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Secondary suites and backyard suites

 

​Important terms

​Secondary suite: A self-contained dwelling unit within the main residence that has separate living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. These are commonly referred to as basement suites or in-law suites. 

Backyard suite: A self-contained dwelling unit in a detached building that has separate living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. These are commonly referred to as garage suites, garden suites, or laneway homes.

Secondary Suite vs. Backyard Suite diagram

Before you start

If you’re looking to develop a secondary suite, or legalize an existing suite, a permit process exists for approval. Secondary suites are only allowed within certain land use districts, and each district has different rules and requirements, as defined in the Land Use Bylaw

To determine if your property is currently eligible, meaning that it is zoned for a secondary suite, enter your address in the property information tool and your land use district will be displayed. To find the rules specific to your property, see the rules section below.

What rules does my property have for suites?

Suites are only allowed within certain Land Use Districts. Each district has different rules and requirements as defined in the Land Use Bylaw. Use the property information tool to determine the district your property is within. You can expand the district to read the rules for suites.

R-C1L​

Currently, secondary suites and backyard suites are not listed uses in this land use district. To allow for this use, an approved land use redesignation would be required.

R-C1Ls

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-C1Ls. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Suite requirements: 

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.* 
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.* 
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A  private amenity space for the use of the suite tenant that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the Land Use Bylaw rules explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district would be exempt from obtaining a development permit, and a building permit application would be required to approve the suite.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1Ls. 

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Suite requirements:

  • A maximum floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • ​Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-C1

Currently, secondary suites and backyard suites are not listed uses in this land use district. To allow for this use, an approved land use redesignation would be required.

R-C1s

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-C1s. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Suite requirements: 

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.* 
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.* 
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area, or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1s. 

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area, or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-C1N

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1N. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Lot requirements: 

  • A minimum property width of 9 m or 7.5 m if it is located on a corner property or a property with a lane. 
  • Three or more motor vehicle parking stalls on the property.

Suite requirements: 

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.* 
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • ​Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.​

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C1N. 

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Lot requirements:

  • A minimum property width of 9 m or 7.5 m if it is located on a corner property or a property with a lane. 
  • Three or more motor vehicle parking stalls on the property.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area, or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-C2

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-C2. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Lot requirements: 

  • A minimum property width of 9 m or 7.5 m if it is located on a corner property or a property with a lane.
  • Three or more motor vehicle parking stalls on the property.

Suite requirements:

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.* 
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2 when the property width is less than 13 m, and have no maximum when the property width is greater than 13 m.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area, or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation. 

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-C2.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Lot requirements: 

  • A minimum property width of 9 m, or 7.5 m if it is located on a corner property or a property with a lane.
  • Three or more motor vehicle parking stalls on the property.

Suite requirements: ​

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • ​0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-1

Currently, secondary suites and backyard suites are not listed uses in the land use district. To allow for this use, an approved land use redesignation is required to change to a district which would allow for suites.

R-1s

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-1s. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Suite requirements: ​

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.* 
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • ​Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation. 

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-1s

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • ​0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application. 

R-1N

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-1N. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Suite requirements: 

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.* 
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.​

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-1N. 

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building using as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m. 
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • ​Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-2

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-2. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Lot requirements: 

  • A minimum property width of 9 m or 7.5 m if it is located on a corner property or a property with a lane. 
  • Three or more motor vehicle parking stalls on the property.

Suite requirements: 

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.* 
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2* when the property width is less than 13 m and have no maximum when the property width is greater than 13 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation. 

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-2.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Lot requirements: 

  • A minimum property width of 9 m or 7.5 m if it is located on a corner property or a property with a lane.
  • Three or more motor vehicle parking stalls on the property.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2*.
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building using as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is  outdoors.
    • ​Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-2M

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-2M. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Suite requirements: 

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.* 
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2 when the property width is less than 13 m and have no maximum when the property width is greater than 13 m.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation. 

Backyard Suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-2M.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings or contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building using as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m is required between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • ​Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-MH

Currently, secondary suites and backyard suites are not listed uses in this land use district. To allow for this use, an approved land use redesignation is required.​

R-CG

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-CG and M-CG. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, contextual single detached dwellings, semi detached dwellings, contextual semi detached dwellings and rowhouses. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 70 m2 when the property width is less than 13.0 m; when the property width is over 13.0 m there is no maximum floor area.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall in addition to what the property currently requires; however, no parking stall is required when the floor area of the secondary suite is 45.0 m2 or less.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a Development Permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation. 

