March 15, 2018: Rooming Houses vs Private Home; When does a “Home” become a “Bunkhouse”?

March 15, 2018: Rooming Houses vs Private Home;
When does a “Home” become a “Bunkhouse”?

By HCA Security Committee.

By-Law Services held a public consultation Feb. 21 on proposed clarifications to the definitions of a Rooming Houses, related definitions and some of the newer housing forms being seen in recent years – private home conversion which have sometimes been labelled “bunkhouses”.

This process is an attempt to align the definitions in other City departments so that there is one clear definition for Zoning and By-Law. A further review slated to begin later this year will be a comprehensive review of the licensing of residential room rentals including short-term rentals such as Airbnb and shared accommodations.

There has been a lack of clarity in defining what constitutes a rooming house and what constitutes shared accommodation – a group of friends sharing a residence.

This consultation has been prompted by conversion of houses into many bedrooms under the guise of friends sharing accommodation when they clearly operate as a Rooming House. Areas close to the universities and Algonquin College have seen many of these conversions. A house that once had a family of 4 or had 2 apartments might be converted to 10 or 20 bedrooms.

Neighbours have complained of problems with excessive and unmanaged garbage, many vehicles parking on the property and street, lots of visitors, parties and general disruption.

Another complication with the definitions was that a rooming house was defined by the number of roomers not the number of rooms – so if a room was empty at the time of inspection it might fall below the threshold.

Rooming houses began to be licensed in 2002. There are yearly inspections and there are a number of specific requirements and building code standards that must be met before a license is issued. All these strict requirements are in place for tenant protection and to ensure minimal impact on the neighbouring community.

Many of these conversions or “bunkhouses” essentially operate as rooming houses but avoid the more stringent requirements, inspections and expense. The essential difference is how the people operate together. They are deemed to be a single housekeeping unit if they have collective decision-making and responsibility for the management of the interior of the dwelling unit.

It is a rooming house if they are independent tenants with no collective decision making or responsibility for the management of the interior of the unit (ie: common areas) and there are more than 4 rooms.

This review and the one to start later this year is also being looked at in conjunction with the larger Zoning review of R4 zones.

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