Important update on secondary suites in Calgary: All secondary and backyard suites must be on the suite registry of the City of Calgary by June 2020, in order to avoid fines.
For more information on legalizing your secondary suite, please visit the website from the City of Calgary about adding and legalizing a secondary suite.
The City of Calgary describes a secondary suite in Calgary as a self-contained living space consisting of a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, located within or on the same property as a single family home. The secondary suite in Calgary is also called a basement suite, a mother-in-law suite or a granny suite.
In the past, the secondary suite in Calgary could either be illegal or legal and was used by many home owners in Calgary as mortgage helpers. However, the City of Calgary is changing its policies in regards to basement suites.
The estimate is that in Calgary there are currently about 40,000 homes where home owners rent out an illegal secondary suite. The City of Calgary only used to investigate these suites when there were complaints. Complaints could come from the public (tenants, neighbors) or from the police of fire department. If officials found a suite is illegal, they could shut it down.
At this point in time, a secondary suite is only allowed (and therefore legal) in certain areas and communities in Calgary, and only if they meet certain building, zoning and safety requirements. For example, a secondary suite is not allowed in areas zoned R-1, R-C1 or R-C1L, without a successful application for a Land Use amendment.
If the zoning is not right, this needs to be addressed first, which can take quite some time. After this has been rectified by getting a Land Use Amendment in place, a development permit application must be submitted. It is important to understand that a successful Land Use Amendment application is no guarantee that the secondary suite will be approved. After receiving the development permit, a building permit must still be applied for.
This whole process can be lengthy, costly and without any guarantees for success.
The cost aspect involves the most common requirements for a legal suite; they include (but are not limited to)
- certain ceiling heights,
- window sizes and locations,
- smoke separations,
- interconnected smoke alarms,
- independent heating and ventilation system,
- proper placement and location of gas fired furnaces, water heaters and electrical panels,
For a full list of building code requirements, visit the website from the City of Calgary.
Starting in June 2020, all secondary suites (regardless of construction date) will need to comply with the National Building Code – 2019 Alberta edition. The most notable change is that homes with a secondary suite will need to have a dedicated heating source, such as a furnace, for each unit.