About Donna Bacher, Broker

Connecting people and families to the place they're going to call home is what I do best! For investors, having a keen business sense and the ability to analyze their needs and to know where to look for the answers to their investment questions helps them stay one step ahead of the game. For me, Real Estate is a way of life, and when you do business with me....you are my number one priority! 2020 marks my 37th year as a full-time Realtor in the Hamilton area and I find it just as exciting today as I did back in 1983. I'm always aiming to provide all of my clients with the ultimate in Real Estate service!

Pitfalls to avoid when renovating your home!

Are you curious about what home renovations will increase the value of your home? Here are a few pitfalls to avoid.

Home offices are a popular remodeling project. However, there is one pitfall. If you convert a bedroom into a home office, this could decrease the value of your home because the next homeowner may prefer the extra bedroom instead.

Compare your home with other houses in the neighborhood. If your home is significantly upgraded beyond those of comparable homes, you will likely have a harder time recouping your investment.

Low quality additions that have been done by unlicensed contractors or without permits and approvals may cause problems later when it comes time to sell. If a would-be buyer has the home inspected and the inspector finds flaws in load-bearing members, plumbing, or electrical systems, it could cause questions to form in the mind of the buyer as to the integrity of the entire home.

Hamilton- where ghost-divisions are real

Ghost-divisions in HamiltonGhost-divisions: who needs swampland when you have a field?

It’s kind of hard to believe that in a City like Hamilton, Ontario, where development land is at a premium, there are huge swaths of land that seem to be stuck in some form of ’70’s time capsule.

When a lot isn’t a lot in Hamilton

As I was enquiring about a lot that I had been asked to evaluate, a Planner at City Hall explained to me that “there are these old plans of subdivisions that were on the table back in the ’70’s and for one reason or another they just never went anywhere.” On the City’s planning map, they show as one big parcel, still carrying the original agricultural zoning. There are lines on the map that show the lots that were once proposed, but the City claims that they never recognized the creation of the lots; even though it’s clear that all of the lots do have separate deeds.

In the case of the lot I was researching, the 75’ x 100’ property is one of 50 similar sized lots that are individually deeded. Together, they comprise approximately 35 acres of prime land- land that if assembled, would be able to handle a substantial number of residential units. They’re in close proximity to newer residential developments and services. The lots have separate PIN and Roll numbers- they are assessed as individual pieces of agricultural land; approximately $25,000 each, yet they can never be built on. First reason is that the land is still zoned agricultural, they’re not serviced. According to zoning regulations, they’re too small to build on. Secondly, they don’t have a municipal address; aside for private dirt roads or lanes, they’re inaccessible.

Sometimes it’s a lot…sometimes it’s not

This is where it gets interesting. The City claims that these lots, even though they’re individually deeded simply do not exist. Rather, the City views this property as one big chunk of agricultural land that is owned by 50 different parties. They claim these lots were never severed- even though their map clearly shows them. In the City’s opinion this is one big land co-op. Now, if that was actually the case, then these “imaginary” lots wouldn’t be able to be transferred but over the past decade, as the original owners have passed away, these lots have been transferred to their heirs. If it was in fact a co-op or some form of joint ownership, there wouldn’t be an individual deed to transfer- it would be some joint ownership agreement, assigning the individual interest in the 35 acres.

To make it more perplexing, over the past couple decades, some of these “not really lots lots” have been sold to adjacent property owners who do have frontage on a major road. These are probably the only people who may find value in the ghost lots that are in their backyard. Some have moved to purchase an adjacent lot and by doing so, the lots have merged and this is where I really get lost.

If it’s one big chunk of land with a lot of owners, how is it possible for one of the owners to sell their imaginary lot to a neighbour without obtaining a severance out of the larger chunk? I asked the Planner- he looked confused.

Not the only Ghost-division in Hamilton!