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in R-CG and M-CG.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, contextual single detached dwellings, semi detached dwellings, contextual semi detached dwellings or rowhouses. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite. This may be reduced to zero when:
    • The accessory residential building or backyard suite on the adjacent property has a setback of 0.1 m or less at the shared side property line for any portion of the building that is recessed 0.6 m or greater from the front façade or the rear façade of the building and is setback less than 0.6 m from the side property line.
    • The building setback is not greater than 0.1 m from the side property line for any portion of a building that is recessed 0.6 m or greater from the front façade or the rear façade of the building and is setback less than 1.2 m from the side property line.
    • The wall at the shared side property line is constructed of maintenance-free materials and there is no eaves overhanging onto an adjacent property.
    • All roof drainage from the building is discharged through eavestroughs and downspouts onto the property.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires; however, no parking stall is required when the floor area of the secondary suite is 45.0 m2 or less.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

There is no requirement for a building setback from a property line with a party wall.​

* Suite area does not include common area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

M-CG

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in M-CG. 

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings and contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 70 m2 when the property width is less than 13.0 m; when the property width is over 13.0 m there is no maximum floor area.*
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall in addition to what the property currently requires; however, no parking stall is required when the floor area of the secondary suite is 45.0 m2 or less.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a Development Permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation. 

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as a discretionary use in M-CG.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings and contextual single detached dwellings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property. 

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite. This may be reduced to zero when:
    • The accessory residential building or backyard suite on the adjacent property has a setback of 0.1 m or less at the shared side property line for any portion of the building that is recessed 0.6 m or greater from the front façade or the rear façade of the building and is setback less than 0.6 m from the side property line.
    • The building setback is not greater than 0.1 m from the side property line for any portion of a building that is recessed 0.6 m or greater from the front façade or the rear façade of the building and is setback less than 1.2 m from the side property line.
    • The wall at the shared side property line is constructed of maintenance-free materials and there is no eaves overhanging onto an adjacent property.
    • All roof drainage from the building is discharged through eavestroughs and downspouts onto the property.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 7.5 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires; however, no parking stall is required when the floor area of the secondary suite is 45.0 m2 or less.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

There is no requirement for a building setback from a property line with a party wall.​

* Suite area does not include common area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

R-G or ​​R-Gm​

Secondary suite

Secondary suites are listed as a permitted use in R-G and R-Gm.

Secondary suites are only allowed within single detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, and rowhouse buildings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

Suite requirements: 

  • Suites that are entirely located in a basement do not have a maximum floor area.* 
  • Suites that are not entirely located within a basement have a maximum suite floor area of 100 m2.* 
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires.
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

If the rules of the Land Use Bylaw explained above are met, a secondary suite within this district does not require a development permit; only a building permit is needed.

If your proposed suite does not meet one or more of the Land Use Bylaw rules, you may be required to apply for a development permit, for The City to review your proposed suite and potentially grant a relaxation. 

Backyard suite

Backyard suites are listed as permitted use in R-G and R-Gm.

Backyard suites are only allowed on the same property as single detached dwellings, semi-detached dwellings, and rowhouse buildings. There must not be more than one suite located on a property.

You must apply for a development permit for The City to review your proposed suite.

Suite requirements: 

  • A maximum suite floor area of 75 m2.*
  • A minimum building setback from a rear property line of:
    • 1.5 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite.
    • 0.6 m for any portion of the building used as a private garage.
  • A minimum building setback from a side property line of 1.2 m for any portion of the building used as a backyard suite, except if the party wall separating two or more dwelling units is on the property line.
  • A minimum separation of 3.0 m between the closest facade of the main residential building to the closest facade of the backyard suite.
  • A maximum building height of 10 m.
  • A minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall, in addition to what the property currently requires. 
  • A private amenity space that:
    • Is outdoors.
    • Has a minimum area of 7.5 m2 with no dimension less than 1.5 m.

* Suite area does not include common area or the area below stairways and landings. Required floor area can be relaxed to a maximum of 10 per cent through a development permit application.

Other

For any other land use district not listed in this section, please contact the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 for more information.

Existing suites

The rules for existing suites vary, depending on the time they were constructed. There are many benefits involved in making an existing suite legal. The building permit application process required to legalize a suite ensures that the Alberta Building Code is met to make living in a secondary suite safe. Legal suites are added to The City’s suite registry, which is one way for owners to promote or verify a safe suite when seeking perspective tenants.

