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Windowless Bedrooms & The Loophole We Need to Close

Bedrooms in Ontario condos CAN be windowless...but does that mean they should be counted as a real bedroom?
Written By: Baron Alloway

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When buying a property, it’s important to know what you’re getting. The type of room is just as important as the numbered count.

Most people grasp that bathrooms can very in size and shape. For example, 2 piece bathrooms are considered “half baths” while 3+ pieces are considered “full”. Most MLS listings, however, do not specify the number of pieces in each bathroom.

A buyer determines whether a bathroom is considered half or full. This is fairly common in today’s marketplace and most professionals in Real Estate would not consider it to be a novel concept. What may come as a surprise, however, is that bedrooms in Condominiums can be the same way.

I’ll admit, I never thought I’d run into an issue where REALTORS and builders no longer agree on what constitutes a “room”. However, after taking a client on a number of “1 bedroom” showings, its time to address the proverbial elephant in the room…or lack thereof.

In our post on Legal Basement Apartments, we outlined exactly what made a basement dwelling unit considered legal. The most common inquiry received on our site is regarding the bedroom. “Can a bedroom exist without a window?”.

The OBC and Bedrooms

According to the Ontario Building Code, rooms without windows are not Bedrooms. Window Areas(1) Except as provided in Sentences (2) and (3) or otherwise permitted, every room used for sleeping in any building, and every principal room such as living room, dining room or combination of them in dwelling units shall be provided with windows having areas conforming to Part 9, except that Article does not apply.

(n.b. –, as referenced above, discusses egress requirements and situations where windows must double as an exit)

After a handful of showings of Downtown Toronto 1 Bedroom Condos, my client & I became increasingly frustrated. We’d walk into a unit and be confronted with a studio layout, complete with a windowless bedroom & a sliding glass door. We’d leave the showing frustrated and confused. The bedroom is windowless!

This suite is advertised on Toronto’s MLS as having “1 bedroom”

As it turns out, the Ontario Building Code has a loophole that allows this to be acceptable. It’s referred to as an Alternative Solution.

The Ontario Building Code’s compliance section reads as follows: Compliance with Division B(1) Compliance with Division B shall be achieved,(a) by complying with the applicable acceptable solutions in Division B, or(b) by using alternative solutions that will achieve the level of performance required by the applicable acceptable solutions in respect of the objectives and functional statements attributed to the applicable acceptable solutions in MMAH Supplementary Standard SA-1, “Objectives and Functional Statements Attributed to the Acceptable Solutions”.(2) For the purposes of Clause (1)(b), the level of performance in respect of a functional statement refers to the performance of the functional statement as it relates to the objective with which it is associated in MMAH Supplementary Standard SA-1, “Objectives and Functional Statements Attributed to the Acceptable Solutions”.

So how does an Alternative Solution apply to this circumstance? Can a windowless bedroom have an acceptable “Alternative Solution”?

The Commission’s Decision

The answer lies in a Building Code Commission decision, resulting from a dispute between a Builder and the Municipality of Guelph. This famous decision (BCC Ruling No. 14-03-1366) concluded that windowless bedrooms in condominiums ARE bedrooms.

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the parts of the architectural design, that include suites that have an interior rear bedroom without an exterior window or skylight, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence of Division B, of the Building Code, for the proposed construction of a seven storey Group C residential building for the Solstice Condominiums at 1291 Gordon Street, City of Guelph, Ontario.

However, as with most areas of life, just because one can do something doesn’t mean one should. Its not hard to understand why Developers would immediately take advantage of such loophole. An interior bedroom would mean that developers can build narrower, deeper units, fitting more “1 bedroom” units per floor plate. The result is more bedrooms per condominium unit available for sale and, in turn, higher profits.

Developers & REALTORS that allow such marketing t0 continue, create havoc for the Real Estate Community in Ontario. Although a Condominium bedroom without windows is legitimate, it is far less desirable than a bedroom with windows. Without any distinction between the two architectural styles, real estate statistics become increasingly muddled.

Statistically speaking, units with more bedrooms tend to sell for higher amounts. However, if those bedrooms are being artificially constructed for the sake of a statistic, what merit do those numbers have?

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