A colleague who’s familiar with development in the City of Hamilton tells me that there are a lot of these “ghost-divisions” in the City; land that the City allowed to be divided and sold 30 or 40 years ago and is now content on pretending the lots don’t really exist, or that they’re somehow part of a land co-op; a strange holding pattern where individuals, without any form of group approval, can transfer their assigned imaginary parcel out of the larger parcel…without any form of severance or City approval. Interesting concept that makes absolutely no sense.

After giving this a lot of thought I’ve come to the conclusion the only the City can really fix a “ghost-division”. They know where they are; all of the owners of the ghost lots are  individually billed for taxes to the City.

With a shortage of development land in the City, many would love the opportunity to acquire these parcels; unfortunately, it would be a very difficult task for anyone to assemble this land because the owners actually believe that they own a building lot that is worth 6 figures, rather than a share equivalent to 1/3rd acre of raw agricultural land with a value closer to $10,000.

What could the City of Hamilton do?

  • Identify the “ghost-divisions” and determine how much development land is frozen in time.
  • Contact every “ghost-lot” owner and explain to them that they do not really own a lot; rather they have an interest in entire parcel of land that formed an original Plan of Subdivision.
  • Market the parcels to interested parties.
  • Facilitate a sale and divide the proceeds with the registered owners.
  • OR, the City could buy the land themselves and convert it into green space or park land.

 

Of course, this is all very wishful thinking. I know it’s easier for the City to just put their heads in the sand and forget that these “ghost-divisions” even exist. I doubt I’m the first Realtor® who has made an inquiry on behalf of someone who wants to sell one of these imaginary lots. Problem is that as the City grows, these ghost-divisions will always be an obstacle to smart growth mainly because it’s acreage that stands little chance of ever being developed. Only the City has the ability to make this land viable and in an area where development land is at a premium, I would think they’d have the motivation to do so as well.

Updated property assessment notices; what do they mean?

Exactly how will the updated property assessment notice affect you?

You’ve just opened your mail from MPAC- it’s your new “Property Assessment Notice” and in a nice little box it says “This is not a tax bill”. No it’s not a tax bill, but it will probably have an impact on your property taxes. This notice is telling you what MPAC feels your house is worth. The more they think your house is worth- the more property taxes you’ll pay. There’s no hiding the facts; Hamilton’s property taxes rank amongst the highest in Southern Ontario. A City report in 2014 showed that at the time of the report, Hamilton taxes were 9% higher than most medium to large sized municipalities in Ontario.

Calculate your taxes

Good news for property owners: Hamilton real estate values continue to climb.

Hamilton has been making headlines. In September, 2015, the Canadian Real Estate Association reported that the average price of a home in Hamilton shot up more steeply than any other part of the country, citing an increase of 16.4% for the period of August 2014- August 2015. Today, the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington released its statistical report indicating that the market doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

Still sizzling! Hamilton & area real estate stats for June 2016
Bad news for property owners: it’s property assessment update time
MPAC, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation has just mailed out their new property assessments. Without a doubt you’re going to be elated to see that your property value has gone up; in some cases it will be significant. MPAC has reported that values went up an average of 18% since their last assessment. The big question is how will it reflect on your future tax bills.

So how does all of this work? Every year the City sets its “mill rate”. You multiply the mill rate with your MPAC property assessment and voila! You’ve got your property taxes.

Understanding your 2016 MPAC Assessment update

Use your property assessment to calculate your property taxes
When you get your new assessment, compare it with your previous assessment and see what the difference is. Divide the difference by 4. Every year, your assessment will go up by that amount. Example. Your current assessment is $300,000. Your new MPAC assessment shows a value of $360,000; the difference is $60,000. $60,000 divided by 4 is $15,000, so every year the assessed value on your house will increase by this amount. You can then visit the City of Hamilton’s nifty tax calculator to figure out what your new tax bill will look like. Warning: you may want to be sitting down. In the example given, the $15,000 increase will translate into a $200.00 increase in property taxes each year for the next 4 years.

City of Hamilton Tax Calculator

Will the new Hamilton property assessment reports impact the real estate market?
Since the increase is phased in, the first year won’t pack too much of a punch and shouldn’t have a huge impact on buyers qualifying for a mortgage; it may have a slight negative effect on first time buyers who are stretching every single cent of their earnings to qualify for a mortgage. The true impact will be a few years down the road. Without factoring in the City’s annual increase in property taxes, the new assessments may see a property tax increase by hundreds of dollars in many sections of the City. With the average assessment increasing by 18%, we’re bound to see some major increases. Good news for the City coffers; bad news for homeowners who are already living in one of the highest taxed cities in Ontario.

If you’re buying a home avoid surprises; ask your Realtor® what the new assessed value is for any home you may be interested in.

Why you might appeal your new tax assessment?

Notices to appeal must be launched 120 days after you receive your Notice of Assessment; MPAC

Top 5 items to purge prior to moving

5 things to purge before moving

Sizing down, moving up or away requires a lot of planning. Deciding to purge prior to moving has its definite benefits.

Everyone is different in planning and organizational skills, but there is one thing for certain; when a property is sold, every single possession the owner has, inside and out, must be dealt with before closing day.

On the proficient end of the moving spectrum are people who live a very minimalist lifestyle. They could fit all of their worldly possessions in a couple of moving boxes. On the other, there are those who have kept every single thing that they have ever come into possession of. Sometimes these people feel great sentimental attachment, other times they feel there’s financial value or perhaps believe that “someday” they might use it. Most people fall somewhere in between.

“Decluttering” and “purging” are not just a buzz words used when we’re getting homes ready to sell. Removing unwanted, unused items from living spaces can be liberating; getting rid of those little figurines that you picked up from your dearly departed Grandma’s house a few decades ago can go a long way making you realize that you really don’t need the whole collection to remember her; one special piece afforded its own spot in your new space may suffice. Purging can be an invigorating experience.

Keeping your home free from unwanted, unused “stuff” is a never-ending job. The fact is unwanted stuff costs us money. First of all, if it’s out in the open, we have to spend our time keeping it clean; we offer up prime storage space if it’s in a box in our closet or basement. Secondly, when it comes time to move, packing, moving and unpacking things that you don’t like or need is a waste of time and money- adding to the physical and financial stress of moving.

Let a Garage Sale give you a reality check

Go to a garage sale; take a look around. Glassware, figurines, china, cups, old furniture. Every year, thousands of people who are getting ready to move will haul stuff out onto their front lawns and driveways thinking that someone is going to buy it from them. After spending 6 or 7 hours watching people sort through their worldly possessions ( or at least the possessions they’ve decided to part with) they haul the majority of it back into their house. At that point they either proceed to pack it for the move, try to give it away or as a final resort, throw it in the garbage. What starts out with visions of making thousands of dollars ends up with the cost of hiring the local junk removal company in a wild effort to get rid of stuff prior to closing. Many homeowners often vow that they’ll never have another garage sale for the rest of their life; a garage sale is a reality check to many- used stuff sells for pennies on the dollar and some stuff can’t even be given away.

If you’re clearing out a house full of expensive collectables and antiques, it’s probably best to call in an auctioneering firm or antique dealer that knows the market for the items you have. You may not be thrilled with the value or offer they give you, but when you consider the time and effort involved in disposing of everything piece by piece, it may be in your best interest to let them buy the whole lot.

If you’ve been able to make the “emotional” decision to move, you’re more than capable of getting rid of mismatched glasses & dishes in your cupboards, clearing your table tops of items you no longer want or need or tossing the contents of those boxes that have sat for a decade, unopened in your basement.

Top 5 items to purge prior to moving.

1) Glassware: normal odd/single or cracked glasses

It’s certainly not the most environmentally friendly thing to do- but trash them. Throw them out. Glassware is not recyclable in most areas. Thrift store shelves are full of glassware and the fact is most people who shop at thrift stores are looking for “sets of glassware” If you don’t have at least 4- toss them. To move them would mean that you’d have to pack them, mark the box fragile and then try to find a new spot for them at your new place; probably packed in the box in your basement. Do yourself a favour- trash them in your regular garbage.

