By Sean Hayes
This week the City of Calgary unveiled something that will be a game changer for landlords who own secondary suites. They released an online registry that lists and maps all of the legal secondary suites in the City of Calgary. This online registry currently holds 431 legal secondary suites. All owners of legal secondary suites can now proudly display a sticker that will identify them as a safe legal secondary suite.
If you are the owner of a secondary suite in Calgary, this online registry and sticker program is going to make things interesting. If your suite is legal and you are in the registry, you can relax and enjoy the benefits of having a legal secondary suite. Your tenants will know they are enjoying a safe suite, your property value will be higher than others with illegal suites and you will not have to face the liability issues of having an illegal suite. If, however, your suite is not in the registry, it could be one of three reasons, one, your suite is illegal; two, you think your suite is legal but it is actually illegal or three, your suite is legal and it fell through the cracks. I will outline each point in the hopes that all owners of secondary suites can meet the city standards and be included in the safe suite registry.
Your Suite is Illegal
This will be the most common reason why your secondary suite is not included in the safe suite registry. So now you know your suite is illegal, how can you make it legal? You can read about everything that has to do with secondary suites on the City’s website here. You can also read about recent changes I have blogged about here. Legalizing your secondary suite can be very easy but if you do not have the property land use, it can be difficult and take a lot of time. Regardless of the time and difficulty it takes to legalize a suite, the potential consequences of not having a legal suite outweigh the time and money it takes to legalize a suite. A conviction under the safety codes act carries a maximum fine of $100,000 for the first offence. The fire department has also been fining owners of illegal suites, you can read about one case here.You Think Your Suite is Legal but it Really is Illegal
One of the four agreements I live by is that I do not make assumptions. Are you assuming your suite is legal or do you have the paperwork to back it up? Without the proper paperwork, your suite is illegal. Can you defend your suite being legal in a court of law? Would the judge believe you if you said that someone told you it was legal, or it’s legal because it has two electrical meters, or because it has been like that since the 60’s?
I understand there are many circumstances where suites were built legally many years ago but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that city thinks they are legal today. Many people have gone to court, and won, to prove their very old secondary suites were legal. In some cases the only way to get the proper proof is to do just that. But are you prepared for the time and expense of a court battle? Don’t make the assumption that your suite is legal. If you do not have the proper paperwork that would hold up in a court of law, pursue that paperwork or take actions to make it legal according to today’s requirements. The process is not as hard as it may seem.Your Suite is Legal but It Fell Through the Cracks
The City of Calgary spent a lot of time putting together the safe suite registry. Like anything, there will be mistakes. If you have the proper paperwork proving your suite is legal and you want to be included in the registry, contact planning and development here. The safe suite registry/sticker program is an excellent program to be involved with. The program is free and does not require any work from the owner unless you did not get included in the initial cohort.
The Benefits of a Legal Secondary Suite
The safe suite registry and sticker program is going to be a game changer for owners of secondary suites. Owners of legal secondary suites can enjoy the benefits of proudly marketing the safe suite sticker and not having to worry about tenants complaining they are illegal after checking the online registry. There may be many reasons why owners of secondary suites are not in the registry, but the City of Calgary is encouraging all owners to come forward and make their suites legal. The safety of the residents in a secondary suite should be a top priority, but peace of mind and a shelter from liability are big perks for owners of legal secondary suites.
If you have any questions about anything that has to do with secondary suites, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.