Pre-1970 suites

The Land Use Bylaw was revoked prior to March 16, 1970, making all buildings that existed legal as of this date. This means if the secondary suite existed prior to March 16, 1970, it is not required to meet the rules outlined in each land use district. These suites are considered legal but non-conforming to current bylaw and code requirements. 

These suites are allowed to continue as long as:

  • There have been no structural changes
  • The suite has not been discontinued for any period longer than six months

To make the suite legal, obtain proper approval and appear on our secondary suite registry, whether you are proposing construction or not, you must apply for a building permit. Within the building permit application, you are required to sign a declaration that the suite has existed since prior to March 16, 1970. Even if you are not planning construction, there will likely still be upgrades required to make it legal. For more information, contact 311 and ask to speak to a safety codes officer. 

Post-1970 suites

From March 16, 1970 until June 1, 2008, secondary suites were not listed in the Land Use Bylaw, and therefore are considered illegal or non-conforming if they do not have any approvals. 

The City responds to complaints about illegal suites and inspects these properties to see if there is a violation of the Land Use Bylaw. City inspectors will investigate to 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 owner fails to comply, then legal action can be taken.

To make these suites legal, proper permits must be obtained. To find out the rules and what permits would be required, refer to your land use district above. ​

What permits do I need?

The scope of work being performed will dictate which permits are required. If a development permit is required, this must be applied for and approved prior to building permit and trade permit applications. 

Land use redesignation ​​

A land use redesignation is a planning application to change the district of a property to allow for a particular development. This process would be required if your current district does not include secondary suite or backyard suite as a listed use. 

Note: City Council has currently waived the application fees for a land use redesignation, which allows your home’s use to change to R-1s, R-C1s or R-C1Ls.

When is a building permit required?

Secondary suites and backyard suites always require a building permit. Whether the suite is existing or new, a building permit ensures that the suite meets safety requirements. To get a better understanding of these building code safety requirements, see Bylaw and code considerations section or contact 311 and asked to speak to a safety codes officer. 

When is a development permit required?

Because of The City’s development permit exemption, secondary suites only require a development permit if:

  • It is listed as a discretionary use in the specific land use district.
  • It is listed as a permitted use, where the rules of the bylaw are not met, therefore requiring a relaxation.

Backyard suites always require a development permit.

Development permits, developme​nt permit exemption and building permits

Development permits for home improvement renovations allow The City to review your project or grant a relaxation when the development does not meet the rules of the Land Use Bylaw.  

City Council has approved a development permit exemption for secondary suites until March 3, 2017. If your property is eligible, you will be able to save the cost and time associated with a development permit application. In this case, only a building permit application is required.

A development permit is required if you are not eligible for this exemption. 

Note: City Council has currently waived the application fees for secondary suite or backyard suite development permits.

A building permit is required to ensure that the built environment is safe and meets the Alberta Building Code. A building permit does not cover work performed that requires a trade permit (i.e. plumbing, electrical and mechanical). 

When is a trade permit required?

You are able to obtain a homeowner’s plumbing, electrical and gas fireplace installation permits. To qualify for a homeowner’s trade permit, you must:

  • Perform the work yourself
  • Own the home with proof of ownership (in cases where the property has been purchased recently)
  • Live in the home

If you are hiring a contractor, they must have a valid City business licence to obtain the proper permits. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure these permits have been obtained.

Note: You cannot apply for a trade permit on behalf of a contractor. If your contractor is performing the work, they must apply for the applicable trade permit.

Risks when a permit is not obtained

If you, as a homeowner or contractor, do not have permits for work that has been started or completed, there could be consequences if you do not take action to correct the situation, such as:

  • A stop work order issued by a City inspector.
  • A fine for building without a permit.
  • Having to undo work that has been completed.
  • Future legal and financial issues when selling your property or making an insurance claim.
  • Having to do more work than was originally planned and budgeted.

Note: As a homeowner, you are responsible for paying any penalties, even if you hired a contractor who assured you permits were not needed. If you’re unsure if you need a permit, contact the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311. Find out if your contractor has a City of Calgary business license at calgary.ca/contractors.

Timelines

We’re committed to providing you with a timely response on your permit application.

The redesignation of a piece of land typically takes three to six months; however, the process may be prolonged further if there are difficult policy or technical issues that need to be resolved.