Normal everyday dishes? Same thing as for glasses. Single, cracked, chipped, heavily worn or broken sets? Thrift store shelves are lined with sets of nice dishes- they’ll probably end up tossing the chipped, broken and worn dishes in the garbage. Unless you have at least 4 of any one item- trash them. Put them in a heavy garbage bag and hit them with a hammer to spread the weight. If you can’t bring yourself to doing this, put them on a stand at the end of your driveway with a free sign. If they don’t go- get the garbage bag and hammer out. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, effort and money.

Good china, bone china and pottery are different. You may want to take it to your local consignment or antique store or sell it online. There is a market out there for people looking to either extend their set of china or replace broken pieces. Many china patterns are discontinued and people are actively searching to expand their sets or make them whole again.

2) Old linens, sheets & towels:

Check them over. If there are no stains or signs of wears, donate them to the thrift store. People don’t need a full set of sheets. Towels? unless it’s a beach towel, do not pile a bunch of mismatched towels into a box and trot them off to the second hand store-there are enough sets of towels donated that the single towel in your box will be tossed into the garbage. Everything over 2 is ok- if you have 2 or more towels of the same pattern or colour- wash them, bundle them together nicely and put them in a donation box. Someone will buy them at the thrift store.

Table cloths: Make sure there’s no stain or wear. If there is, toss them, regardless if it was hand made in Belgium and given to you by Aunt Bertha 20 years ago.

3) Old furniture

Antique pieces are especially difficult to part with. For some strange reason we’d rather have them collecting dust in our basement than ever allow them to continue their life in a home where someone truly loves them. If you just have it because it’s an antique or belonged to a departed relative, yet you don’t have a use for it, try to bring yourself to finding a new home for it. If you’ve decided to buy new furniture for your new digs, and assuming that your existing furniture is in good shape, you’ll have to either sell it or give it away. Sure, your kitchen set may have cost you $1000.00 when you purchased it, but don’t hold out hopes of reclaiming your investment. Remember that often when people are buying used furniture or accepting donations, it’s because they’re looking for something that’s in good shape and affordable. They’re usually not looking for a tattered sofa or broken kitchen set.  Donating to one of your local housing charities is always a great thing and in the long run may save you a lot of time but don’t be surprised if they don’t want furniture that isn’t in good condition with all the parts and no hard wear. Most cities have programs where they’ll pick up large items at curbside. If it’s worn, tattered or broken drag it out to the curb sooner than later.

4) Figurines and collectable items

This is a biggie: ask yourself a question. “Am I a collector?” If the answer is yes, then ask yourself where in your new home are you going to keep your “collection”. If you can’t think of a spot to keep your collection, then chances are you didn’t answer the first question correctly. Collectors love what they’re collecting. Most aren’t just collecting with the thoughts that some day they’re going to reap financial gain from their collection- it’s a passion to a true collector and their collection has a special place in their home; often their entire home. In this day and age, unless it’s extremely rare, its true value may shock you. Because of advancements in manufacturing, there are very few “post war” items that are “extremely” rare. “Collector” items are now mass produced for the pleasure of the “Collector”, with the highest value when they are originally manufactured. For example, an original Cabbage Patch Doll that cost $115.00 and a battle at the store 30 years ago can be bought on many online auction sites for $40-$50.00. If you have a prized “Collectors Item” in mint condition, in its original box, perhaps there is value, but if it’s been used or the box is nowhere in sight, chances are it’s not worth what you think it is.

Now, you must do the hardest thing. Assess your time. Do you have time to list each the items that you may think is a collectable online and then entertain numerous phone calls and emails for $10, $20 or even $100.00 or will you be better served to pack them all up and take them to the thrift store unless you’re lucky enough to be able to give them to friends or family. If you’re really insistent on getting money for them, do yourself a favour and sell them as a package. i.e.) Tea cup collection: variety of 20 cups and saucers. That way you’ll maximize your time and only have to deal with one ad and if you’re lucky, one buyer.

5) Pictures and frames

I have now come to realize that if I really disliked someone, I should give them a nicely framed picture of them and me. Pictures are very interesting indeed. What Grandma or Grandpa doesn’t enjoy a nice picture of you and the kids? Especially one of those giant wall hangings with a hundred pictures showing your summer activities. Do not fall for the picture trap.

Take a look at your personal picture collection. The ones on the wall, the table tops, the desk, the dressers- take a close look at them and try to figure out how they’re going to fit into your new house. Now is the time to set yourself free and thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever. Store them on a USB stick, the cloud, your hard drive and then display them on a picture viewer or play them as your screen saver.

Think of making a special area on a wall or table for family pics. Make them special ones and keep it contained. You many want to transfer the pictures of your son or daughters’ wedding from 10 years ago out of their frames to a photo box or album. Often it’s the beautiful frame that keeps us from performing this harsh act- but don’t let it. If you have a use for the frame, then pack it to go. If you don’t- sell them as a bunch of frames online- there are lots of crafts people who use frames or you can donate them to a thrift store. Whatever you decide to do, make the decision “NOT” to take them with you and store them forever in your basement.

Regardless if you’re trying to make your house more organized or getting ready to make a move, clearing your space in a time and cost efficient manner is key. When you’re moving, you’re often working within a very tight timeframe. Moving boxes to your new home full of items full of things that you will never use is a waste of time and money. If you’re not moving and simply decluttering, tossing the bad and donating the good will probably prove to be the most time and cost efficient thing you can do.

 

ANNE FRANK: A HISTORY FOR TODAY

Note that this information is outdated.
Anne Frank

CANADIAN WARPLANE HERITAGE MUSEUM

The story of Anne Frank and her life of hiding in the Secret Annex during the Second World War is a story of perseverance and bravery. Living for almost 2 years in hiding during the Nazi occupation of Holland, she recorded her daily thoughts in a journal. Today, her journal is a testament to the prejudice that was faced by so many during the Holocaust.

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum is proud to present “Anne Frank- A History for Today” from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Featuring the story of Anne Frank and artifacts never before displayed in Canada. The exhibit will also focus on Canada’s role in the Liberation of Holland and the prejudices and discrimination that some Canadians faced, including those in the RCAF.

Time daily: 9:00am – 5:00pm, regular admission rates apply.

Location 9280 Airport Rd., Mount Hope, L0R 1W0
Email museum@warplane.com
Web http://www.warplane.com/upcoming-events/event-details.aspx?eventId=71

When/Where: 9280 Airport Rd., Mount Hope, L0R 1W0 – March 12- August 28th

Student rentals: Finance update April 2016

Financing Student Rental properties in Hamilton

Student rentals are investment properties; the problem is most banks do not want to finance them. Regardless if you’re buying a single family home or a multi unit rental building to rent, the banks underwriting departments want to make sure that #1- you have a reasonable expectation of collecting the amount you’re renting it for and #2- the property can be legally used for the rents you’re collecting. A home rented to a family is rarely a problem. With 2-6 unit buildings, the bank wants to make sure the property is zoned for the number of units you’re renting. Most banks just don’t like student rentals!

How the bank sees a Student Rental

So what’s the problem with student rentals anyhow? For the most part, they’re just single detached houses- aren’t they? Well, the banks do have a problem with them;  even though these properties are in fact single family homes, “the tenant” is usually a group of unrelated 18-23 year old students.

Then there’s negative publicity around student rentals. Residents are constantly trying to cope with being neighbours to properties filled to the brim with fun loving students and absentee landlords. This means no lack of publicity for this type of housing as the City is constantly trying to balance the need for student housing with the rights of non-student residents. Complaints are constant: properties that are housing too many students, lack of fire safety, illegal construction/building of bedrooms along with property standards and parking bylaw violations.

