public laneway. They are typically constructed on lots adjacent to the main house, providing additional living space for family members, rental income, or even home offices.

A laneway suite is a self-contained residential unit located on the same property as a primary home but accessed via a public laneway rather than the main street.

Both garden suites and laneway suites contribute to Toronto’s housing strategy by offering diverse living options. However, their distinct characteristics and placement criteria make them uniquely suitable for different types of residential lots and urban contexts.

Regulations Governing Garden Suites in Toronto

The City of Toronto has established specific regulations to ensure that garden suites are integrated harmoniously into residential neighbourhoods. These regulations cover various aspects of construction, zoning, and use:

  1. Zoning By-laws & Permit Requirements: The zoning by-laws specify the conditions under which garden suites can be constructed, ensuring they complement the existing neighbourhood character. City of Toronto Zoning By-law 569-2013 Section 150.7 covers the garden suites. For the Chief Building Official to issue a building permit for a garden suite, a garden suite must comply with the relevant Ontario Building Code regulations, the Zoning By-law, and other applicable laws. Providing appropriate access for emergency services, minimum building area and room sizes, and minimum required floor heights are components of the Ontario Building Code review.
  2. Size and Height Restrictions: The maximum allowable size for a garden suite is typically limited to a certain percentage of the lot area, ensuring the primary residence remains the dominant structure. Height restrictions are also in place.
  3. Setbacks and Separation Distances: To maintain privacy and minimize the impact on neighbouring properties, garden suites must adhere to setback requirements from lot lines and maintain a minimum distance from the main house and other structures.
  4. Parking Requirements: A garden suite requires no car parking spaces and a minimum of two bicycle parking spaces.
  5. Servicing and Utilities: Garden suites must be connected to existing water, sewer, and electrical services. Property owners may need to upgrade these services to accommodate the additional load.
  6. Design and Landscaping: Garden suites must be compatible with the main house and the surrounding neighbourhood. Landscaping requirements may also apply to ensure the suite integrates well with the existing outdoor space.

Guidelines for Building Garden Suites

Building a garden suite in Toronto involves several key steps, from initial planning to final inspection. The City of Toronto has established guidelines to assist property owners in navigating this process effectively:

  1. Initial Consultation: Property owners are advised to consult professional service providers specializing in garden suites. This step helps to understand the specific regulations and requirements applicable to their property, including zoning laws and potential restrictions.
  2. Architectural Design: Engaging an architect or designer with experience in garden suites. The design must comply with the city’s regulations, including size, height, and setback requirements. It should also integrate with the existing primary residence and neighbourhood aesthetics.
  3. Building Permits: Securing necessary permits is critical in constructing a garden suite. This involves submitting detailed plans and drawings for city officials to review. The review ensures the proposed suite meets all building codes and zoning by-laws.
  4. Construction: Once permits are obtained, construction can begin. It is important to work with reputable contractors knowledgeable about local building codes and regulations. Proper construction practices must be followed to ensure safety and compliance.
  5. Inspections: Throughout the construction process, several inspections are conducted to ensure compliance with building codes and regulations. These inspections cover various stages of construction, from the foundation to the final structure. A final inspection is required before the garden suite can be occupied.
  6. Servicing and Utilities: Garden suites must be connected to existing water, sewer, and electrical services. In some cases, property owners may need to upgrade these services to accommodate the additional load. Ensuring proper utility connections is essential for the functionality and safety of the suite.
  7. Design and Landscaping: The garden suite’s design should be harmonious with the primary residence and the surrounding neighbourhood. Landscaping requirements may apply to ensure the suite integrates well with the existing outdoor space, promoting an aesthetically pleasing environment.


Garden suites are a valuable addition to Toronto’s housing landscape, offering flexible and affordable living options while enhancing the city’s residential density. By adhering to the city’s requirements and working with professionals, homeowners can successfully integrate garden suites into their properties, contributing to the overall growth and sustainability of Toronto’s housing market.

How We Can Help

Insight Law Professional Corporation is a real estate law firm located in Toronto. We can help you navigate the legal elements of your proposed garden suite. Contact us today and learn how a real estate lawyer can help you.

The information provided above is of a general nature and should not be considered legal advice. Every transaction or circumstance is unique, and obtaining specific legal advice is necessary to address your particular requirements. Therefore, if you have any legal questions, it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer.