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Is Your Basement Suite Legal?

Posted by Joe Samson on Thursday, September 26th, 2013 at 4:26pm.

Basement Suites in CalgaryThere are concerns in the Calgary real estate market over the growth in illegal suites. You might notice a suite in a case like this to look exactly identical to any other property in the city but then there is also the issue that comes with the suite operating without the legal permits for keeping such a site open.

The Calgary Herald recently reported that the building permits for suites around the city have increased from 21 in 2009 all the way to 142 last year. However, the total number of registered suites within Calgary is much lower than what is suspected. There are only 264 that have been registered in this period. In addition, city officials report that there are about 50,000 illegal suites located within the city's limits.

These properties are illegal in that they have not been zoned to operate as suites. This means that a property is being used for residences in spite of not meeting appropriate standards or regulations for creating such a property. In many cases these properties may not be designed to meet all safety or accessibility standards that all properties in Alberta must meet.

However, many of these suites are established solely with the intention of getting away from the legal considerations that many landlords find to be extremely burdensome. One such aspect comes from whether or not a permit to get such a property set up will actually be approved. It is estimated that about half of all landlords who appear at city hall to get a permit will be rejected in the process.

In addition, there was the need to pay a $4,485 fee for applying regardless of whether or not the application is accepted. Landlords have been refusing to accept this gamble and will not participate in the process, opting instead to open their suites and other rental properties on their own.

Calgary’s city council has decided to take action to encourage people to start applying for these permits by removing this fee. This is to allow people to get into the fray without having to ask any monetary losses if the application is not approved. Still, there are issues over how the application process is extremely complicated and difficult for some people to utilize.

The bothersome process of getting an application ready is a burden to too many around Calgary who need help with getting approved to operate suites. Still, there is a potential to relax the zoning restrictions that come with getting such properties ready for use in Calgary. These include the elimination of restrictions that limit the city's homeless population away from these places so they will actually have places to live in. This is to allow landlords to be more likely to operate their own legal low-cost places for living.

There is too much uncertainty with regards to how illegal suites will develop in Calgary in the near future. One thing for certain is that the development of these illegal suites may continue to evolve unless further changes are made to the process of getting approved for operating such a place.

Calgary, AB Real Estate Blog


I am a licensed member of the Real Estate Council of Alberta since 2005 - proudly representing CIR REALTY, Calgary’s largest real estate brokerage. I enjoy keeping my readers up to date with real estate related information that they can easily understand and use for their own benefit. I welcome feedbacks and comments equally from first-time visitors to my blog, past clients and also from my fellow REALTOR® colleagues. Thanks for stopping by!

1 Response to "Is Your Basement Suite Legal?"

Bill wrote: The big issue that you mention here Joe is, the property owner has to gamble that the application will be approved. For landlords already operating a profitable suite, now they are taking a chance that they will not only not get approval, but their suite could get shut down costing them money. Quite the gamble.
For homeowners that are considering converting their lower space into a suite however, this is great. They can legally add a suite, increase their property value and get everything done legally without the hefty expense to apply right now.
Bottom line, it doesn't reduce the number of illegal suites out there as there is no incentive for the illegal suite owner to take this kind of risk. So in theory it's a great idea, but in practicality it will make little impact.


Posted on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013 at 7:28am.

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