Student Rentals vs. Lodging Homes

The rules around renting to a collective of students can be complex. First of all, students are a protected group under the Human Rights Code. Cities have been told they’d be wise to avoid any type of zoning that could be considered “people zoning”.  The Human Rights Commissioner has stated that groups of students who want to live together as a family unit while attending school away from home, have the same rights under the act as any other family unit and municipalities must respect this right. At the same time, municipalities have the right to enforce their zoning bylaws.

 

Illegal development

Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean it’s legal and it certainly doesn’t mean that you can get it legalized on the basis that it’s already there. Doesn’t work that way. For example, if the original house is a 2 bedroom house with a kitchen and living room, you cannot assume that the 4 bedrooms in the basement are legal. If they do not comply with the Ontario building code, that is if the ceiling height is below the requirement or there isn’t adequate light (windows) they may in fact be “illegal”.

Rules and regulations are in place for a reason. The City has a right to be concerned about over intensification along with owners circumventing the building permit process and creating additional bedrooms and bathrooms without inspections, approvals or permits.

Sometimes Buyers and Sellers will go through great effort to “de-student” properties, trying to convince the appraiser and bank that it’s not what it is. They take all the locks off the doors and try to clean it up in an effort to make it look as “single family” as possible, but it seldom passes the scrutiny of an appraiser familiar with the area. Even though the Buyer swears on their life that they’re going to be renting this property to a nice young couple with 4 kids, most banks decline.

Getting a mortgage for a Student Rental in Hamilton

The Royal Bank is one of the few major banks interested in financing Student Rental properties in Hamilton. This is not an ad campaign for the Royal Bank, nor do I collect a referral from them for promoting their services- just passing on the info!  The good news is that the Royal Bank has expanded their student rental finance program: increasing the number of properties from 5 to 9 and reducing the down payment required from 30% to 20%. When the Royal Bank’s appraiser shows up at the property, they know it’s being used as a student rental; no need to try to pull the wool over their eyes or lie about what you’re going to be using it for- which by the way is really “mortgage fraud”, but that’s another subject!

Insurance:

Also, make sure your insurance company knows that the property they’re insuring is a Student Rental. Just like banks, many companies will not insure these properties. If you experience a loss, you may face issues making a claim.

Summary

So, if you’re purchasing a Student rental keep in mind that the City “usually” doesn’t have a problem if the property contains eight habitable rooms and houses 6 students. If you’re creating more living space, make sure you obtain a building permit. The City also “usually” doesn’t have a problem if you have one lease on the property, even though there may be 6 individuals signing on the lease. And lastly, if you need a mortgage, DO NOT try to pull the wool over the eyes of your financial institution. Ask them straight up if they will finance a student rental- if they don’t, contact Katie Morrison, Mortgage Specialist for the Royal Bank in Hamilton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating legal Hamilton rental units

Since 2008, the City of Hamilton has volleyed around the idea of licensing residential rental units in buildings that contain 1-6 units. In September 2014 the City tabled it’s draft Licensing By-Law until they were able to get feedback from a task force of a stakeholders and concerned Councillors. The task force started to meet in late 2015 and discussions continue. Hamilton has a shortage of good affordable housing options. The creation of legal rental units in Hamilton is a win/win.

Chances are if you’re reading this you’ve got one or you’re thinking of buying one- an illegal duplex or triplex aka two or three family home in Hamilton. If you already own one you may be losing sleep thinking about the illegal status of your investment. If you’re thinking about buying one, you may be weighing the pro’s and con’s of handing over hard cold cash for something that’s not legal and gambling with your investment dollars. Perhaps you’re trying to figure out if you can even make it legal and what it’s going to cost.

6  Important things you’ll need to know, do or get

1) What is the current City of Hamilton recognized use.

You’ll need to order a Zoning Verification Certificate. Two family: Cost: $111 and you get it in 10 days or $167 for express 2 day service. Three or Four Family: $227 & $344 respectively.

2) Do you qualify for a Section 19 Conversion?