Development permit timelines vary based on the type of application and the impacts to the community.

Most building permits for home improvement projects can be issued the same day; however, a more in-depth examination of the application can be required and will take about one week.

Bylaw and code considerations

Note: It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the work being carried out conforms to any restrictive covenants, caveats or other restrictions that are registered on the land title.

Determining the age of an existing suite

There are many ways you can determine the age of a suite, such as contacting previous owners, interviewing neighbours, judging the age of fixtures, mouldings, cabinets, wiring and more.

The City will not inspect properties for the benefit of lawyers, realtors or prospective buyers to determine the legal status of a suite, nor will The City give a letter of comfort for this purpose.

Ceiling and door heights

The Alberta Building Code requires a minimum floor to ceiling height of 1.95 m for basement suites.

  • Ceiling heights can be reduced to 1.85 m where ductwork and beams make drop ceilings necessary.
  • Doors within the suite may be reduced to 1.89 m where required.

Entry and exit points

The main residence and suite must have at least one exit that leads directly outside. This may be a door that leads to an exterior stair or a door to a common set of interior stairs that is separated from both the main residence and suite.

  • A stairway used in an exit requires a minimum width of 860 mm and must have at least one handrail.
  • Handrails should be mounted between 800 mm and 965 mm above the stair. The height is measured vertically from the front edge of the stair tread.
  • At least one light fixture that can be switched both on and off at the top and bottom of the stairs is required.
  • A landing must be provided at the top and bottom of all stairs. The landing must be at least 860 mm long and at least as wide as the stairs.
  • Doors serving the exit are required to be a minimum of 810 mm wide and 1.89 m high. Utility rooms, laundry rooms, furnace rooms and all other doors leading to the exit must also be at least 810 mm wide.

Bedroom egress windows

Each bedroom must have at least one window that can be fully opened and used to escape during an emergency.

  • The window must have an unobstructed opening of 0.35 m2 in area and a minimum height and width of 380 mm. See the acceptable window style illustration below for examples and additional requirements.
  • When a window well is required, a clearance of 760 mm must be provided in front of the window. If a casement-type window is used, it must swing open a full 90 degrees. See the window well illustration below for more details.
  • Security bars serving a bedroom window must be removable from the inside without the use of tools, keys or special knowledge. A large majority of security bars do not meet the requirements and are not accepted.

Acceptable window styles

Shaded areas illustrated below represent unobstructed openings that must be 0.35 m² with no dimension less than 380 mm.

Casement window
Casement window: Casement windows must open a full 90 degrees when a window well is required.
Horizontal sliding window
Horizontal sliding window
Vertical sliding window
Vertical sliding window
Inward swinging awning window
Inward swinging awning window: must hold open at 90 degrees unassisted

Smoke and fire protection

Preventing the spread of smoke and fire is essential for safety. The Alberta Building Code requires the installation of a smoke tight separation between the main residence and suite.

  • A smoke tight separation is constructed by installing a minimum of 12.7 mm (0.5 in) thick drywall on the ceiling and on both sides of wall studs that separate a suite from main residence. All drywall joints must be taped and filled with drywall compound to provide a smoke tight joint.
  • Any services, such as pipes or ductwork that pass through a protective separation, need to be tightly fitted and sealed with a drywall compound. In retrofit situations, existing furnace rooms may have many obstructions that make smoke tight separation difficult to construct.
  • One option may be to remove all existing HVAC ducts to ease the installation of drywall. Once the separation is constructed, new holes may be cut to install ductwork.
  • Doors installed in smoke tight separations must be solid core wood at least 45 mm thick and have a self-closing device.
  • Smoke detectors must be installed at or near the ceiling on each floor level in the main residence and suite. They are also required in each bedroom, common space and any supplementary spaces. They must be interconnected, so the activation of one smoke detector causes all units in the home to sound.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are required in each unit. They should be installed at the height specified by the manufacturer. The CO detectors should be located within 5 m of any bedrooms, interconnected and permanently wired. One detector should be centrally located in the main residence and the suite, and one CO detector is sufficient. A CO detector that is a combined smoke detector and carbon monoxide unit is permitted at the owner’s discretion.
Cross-section illustrating smoke detector and carbon monoxide locations
Cross-section illustrating smoke detector and carbon monoxide locations

Exterior stairways

There are additional requirements to consider when the only exit for a suite is served by an exterior staircase.

