With three large universities and numerous colleges located in the City of Toronto (the “City”) and a dearth of student residences to provide accommodation, the demand for student residence rooms appears to be perpetually high. Private developers have begun to step in, in an attempt to fill this void. However, there are several issues, aside from proper zoning, a private developer must consider before setting out to construct such a building.

The most problematic aspect of a private student residence is the ambiguity of its classification. Would the residence be considered a “rooming house” and therefore be subject to the rules and regulations of Chapter 285 of the Toronto Municipal Code (the “Code”) related to “rooming houses,” or is a residence treated like any other apartment building? The answer lies in the floor plans.

A “rooming house” is defined in §285-7 of the Code as “a building that contains dwelling rooms.” “Dwelling room” is defined as “a room used or designed for human habitation and may include either but not both culinary or sanitary conveniences.” It would appear that any residence built containing both a washroom and kitchen within each student room would not be deemed a “rooming house.” This is significant because any building categorized as a rooming house requires a license. The Code currently restricts licensed rooming houses to a maximum of 25 units.

A second issue facing prospective residence owners is rent control. Private student residences do not enjoy the exemption from rent control regulations contained within subsection 5(g) of the Residential Tenancies Act, 2006 S.O. 2006, c. 17. Only student residences provided by “educational institutions” are exempt.

One final important consideration is whether it is permissible to discriminate against prospective tenants based upon their designation as a student. Subsection 2(1) of the Human Rights Code R.S.O. 1990, c. 19 sets out that “Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to the occupancy of accommodation, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status, disability or the receipt of public assistance.” Discrimination based on a person’s enrolment in college or university does not run afoul of any of the enumerated grounds and is therefore seemingly permissible.

Aaron Silver