  • Minimum lot size of 270 square meters or 2906 square feet.
  • Minimum unit size: 699 square feet
  • Parking: cannot use more than 50% of your front yard for parking even if it’s already being used as parking. Currently Hamilton requires 2.7m x 6 m for a parking spot. (8.85827 ft x 19.685 ft) 2 front parking spaces will require 17.7 feet. Since parking can only be 50% of front lawns, a property would  require a minimum of 35.4 feet frontage. Anything less will require Committee of Adjustment approval and that’s not a guaranteed process. (Toronto’s parking requirement is 2.6m x 5.6 (8.53 ft x 18.37 ft) meaning 2 front parking spaces would require a total of 17.06 feet. Under Toronto’s Zoning By-law, 2 parking spots on a 35′ lot would not require Committee of Adjustment approval)
  • Parking cannot be tandem. Rear parking is permitted.

3) Drawings showing the units you’re creating (or the unit(s) that are already there)

  • Architectural Drawings (may be required)
  • Floor plans for each floor
  • Structural Drawings (cross section/materials)
  • Electrical Drawings
  • HVAC Drawings
  • Survey or Plot Plan drawn to scale showing all structures and lot lines.

City of Hamilton : Understanding Building Permits and Zoning Verification Brochure

4) Obtain a Building Permit

If you’re lucky enough to meet all the requirements of a Section 19 conversion, you’ll be able to take all of your drawings and Building Permit Application to the Building Department at Hamilton City Hall. Tip: Save time by calling the Building Department in advance to set up an appointment.  If you do not meet ALL of the requirements for a Section 19 conversion, you will be directed to attempt to obtain a minor variance from the Committee of Adjustment. (note the key word here is “attempt”)

5) Patience, knowledge and money.

This is not a cheap, quick nor guaranteed process. Being super prepared and educated in the process can save time and money. Over the past year, the City of Hamilton has come a long way in providing information to property owners looking to legalize or create additional living units in their buildings.

6) Is it going to be worth it?

For the answer to this question, you’re best to consult a local Realtor® to find out if the expense incurred to create and/or attempt to legalize an additional unit will add the expected value to the property.


 

FAQ

Question: What is a Habitable Room?

Answer:

Hamilton Zoning By-Law definition (Page 2-34) : “Habitable Room means any room of a residential building or an institutional building, used or capable of being used by one or more persons for living, eating or sleeping, or as a kitchen serving a dwelling unit; but does not include a bathroom, water-closet compartment, laundry, serving or storage pantry, corridor or other space not for use frequently or during extended periods. (9451/61) (08-228) 

Hamilton Property Standards By-Law definition (Page 4) : “habitable room” means a bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, recreation room, basement, bath or shower room, toilet room, laundry room and any other room or space in a dwelling or dwelling unit used for living, eating or sleeping

Question: How high does a basement have to be to get a building permit to create or legalize a “habitable” room?

Answer:

Room heights are covered in the City of Hamilton Property Standards By-Law

OCCUPANCY STANDARDS for a Habitable Room: Section 34(2) Page 21

Height Requirements for Living room, dining room, kitchen & bedrooms

  • 1.9 meters (74.5”) over the required floor area and in any location that would normally be used as a means of egress; or
  • 2 meters (78”) over at least 50% of required floor area. Nothing under 1.4 m is considered in square footage measurements.

Question: Can you convert a “legal non-conforming two family home” into a “legal three family home” by adding a unit under Section 19?

Answer: The simple answer is “NO”. As a rule, a “non conforming use” does not have the requirements to be considered for “legal two family use” nor has it obtained legal two family status under Section 19. To continue with a legal non conforming use, there’s a requirement that the property owner is able to prove that the property has had been continuously used as the non-conforming use since it obtained the “legal non-conforming” status. In most cases in Hamilton, this will go back to the 1950’s.

The property is “legal non-conforming” for a reason. The City recognizes the fact that the property does not meet the Zoning By-law and have authorized its use at some point in history: lot size, parking and zoning are the most popular reasons why it never became a “legal two family”. Once you go to apply for a change of use to a three family home, you’ll need to meet all the requirements under the regular three family zoning in the current By-law and cannot use Section 19 for this type of conversion. The City will treat it as if it’s going from single family to three family use. At the end of the day, you may still have a hard time getting it converted to a “Legal two family home” under Section 19.  You should retain the services of a professional.