  • If the exterior exit staircase is not fully enclosed with walls and a roof, the windows themselves must be protected. This is achieved by installing fire-rated glass block or wired glass in fixed steel frames. This is required for all windows located within 5 m vertically, 3 m horizontally or 10 m below the exit staircase. This will protect the basement exit from being compromised if a fire occurs.
  • It is important to know that only fixed windows can be fire-protected in this way. Bedroom windows must be operable.

New exterior stairwells and engineering

The Alberta Building Code requires all foundation footings in Calgary to have at least 1.2 m of ground cover for protection.

  • New exterior exit stairs must include a shallow foundation design by a registered professional engineer, since stairwell excavation impacts the required frost cover.
  • Retaining walls required alongside the new staircase opening often retain greater than 1 m of soil. In these cases the retaining wall may be required to be included in the engineered design​​.

Adding or increasing window size

Adding new windows or increasing the size of existing windows in a concrete foundation impacts the wall’s ability to resist soil pressure.

  • The Alberta Building Code restricts opening sizes and configurations. For example, a single window may be 1.2 m in width while two windows, spaced less than their average width apart, are considered one large opening. When adding multiple windows in one wall, the maximum width of all window openings that exceed any of the above requirements must be designed by a professional engineer registered in Alberta. This is typically called a lateral support design. It must include the engineer’s details andrecommendations on how to provide adequate support for the openings, in accordance with Part 4 of the Alberta Building Code.
  • Safety codes officers can require that a registered engineer be hired to make any structural changes or alterations to your property, based on the size and complexity of the project.

Protection of secondary suite exits

There are additional requirements to consider when the only exit for a secondary suite is served by an exterior staircase. If the exterior exit staircase is not fully enclosed with walls and a roof, the windows themselves must be protected. This is achieved by installing fire-rated glass block or wired glass in fixed steel frames. This is required for all windows located within 5 m vertically, 3 m horizontally or 10 m below the exit staircase. This will protect the basement exit from being compromised if a fire occurs. It is important to know that only fixed windows can be fire protected in this way. Bedroom windows must be operable.

Protection of Secondary Suite exits option A: uncovered entry
Protection of secondary suite exits option A: uncovered entry
Protection of Secondary Suite exits option B: covered entry
Protection of secondary suite exits option B: covered entry

Heating and ventilation

An independent heating and ventilation system that includes independent ductwork is required for a secondary suite.

Several heating systems can be used:

  • A second forced air furnace may be installed and dedicated to the suite.
  • An electric baseboard heaters or hydronic radiant heating may be installed with an independent ventilation system, like a heat recovery ventilator.

If a​ single boiler is being used for both units, separate zone controls are required for each unit.

Heating equipment requires access provisions for inspection, maintenance and cleaning.​

Plumbing

Secondary suites must have:

  • A supply of hot water and at least one kitchen sink, bathroom sink, toilet and a bathtub or shower.
  • A space for laundry facilities in each residence, or a common location that is easily accessible to all occupants.
  • A back-flow prevention device on the branch drain of the sanitary sewer line.

Electrical

A common electrical panel can serve both units, provided there are no shared branch circuits between the suites. It is recommended the electrical panel be located in a common area, or that sub-panels be installed in each suite.

Code and safety requirements for existing secondary suites built before December 31, 2006

There may be upgrades required to meet Alberta Building​ Code and safety requirements to legalize an existing suite. For more information, please contact 311 and ask to speak to a safety codes officer.

What documents do I need?

Where you live and the type of property you have will determine which requirement list you need to apply for a permit. Please read the content carefully and bring your completed documents to the Planning Services Centre.

Sa​mple drawings for building permits and development permits for secondary suites and backyard suites​.

Inspections

Book your inspections by contacting 311 and providing them with your permit number.

Generally, your project will require a rough-in and a final inspection for each building and trade permit pulled, though additional inspections may be required. You can contact 311 on the morning of your inspection to find out if it will be in the morning or afternoon.

A development completion permit inspection may be required if a development permit is involved in your project. Call our Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 to determine if a development completion permit is required.

Call before you dig

Always call Alberta One Call before you dig: 1-800-242-3447. For more information or to submit a locate request, visit Alberta One-Call.

Disclaimer: This information has no legal status and cannot be used as an official interpretation of the various bylaws, codes and regulations currently in effect. The City of Calgary accepts no responsibility to persons relying solely on this information. Web pages are updated periodically.

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