Watch our playlist on secondary suites
Safety measures that can save your life
The safety requirements under Alberta’s safety codes are meant to protect people in the event of an emergency, like a fire. Here are just three important safety features to keep in mind, and always check for when considering any place to live:
Key things to check for
Each bedroom should have at least one window that can be opened from the inside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge. The window should be unobstructed, and it should be accessible and large enough for anyone to fit through. If the window has security bars, they should be operable from the inside without the use of any tools.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be present in each unit within the house, and connected to each other so that activation of one alarm would cause all alarms within both units to sound. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be inspected, tested and maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Each unit within the house should have at least one exit that leads directly outside. Every exit door should be able to swing inward.
Creating a legal and safe basement suite
There is a big advantage to developing or legalizing a basement suite now because you may be able to skip the development permit step under the development permit exemption program, saving you both time and money. See applying for a secondary suite for more.
Secondary suites benefits
- Choice to invest in your home.
- Boosts income and helps pay down a mortgage.
- Enables extended family to live nearby by providing accommodations for elderly parents, disabled family members or children.
- Allows seniors to remain in their home and community while on a fixed income.
- Downsize space without moving out of your neighbourhood.
- Often increases the value of your property for re-sale.
- Increases the places people can live and afford.
- Unlike many apartment units, secondary suites are primarily ground-oriented and have access to a yard.
- Homes with secondary suites are often in established neighbourhoods near schools, parks, recreation centres, and other amenities.
- Legal and safe secondary suites have met all the requirements under Alberta’s Safety Codes Act (building, trade and fire codes).
- Suites help maintain a community's population with modest growth.
- Maximizes the use of existing infrastructure in a neighbourhood.
- Community population is stabilized without significantly changing the character of existing neighbourhoods.
- Neighbourhoods have more housing options for families, helping bring children back into areas where school enrolment has declined.
- Improves safe rental stock.
- Population stability results in better use of land and City services, like transit.
- Creates choice in Calgary's housing market, helping to attract and retain employees in Calgary.
Frequently asked questions
Secondary suite registry
What is the secondary suite registry?
The secondary suite registry is a voluntary online, searchable list identifying legal and safe secondary suites in Calgary. These suites have been registered and inspected to meet Alberta’s safety code requirements. Go to secondarysuites.calgary.ca to view the registry.
What is the goal of the registry?
The registry aims to build awareness with Calgarians about the importance of public safety, and the safety features of a legal secondary suite. Suites that have been inspected by The City and meet the requirements under Alberta’s safety codes provide the necessary measures to help protect lives.
What are the advantages of the registry and sticker for owners?
Registered secondary suites are listed on The City’s website and receive a numbered sticker that can be posted at the main entrance of the suite. Owners can use the registry and sticker as a means to promote their suite to current and future residents.
Is there a cost to be on the registry?
No. The registry program is intended to promote the importance of safe secondary suites for Calgarians.
How do I get a secondary suite sticker for my suite?
Existing legal and safe secondary suites have been sent a letter, and two numbered stickers for their suite. If you own a legal and safe suite that doesn’t appear on the registry, please contact 311.
New secondary suite owners will be added to the registry and will receive a pair of numbered stickers following their final building permit inspection. A safety codes officer will provide the stickers to homeowners.
Where do I place the sticker on my property?
We recommend placing the stickers on the entry point of the suite. This informs current and future residents that suite is part of The City’s registry program.
If the property is sold, does the registry transfer to the new owner?
Yes. The registry is connected to the address containing the legal and safe secondary suite.
How long is the sticker valid for?
There is no expiry date.
How do I opt in or out of the registry?
If you own a legal and safe secondary suite but you were missed from our registry, or if you’d like to opt out of the registry, please contact 311.
Can I make modifications to my secondary suite after the building permit is approved?
Any changes to your secondary suite could require additional permits and inspections. To ensure modifications meet the requirements of Alberta’s safety codes and do not alter the safety features of your suite contact The City’s Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 for assistance.
What penalties might I face for owning an unsafe suite?
Illegal secondary suite owners can be charged under the Safety Codes Act for code deficiencies. A conviction under the Safety Codes Act carries a maximum fine of $100,000 for a first offence.
Can I be removed from the registry?
Yes. The City investigates all complaints, should your secondary suite be found to no longer comply with Alberta’s safety codes, your suite will be removed from the registry.
Development permit exemption
What is a development permit?
A development permit is a type of permit which allows the use of a site for construction that ensures planning and development rules in the Land Use Bylaw are followed. Normally, a development permit is required whether the proposed secondary suite is a permitted or discretionary use as per the Land Use Bylaw. However, once the exemption takes effect, permitted use secondary suites will not require a development permit so long as no relaxations are required. To learn more about your requirements and how to build a safe and legal secondary suite, visit applying for a secondary suite.
What does the development permit exemption program mean for homeowners wanting to build a secondary suite?
If your proposed suite is a permitted use and meets all the Land Use Bylaw rules, you do not need to apply for a development permit. This will make it less expensive, faster and easier to obtain approval from The City for a safe and legal secondary suite, as you will be able to proceed directly to the building permit stage.
What is the difference between a permitted use and a discretionary use?
Suites are listed as a discretionary use in land use districts such as R-1N and R-C1N, which means that unlike a permitted use, community associations and neighbours are notified of the proposed suite and are given the opportunity to provide input (and appeal a decision) during the approval process.
Backyard suites are always a discretionary use since they result in a visible change to the property.
Where a suite is a permitted use, the development permit exemption will allow you to proceed directly to the building permit stage, as long as your application does not require any relaxations from the Land Use Bylaw rules.
What's the fastest way to determine if my property is eligible?
You can enter your address on our applying for a secondary suite page and determine if you need a land use redesignation or a development permit, or if you are eligible for the exemption.
How much time and money might the development permit exemption program save homeowners developing a secondary suite?
It is estimated applicants will save about a month in the permit application process and an estimated $2,200 in expenses from permit fees and drawings.