How to ensure your rental suite is legal

Home buyers have seen an unprecedented increase in real estate prices, not only here in Metro Vancouver but throughout the rest of Canada as well. One way families can offset some of their monthly mortgage payment or qualify for a larger mortgage is to rent out a suite in the basement, known as a secondary suite. But what is the best way to ensure your rental suite is legal?

In order to ensure you will be operating a legal secondary suite, there are a few things you need to know before taking the leap and becoming a landlord. 

According to the City of Port Moody, “A secondary suite is a separate living area contained within a single detached home or a duplex. It functions as a self-contained living unit complete with a kitchen, bathroom and a sleeping accommodation.” As of 2004, Port Moody has allowed secondary suites in all single detached homes and the bylaw was updated in 2018 to allow duplexes to be zoned for secondary suites.

In order for the secondary suite to be legal, it must first adhere to the zoning bylaws of the jurisdiction as well as meet all the building code requirements of British Columbia. The suite must also have the proper building, plumbing, and electrical permits in place before an inspector can assess the property. The secondary or garden suite isn’t legal until a final inspection is passed.

But what if you have purchased a home with a secondary suite but you are not sure if the suite is legal? You can easily find out by calling your city’s building division. If you have a suite that doesn’t have the required permits, city staff will work with you to obtain the necessary requirements.  

Apply for the building permit

When preparing the paperwork and applying for a legal secondary suite in your home you must submit a few things to the municipality before getting the city’s approval. Each municipality will have their own requirements; however, in general, you will have to submit

two sets of floor plans. Floor plans must include the location and dimensions of all rooms (bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, living room, etc.), stairs, windows, doors, ceiling height, and all plumbing and gas fixtures must be marked. You must also submit two sets of Site Plans. Site Plans must be drawn to scale and must include the location and dimensions of all on-site parking. An access path from the street to the suite entry and any protrusions encroaching onto the access path must be shown. The location of the lane and the street must be noted, as well as finished floor elevation (the height of each floor in relation to the grade, and the grade level at the four corners of the site.

Building permit issued

The permit will be issued once the city’s Building staff has reviewed your request and your property complies with the city’s zoning bylaws. You will be required to schedule an inspection with a Building staff Inspector. If there are any issues, you will be notified and required to fix these issues before final approval is given. 

Suite Approval

Once everything is completed and the suite has passed the final inspection, the permit will be issued. The last thing you will need to do to be compliant is to register for a business license before you can rent out your secondary suite. 

In the city of Port Moody, if you are renting out your suite for additional income, you must obtain a home-based business license from the City. The business license for a secondary suite does not have a fee. However, a license is still required. An additional utility fee will also be charged on your annual utility bill. This reflects the added consumption and use of City water and sewer services.

If you are interested in purchasing a property with a secondary suite and you are not working with a Realtor, give me a call and I will be happy to help you through the process of buying a new home with a legal secondary suite.


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