Question:

The assessment report from MPAC shows it as a duplex- does that not mean anything?

Answer:

NO- it means absolutely nothing in the eyes of the City. MPAC assessment reports are simply what MPAC uses to determine what mill rate will be applied to the property. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make- home owners, buyers and real estate colleagues. The only way to find out the legal use of the property is by obtaining a Zoning Verification Certificate. 

Question: 

What’s the worse thing that can happen to me if I own something that’s not legal?

Answer:

If you own a property that is not in line with the City’s recognized use you can run into issues on more than one front. Tenants and neighbours may complain to the City about your property or you may get caught up in one of the neighbourhood blitzes that the City of Hamilton By-law Enforcement team conduct. If the City does not recognize the use, you’ll have a choice- either convert it back to the legal use, which may involve trying to evict a tenant, or try to convert it under Section 19. The City may proceed to take legal action against you for a Zoning By-law infraction.

Also, insurance companies and financial institutions are becoming a lot more concerned about the legal status of income properties.


 *****When asked about the implications of the April/15 By-law change allowing development of cellars, I received the following interpretation from the “Open for Business” department at City Hall.

“The result in the revisions are that basements and cellars are to be treated the same in the Hamilton zoning by-law and the Ontario Building Code will determine if a conversion is to be permitted.”

Something really sticks out here- the reference to the Ontario Building Code and not the City of Hamilton’s Building Code. In the case of ceiling heights, the Ontario Building Code is actually more stringent.


Notes:

1. In April 2015, Hamilton City Council approved a zoning bylaw amendment whereby cellars and basements would be treated the same and the Ontario Building Code would be used to determine if a conversion is possible.  As a result, cellars may now be used in square footage calculations for living units subject to the ability to obtain a building permit. City of Hamilton Council Meeting

2. Section 19 Conversions- City of Hamilton Zoning By-Law– Page 306


Window requirements for bedrooms and other living areas fall under the Ontario Building Code. Following excerpt taken from Page 475 of the Ontario Building Code

Ceiling HeightsOntario Building Code– page 470


Donna Bacher, Broker, with Royal LePage State Realty Brokerage has been representing Buyers and Sellers in the Hamilton area since 1983. The information provided in this article is for information purposes only and should not be considered a legal opinion. Donna has been involved with the Hamilton Rental Licensing debate and affordable housing issues in the City of Hamilton since 2008. Even though all efforts have been made to make sure the information provided is accurate as of the date of this article, the writer does not guarantee that rules, policies and By-laws have not been changed by the City of Hamilton or Province of Ontario. If you are interested in creating additional units or legalizing existing units, please consult a Designer/Architect who is licensed in the City of Hamilton to explore your options.

Secondary Suite Requirements in Toronto

Open House Sunday 2-4 at 110 Huntingwood Ave, Dundas

110 Huntingwood Ave, Dundas

Open House Sunday 2-4 at 110 Huntingwood Ave, Dundas

– We invite everyone to visit our open house at 110 Huntingwood Avenue on April 10 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Fantastic 4 bedroom in premium Dundas location looking out onto beautiful Veterans Park. This home boasts everything for the active family.

Wonderful eat-in kitchen with loads of counter space & cabinetry, stainless appliances, separate formal dining room and living room with beautiful hardwood floors. Gorgeous bay windows in living room. Sliding glass doors off of kitchen to newer deck and private rear yard.

Open concept from kitchen to family room – with wood burning fireplace.(WETT Certified March31/16). Updates include Roof-2012, A/C-2010.

Great Value! No offers until 6pm on April 11/16. Please call listing brokerage to register offers.

Inclusions: Fridge, Stove, Microwave Hood Range, Mirrors in Bathrooms, Electrical Light Fixtures, Auto Garage Door Opener, Central Vac with ALL Attachments & Power Head

SOLD