As one of Canada's fastest-growing cities, Calgary is facing a growing demand for affordable housing options, and one solution to this challenge is secondary suites. A secondary suite is a self-contained living unit within a single-family home or a detached accessory building. Secondary suites are an excellent way to increase the availability of affordable housing while also providing homeowners with an additional source of income. However, there are some important legal considerations that homeowners must keep in mind when considering the creation of a secondary suite on their property.
Refer to City of Calgary's newest Bylaw IP2007 for all Secondary Suites information.
A legal suite is a secondary suite that has been authorized by the City of Calgary through the proper permitting process. To be considered legal, a secondary suite must comply with all relevant zoning bylaws, building codes, and fire codes. The permitting process involves submitting an application, paying a fee, and meeting specific requirements, including a site inspection and the submission of floor plans.
Legal secondary suites are an excellent way for homeowners to increase the value of their property while providing affordable housing options to tenants. Legal suites also offer the homeowner some protection from liability in the event of an accident or incident on the property. Legal secondary suites are also more attractive to potential tenants, as they offer the assurance that they are renting a safe and compliant living space. The Secondary Suite Registry will help you find whether the suite is legal or not.
An illegal suite is a secondary suite that has not been authorized by the City of Calgary through the proper permitting process. Illegal suites are a concern for both homeowners and tenants, as they often do not comply with zoning bylaws, building codes, or fire codes. In some cases, an illegal suite may have been built without obtaining the necessary permits or inspections, or it may have been created by modifying the existing living space in a way that does not meet building code requirements. Legalizing an existing secondary suite
Illegal suites are not only a safety concern, but they also expose the homeowner to significant liability if someone is injured or harmed on the property. Additionally, if the city becomes aware of an illegal suite, the homeowner may be subject to fines and other penalties. Sometimes they are referred to as a mother in law suite.
A non-conforming suite is a secondary suite that was legally established but no longer complies with current zoning or land use bylaws. This means that the suite was legal at the time it was created, but changes to the bylaws or regulations mean that it is no longer in compliance.
For example, a non-conforming suite may have been created before the city changed its zoning regulations around secondary suites, and as a result, it no longer complies with the current regulations. In some cases, a non-conforming suite may be grandfathered in, meaning that it can continue to operate as long as it does not undergo any significant changes or modifications. In other cases, a non-conforming suite may be required to undergo changes or modifications to bring it into compliance with the current regulations.
History using Bylaw 2P80 (pre existing IP2007)
1983 to 2007:
The current bylaws ( Calgary Land Use Bylaw 2P80) ie. a kitchen ( cooking facilities as above, and also sinks, lower cabinets and counter tops) is not allowed in a basement suite.
There are many ways you can determine the age of a suite such as contacting previous owners; interviewing neighbors; judging the age of fixtures, moldings, cabinets, wiring, etc.
The City of Calgary responds to complaints about illegal suites and inspects these properties to see if there is a violation of the Land Use Bylaw. Our development field technicians, through their investigations, determine the date of construction and apply the rules as listed above. If a violation is found, the property owners are required to remove either the full kitchen or just the cooking facilities. If the owners fail to comply, legal action is taken against them. The City of Calgary will not inspect properties for the benefit of lawyers, realtors, or perspective buyers to determine the legal status of a suite, nor will the City give a "letter of comfort" for this purpose. A common misunderstanding occurs with R-2 properties. In order for two suites to exist, the rule states that the property must have a minimum 15-metre frontage AND 466 Sq Metres oflot area.
The bylaws in effect at that time said the cooking facilities such as a stove, 220 volt wiring, hot plate, microwave oven or toaster oven) were not allowed in a basement suite.
Prior to 1970:
The courts have determined that anything constructed or in use prior to 1970 is considered to be non-conforming.
If you are a homeowner considering the creation of a secondary suite on your property, it is important to understand the difference between legal, illegal, and non-conforming suites. Legal suites offer homeowners and tenants peace of mind, while illegal suites can expose homeowners to significant liability and penalties. Non-conforming suites require careful consideration and may require modifications to bring them into compliance with current regulations.