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08.25.21 | Buying

A Practical Guide to Setting Up Your Own Secondary Suite

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re pretty passionate about secondary suites and carriage homes.

In fact, this is how Jeff got his start in real estate! He owned a duplex and lived in one half while renting out the other until he decided to upsize and sell. Secondary suites offer incredible opportunities for homeowners to live affordably, build equity, and grow their wealth in the real estate market. What’s not to love! 


If you haven’t read our other posts about secondary suites and carriage homes, you can get caught up here:


In this post, we’re talking about some of the practical guidelines you need to be aware of when it comes to secondary suites in Peterborough. Let’s dig in…

What is the Best Location for a Secondary Suite?

In Peterborough, the most desirable location for a secondary suite is in the city’s core, also known as ‘A Zone’. However, you might still see these dwellings across the county. Depending on the zone, different rules might apply.

With that being said, building a secondary suite in the core of the city is also often a challenge, because the homes are older and might present issues with other building regulations.

A true, legal secondary suite must have its own entrance. For this reason, raised bungalows with walkout basements are an excellent house style that can accommodate a secondary suite. 

If you’re thinking about building a secondary suite, you should always bear in mind the grade and erosion/flood plain of your lot. This can have a really big impact on whether or not your property is suitable for a secondary dwelling. 

As a general rule, secondary suites must follow these guidelines on your property:

  • The suite must be located within the main dwelling on the property and cannot exceed 10% of your total lot size
  • It must be at least 301 square feet in size, but still smaller than the main dwelling
  • The suite must be attached to a fixed foundation, meaning it cannot be attached to a house on wheels

Are There Any Safety Regulations? 

Yes! Legal secondary suites are subject to many regulations and building codes to ensure the safety and health of the tenant. For example, the suite must be located in an area where the fire department can have access to it in the event of an emergency. 

Additionally, legal secondary suites in Peterborough require fire-rated drywall to be installed as well as access to municipal sewer and water. 

Secondary suites in Peterborough are also required to have at least one parking space included, unless your suite is located in the downtown core. 

Can I Have a Secondary Suite if I have a Well? 

Technically yes, but you probably won’t want to build a secondary suite if you do not have access to municipal water and sewer. 

The reason? Wells and septic tanks are purpose-built for the size of the home and the expected number of people who will live there. If you start adding more occupants, there’s a chance that your septic system will be overloaded. Wells can also be finicky and have the potential to dry up if there are too many occupants in the home. 

Unless you are absolutely certain that your well and septic system can handle it, we strongly recommend only operating a secondary suite on municipal sewer and water systems. 


Not familiar with living with a well? Read some of our related well blogs here:


What About the Design and Function? 

If you’re thinking about building a secondary suite, you really need to consider the needs and well-being of your tenant. As real estate experts, we know what tenants are looking for in these situations. Some considerations you should make include:

  • Large egress windows for basement suites to provide safety and natural light
  • Higher-than-average ceilings
  • Modern, full-size appliances–a washer/dryer and dishwasher can make a huge difference for a tenant!

Note: In most cases, if a tenant had to choose between a “legal” secondary suite with not-so-nice features and an “illegal” suite with premium amenities and features, they will almost always choose the option that offers the nicer living space. 

As mentioned in previous blogs, the main benefit of taking the “legal” route when building a secondary suite is that banks recognize legal secondary suites and will allow you to borrow against them.

Still curious about secondary suites and carriage homes in Peterborough? Wondering if the landlord lifestyle is right for you? Contact us today to learn more about how a secondary suite can help you achieve real estate wealth.

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