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Owning a secondary suite provides affordable housing options for Calgarians as well as a potential source of income for property owners. But did you know if you are legalizing a secondary suite that was built before March 2018, it is considered an existing suite and you can take advantage of meeting basic code requirements under the current amnesty program?


The Secondary Suites Amnesty Program was introduced by The City four years ago to protect owners and renters from unsafe conditions that resulted in loss of life. The program was put into place to help owners legalize their basement and backyard suites to make them safer. Since the program started, more than 8,000 suites have been added to The City’s suite registry. And while there is still a year left of the amnesty program, now is the time to legalize your existing suite.


Here are five reasons why you should legalize your existing secondary suite before the amnesty program ends on Dec. 31, 2023


1. A legal suite, is a safe suite


Pulling the right permits and meeting the necessary safety code requirements ensures that your property is safe for others to live in. Legalizing your secondary suite protects both the owner and renter and ensures affordable housing choices are safe for renters in Calgary.


“Safety is our top priority. The goal of the amnesty program is to ensure that any dwelling built before 2018 has the appropriate safety measures to protect tenants,” says Cliff de Jong, manager of building safety at The City of Calgary.


2.  Take advantage of meeting basic code requirements 
Owners that legalize their existing suites from now until Dec. 31, 2023, can simplify their renovation checklist by making sure their suite meets the basic safety code requirements outlined as part of the amnesty program.


Suite owners must provide all bedrooms with a window exit, interconnected smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, a protected exit route from the basement to outside, drywall barriers between suites and drywall barriers in the mechanical room to meet the safety code requirements.


3.  Save thousands of dollars before the end 2023.
While permit fees for building, electrical and plumbing permits still apply, suite owners can take advantage of cost-savings of up to $700 for their development permit and secondary suite registration fee.


Not only will suite owners save on the development permit and registration fee, going through the bylaw and code review during the amnesty program can potentially save owners from investing in costly renovations needed to bring their existing suite into compliance with the current building code.


“In some cases, we’ve seen construction savings of up to $20,000 for owners who have legalized their suite during the amnesty program,” says de Jong.


After Dec. 31, 2023, all permit fees will be reinstated for secondary suites and all existing suites will have to comply with the full requirements of the National Building Code – Alberta Edition.  This will mean costly renovations for things like a second furnace, ducting and noise mitigation for the suite.


4. Legalizing an existing suite has never  been easier than it is now.


Whether that’s moving the application process online or allowing applicants to submit suite photos instead of drawings, we’re making it easier for owners to gather and submit their requirements anytime they apply.


Suite owners can familiarize themselves with the permit requirements, use the Existing Secondary Suite Permit Checklist to find out if their suite meets criteria, confirm which permits they need to apply for, apply for their permits and book inspections, all


5.  Renters know their suite is safe
The City of Calgary’s Secondary Suites Registry is an online, searchable map that shows every legal and safe suite in Calgary.


On Dec. 6, 2022, Council unanimously approved the decision to temporarily suspend a secondary suite from the registry if it is fallen into a state of disrepair or is no longer safe to inhabit. With updated safety measures in place, the registry is a strong selling feature for landlords who want to reassure prospective tenants that their rental unit is safe and maintained.


Tip for renters: Check before you rent. Enter the property address at ensure your prospective rental is registered.


For more information about legalizing an existing suite or developing a new secondary suite visit or contact the Planning Services Centre during regular hours.


Sean Chu

Sean Chu arrived in Calgary from Taiwan in 1985 speaking not a word of English, and within 7 years he was a sworn officer with the Calgary Police Service. From that point on Sean worked with the Calgary Police Service as on Officer for 21 years in a number of roles until 2013.

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