7 Signs Your Unit May Be Illegal

With rent prices in all jurisdictions skyrocketing, illegal units have popped up across North America. Often in basements, attics, garages, sheds, trailers or recreational vehicles, illegal units usually contain several significant violations to the Fire Safety Code, the Building Code and local Property Standards Bylaws. Below are 7 signs your unit may be illegal.

1. No separate mailing address

This may indicate that the landlord is seeking to hide that there is someone else living on the property.

2. No separate water or gas meter or you pay common utilities

Similar to 1, this may be an attempt to hide from authorities that there is a unit being rented out.

3. The unit is without proper air conditioner or heating requirements

Units are required to have the proper heating and/or air conditioning functioning as set up in their local bylaw standards. Failure to adhere to this may result in the unit being deemed uninhabitable and thus illegal.

4. There is only one means of egress

Meaning there is only one way in and out of your unit. This usually indicates a violation to the fire code. This can also result in the unit being deemed uninhabitable and thus illegal.

5. An odd rent payment arrangement

If your landlord prefers cash in hand or a “no lease” arrangement, they may be trying to hide that another person is living in the unit.

6. Odd electricity arrangement

Units are required to have proper electricity systems set up. If electricity is being delivered by an extension cord from a different part of the house or a main building, this could be an indication the unit is illegal. As with 3 and 4, failure for the unit to have proper electricity systems may result in it being deemed uninhabitable and illegal.

7. Lack of kitchen, washroom facilities or water access.

All units have kitchen and washroom facility requirements except in very specific circumstances. If you do not have a kitchen or washroom, or need to go to another building or unit to use them, your unit may be illegal. Units must also have access to water, failure to adhere to this may result in it being deemed uninhabitable and illegal.

What can happen

As the factors leading to the unit being declared illegal are often life threatening, eviction is usually the result. Additionally, your landlord may be fined and forced to return the unit to its original state, which can be significantly costly. We encourage you to ensure the legality of your unit before moving in or reporting any outstanding issues to bylaw enforcement. However, you can still pursue repairs to illegal units through the Landlord Tenant Board (Ontario) as legality is not an issue for them. We encourage those in other provinces and states to check with local tenant support groups as this may not be the case in your jurisdiction. If you find yourself living in an illegal apartment and choose to stay, please be very mindful of the dangers to your health and safety which can arise from living there.

Nick LorrawayPublished on 11/10/2022