Ottawa skyline

Tiny homes are often parked on properties where another house already exists. It’s cheaper and let’s face it, tiny homes fit practically anywhere! In Ottawa, the rules for coach houses (what a smaller secondary residence on your property is called) have recently changed. With these changes, it is easier than ever to add a tiny house to a lot in Ottawa! 

According to the City of Ottawa by-laws, coach houses can be added to any property already containing a detached, semi-detached, linked detached, duplex or townhouse dwelling. Although you have to be careful with townhouses, making sure that the resident of the tiny home has access to a road and doesn’t need to walk through your house to get to their home. 

The only place in Ottawa where you can’t build a coach house is the Village of Rockcliffe Park. It’s a beautiful neighbourhood, but so are many others – so, don’t worry about that. Although, if you really want to live in Rockcliffe Park, you can apply for a personal exception, in the form of a garden suite (see below). 

So, what are the rules surrounding coach houses in Ottawa? We will summarize them here and provide a link to the by-law section below – make sure you check the by-law yourself and also call the city to speak to a Development Information Officer about your particular property. These rules sometimes change and can apply differently to different lots. 

Summary of Regulations for Adding a new Coach House in Ottawa

Because we want tiny houses popping up all over the place in our beautiful city!

Ottawa skyline

Photo by Robbie Palmer on Unsplash

Where are they permitted?

  • Coach houses are permitted in urban, suburban, and rural areas on any lots containing an existing (principal) house.
  • You can have only one secondary dwelling on a property.
  • The total number of bedrooms including the coach house cannot be more than 8.

How big can they be?

  • Height: In different areas of the city, coach house height is limited to either 4.5 meters or 3.6 meters (but 3.2 meter if it has a flat roof). Either way, the coach house can never be taller than the principal house. The coach house is limited to a height of one storey for lots in the urban area. 
  • Floor area: The footprint of the coach house must be smaller than 40% of the footprint of the principal house and smaller than 40% of the area of the yard. There are also square footage restrictions in some areas, although they are much larger than a tiny house (800+ sqft).
  • If you have some sheds and other accessory structures, check if the coach house puts you over the accessory structure limit – in some areas they can’t take up more than 50% of your yard space, and in other areas no more than 5%. 

Where on the property can they be located?

  • For properties less than .4 hectares, a coach house can be in the rear yard only (.4 hectares is 0.988 of an acres).
  • Coach houses can’t be closer to the front or outside corner of the property (for corner lots) than the principal house is required to be.
  • At the side and back of the property, the coach house must be 1 meter from the edge of the lot if that side of the coach house faces a road or has no windows or entrances. Otherwise, it should be 4 meters from the edge.

What about water, parking, etc?

  • No additional parking is required. In most cases, you won’t be able to build a new driveway to the coach house, but the resident can park in your existing driveway next to or in tandem with your vehicle.
  • For the urban area, the coach house must be hooked up to water and sewer from the main house, which must be on a public or communal water and waste water system. For rural areas where these services are not available, you’ll need a Site Plan Control Application to confirm on site water suitability. You can either hook up to the main house or a separate well and septic system.
  • You must provide a walkway from a driveway, public street or travelled lane to the coach house. The walkway should be between 1.2 metres and 1.5 metres in width.

What are the costs and permit process?

  • As of September 18, 2020, coach houses are exempt from Development Charges as per provincial legislation.
  • You will need a building permit. Call 3-1-1 and ask to speak to the Building Code Services office assigned to your property address. Even if you’re not ready to officially apply, you can still call for an informal consultation.

What else do I need to know?

  • Your property taxes and insurance policy will likely change if you add a coach house
  • If you can’t conform exactly to the regulations, you can request a minor variance to the zoning by-law. You can call 3-1-1 to discuss the details with a city planner.

City of Ottawa website links:

The process for building a coach house:


Ok that was a lot of information, but generally, we have to say these regulations are pretty flexible! If you find that you are not able to satisfy them all exactly, you can also apply for a minor variance for the coach house, or apply for a garden suite. 

Garden Suite Regulations in Ottawa

A garden suite is essentially the same thing as a coach house, but you have to apply for it as a temporary rezoning of your property. Basically, a garden suite gives you permission to house a specific person in a separate small building for up to 10 years or until they no longer need it. 

Garden suite regulations are very similar to a coach house except the size allowed is ever so slightly bigger (up to 65% of the footprint of the principal building) and setbacks are a bit more flexible. Interestingly, there is no mention of how a garden suite can be serviced. 

With garden suites, expect to pay much more upfront for the application and subsequent rezoning, if approved. 

Link to detailed regulations on placement of garden suites:

Also, because you will probably need to know this: 

Link to building retrofit water and sewer connections (to connect the tiny home to services):


Comments are closed.