Legal Duplex vs Secondary In-Law Suite

What are the benefits of owning a Legal Duplex versus having an ‘In Law Suite’

Investors find homes with secondary, in-law suites appealing, mostly because they are collecting rent from two tenants, instead of one.

What you need to know before making this type of investment, are the local cities policies and restrictions against illegal, secondary units. You must also be aware of how to convert a single family swelling into a multi family residence, legally.

Here we will outline the differences between legal & illegal secondary apartments, and the benefits of owning a legal Duplex in The Greater Hamilton Area.

What is an in-law suite?

An in-law suite is a single family home with an additional, attached living space (usually in a basement), with a kitchen and bedroom(s).

They are popular amongst foreign & immigrated families, or with relatives that want to live together but not independent.

Although they don’t share living space, a kitchen, or bathroom, they still share the monthly utility costs.

Why Legal vs. In-Law?

Spread Your Risk

If you have one lease structured with a family (regardless if there are one or two families living in the home), and they default on their rent, you are out of pocket for a month. 

If you have two separate units, each on a separate lease, and one family defaults on their payment, you are still subsidizing your expenses from the rental income of the other unit.


Unit One: $1600 monthly rent

Unit Two: $1200 monthly rent
= $2800 income.

Unit Two doesn’t pay rent, then the $1600 from your Unit One tenants still (hopefully) covers your monthly mortgage payment, taxes & insurance for that month. Yes, you are losing cash flow for the month, but you will not be in debt, or have to pay from your personal account.

Having a legal Duplex is a safe way of spreading your risk, in this savvy investor business model.

Peace of Mind

Your tenants will feel safe knowing that their landlord completed renovations with integrity, and properly renovated the units with a legal fire break, in case of emergency.

You will have peace of mind knowing that The City won’t be able to issue you tickets or violations for having an illegal unit.

Maximize Appreciation

If you are doing a Duplex Conversion on a Single Family Residential Home (turning it into a Multi Family Property), you are probably keeping it for your long term portfolio. But even if you decide to sell it immediately after converting it into a Duplex, or sell it down the line, you will definitely see a higher sale price then for a Single Family Residential Home with an ‘in-law suite’. The initial investment will be higher to bring the secondary unit up to code (think; installing fire breaks, appropriate points of egress etc), but your cash flowing investment will see not only higher monthly returns then an illegal suite for your potential investor, but a higher sale price for you as well.


*Opportunity is there when you run your worst case scenario, and you are still cash flowing properly.


Are you interested in learning more about how a Duplex Conversion can benefit your investment portfolio?

Book a FREE Consultation with us today to learn more. 905.630.8255

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