Can You Live in a Commercial Property in Canada?

Commercial properties are designated areas for commercial activities, therefore they're not intended to be used as living space. However, living in a commercial space can be possible depending on several factors, such as local zoning laws and the location.

Zoning By-Laws

When looking to live in a commercial space, you have to consider your local zoning laws. These laws are used to designate certain sections of land for a specific use or mixed-use and are mostly enforced by the city or local municipalities. Zoning is crucial to ensure proper planning of cities and towns and to protect the value of real estate.

Without such laws, you may find churches or manufacturing plants opening up close to homes and schools. This can be a problem as issues such as noise pollution can arise, causing the devaluation of properties in such areas as nobody would be willing to live in such conditions.

Types of zoning include:

  • Residential
  • Commercial
  • Industrial
  • Agricultural
  • Rural
  • Historic
  • Combination

This list is by no means exhaustive as zoning can be broken down further. You may find areas specifically zoned for apartments, park space, condos, bike routes, roads, etc.

Living in a Commercial Property

There’s no specific answer as to whether you can live on a commercial property as the rules vary from city to city or town to town. If you have identified a commercial property you’d like to lease or buy, using it as a residential space will depend on several things.

First, you'll have to apply to your local planning office for rezoning to convert the commercial space to residential space. This can be easily approved depending on the property's location. If the property is in a mixed-use zoning area or between commercial space and residential space, the approval may not be a problem.

If the property is in a commercial use-only area, the approval process may not be so straightforward.

Another thing is if the property is a commercial space, chances are it lacks essential amenities such as kitchen space, bathrooms, etc. So you would have to spend quite a bit of money retrofitting it.

However, if you look for commercial property in a mixed-use area, it can be easier to find what you're looking for without going through the process of rezoning, especially if the previous owner was using it as a residential space.

Live and Work Units

With the rise in real estate prices of both commercial spaces and residential spaces, many people in Canadian cities and towns have turned to live-work units. These are spaces that double as business space and residential space.

Live-work units are mostly found in commercial-residential zones where residential, commercial and light-industrial buildings co-exist. These units include condos, converted warehouses and factories, etc.

The local bylaws usually specify the types of business that can operate in live-work units, such as salons, fashion boutiques, tattoo parlours, lawyer offices, doctor offices and barbershops.

So make sure to check your local bylaws before setting up a business.

Property Taxes

Before leasing or buying a commercial property, you need to consider the amount of property taxes that the property accrues. Commercial properties are usually charged higher taxes compared to residential properties.

If you're leasing, the rent may be higher because the landlord has to pay the higher property taxes.

If you're living in a live-work unit, your property should be considered a residential property, so you would only have to pay residential property taxes. However, laws vary from city to city, so confirm first with your local government.

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