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Legalize an existing secondary suite

If you have an existing secondary suite (built before March 12, 2018), this is the right page for you. If your suite was built after March 12, 2018, please visit Build a new secondary suite​.

ID: 408

ListCategory: Legalize

Title: Step 1: Review

Description: <div class="ExternalClass48C2BC09D22D4A80A43493CC79019721">​Review rules and fees</div>

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Step 1: Review

​Review rules and fees

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Step 2: Prepare

Prepare the checklist

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Step 3: Apply

Apply online

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Step 4: Inspect

Book an inspection

We’re waiving up to $700 in fees until May 31, 2020

There’s no better time to legalize your existing suite. We're waiving the development permit and secondary suite registry fees until May 31, 2020. For existing secondary suites, we've reduced the building permit fee to $202.

What’s changing in 2020?

  • In June 2020, we will reinstate fees for the development permit ($471) and suite registry ($232).
  • Starting in June 2020, all secondary suites (regardless of construction date) will need to comply with the National Building Code - 2019 Alberta edition. The most notable change is that homes with a secondary suite will need to have a dedicated heating source, such as a furnace, for each unit.
  • All secondary and backyard suites must be on our suite registry by May 31, 2020 in order to avoid fines.

Please note

  • If your basement suite or in-law suite includes both a bathroom and cooking facilities in the unit, you must apply for the necessary secondary suite permits even if you do not intend to rent out the unit.
  • If your basement is already developed without cooking facilities, and you would like to convert it to a secondary suite, please apply for a New Secondary Suite​.​
backyard suite  

Step 1: Review the rules and fees


Property information

Fees:

​Suite type ​Permit Fee ​Safety Codes Council Fee (4%) ​Total
​Existing Secondary Suite ​$202 ​$8.08 ​​$210.08

Step 2: Prepare your application


  • Use the Existing secondary Suite checklist to determine your project’s drawing requirements.
  • For online applications, review the criteria for information on how to organize your plans and documents
  • Complete plans and collect supporting documents. Review the sample drawings if needed.

Step 3: Apply


​​​​​Apply online​​

In person
You can also apply for your permit in person by visiting the Planning Services Centre. Make sure you have all of the required documents. To skip the line, book an appointment.

Step 4: Inspections and managing your permit application


Building Code Requirements


The 2014 Alberta Fire Code identifies 4 safety considerations that must be in place in any secondary suite. You can find more information in the Secondary Suite code questions & answers advisory​.

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.



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.

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.
  • Option of sprinkler system installation in furnace room.
 

Exterior stairways and protection of secondary suite exits

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.

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.

Heating and ventilation

For pre-existing secondary suites, the use of a single heating and ventilation system to serve both the main dwelling and the secondary suite is acceptable under the Alberta Fire Code.

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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Customer support - suites

Three

<div class="ExternalClass4B24EC9075B740C3AF35C5C03FD585BE"> <p> Monday - Friday <br /> 8 a.m. - 4:15 p.m. <br /> <span class="livechat_button" id="live-chat-button" style="font-size:2rem"> <a href="https://www.livechatinc.com/customer-service-software/?partner=lc_9451334&amp;utm_source=chat_button" target="_blank">Chat with us</a> </span> 403-268-5311​<br /><a href="mailto:planninghelp@calgary.ca" target="_blank">planninghelp@calgary.ca</a></p> <p>Planning Services Centre, <br /> 3rd floor, Municipal building<br /> <a href="https://www.google.ca/maps/place/Calgary+Municipal+Building/%4051.0455957%2c-114.0564404%2c15z/data=%214m2%213m1%211s0x0:0x59565213bbf65222" target="_blank">800 Macleod Trail SE</a> </p></div>

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Customer support

Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 4:15 p.m.
Chat with us 403-268-5311​
planninghelp@calgary.ca

Planning Services Centre,
3rd floor, Municipal building
800 Macleod Trail SE

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Legal and safe: suite registry

Check the registry to find or verify a legal suite in Calgary. Registry suites include all necessary permits and have been inspected to meet Alberta's Safety Code requirements. The registry is continually updated as we approve suites.

If an operating suite does not appear on the registry, you can contact Customer support to submit a complaint.

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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.

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