Legalize an existing secondary suite
This page has information about legalizing existing secondary suites (built before March 12, 2018). If your suite was built after March 12, 2018, please visit Build a new secondary suite.
We’re waiving up to $900 in fees until December 31, 2021
The City of Calgary is waiving fees for the development permit and secondary suite registry for all secondary and backyard suites until December 31, 2021.
What's changing in 2022?
All secondary and backyard suites must be on our suite registry by December 31, 2021. In January 2022, we will reinstate fees for the development permit and suite registry.
- 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.
- There can only be one secondary suite within each dwelling unit.
- A backyard suite and a secondary suite cannot be located on the same property.
Step 1: Review the rules and fees
|Planning Approval - Development Permit (if applicable)||Permit fee||Advertising fee||Development Completion Inspection||Total|
|Existing Secondary Suite||$0||--||--||$0|
|See the planning applications fee schedule for a complete list of planning application fees.|
|Suite type||Permit Fee||Safety Codes Council Fee (4%)||Total|
|Building Safety Approval - Building Permit||Permit Fee: $202||Safety Codes Council Fee (4%): $8.08||Total: $210.08|
|See the building permit fee schedule for a complete list of building permit application fees.|
Building Code requirements
The 2014 Alberta Fire Code identifies four safety considerations that must be in place in any secondary suite. You can find more information in the Secondary Suite code questions & answers advisory.
Each bedroom must have at least one window that can be fully opened and used to escape during an emergency, such as a fire.
- The windows must be openable without the use of keys, tools, or special knowledge and without the removal of sashes or hardware.
- The window must have an unobstructed opening of 0.35 m2 (3.8 ft2) in area and no dimension less than 380 mm (15").
- An existing window well must provide a minimum clearance of 550 mm (21.5") in front of the window.
- If installing a new window, the window well must provide a minimum clearance of 760 mm (30") in front of the window.
- If a casement-type window is used, it must swing open a full 90 degrees.
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 Building Code restricts opening sizes and configurations. For example, a single window may be 1.2 m (4 ft) 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 windows combined cannot be more than 25 per cent of the wall length.
- Openings that exceed any of the above requirements must be designed by a professional engineer registered in the province of Alberta.
Preventing the spread of smoke and fire is essential for safety. The Building Code requires the installation of a smoke tight separation between the main residence and suite.
Smoke-tight separation means
- Installing a minimum of 12.7 mm (½") 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.
- Installing a minimum 12.7 mm (1/2”) thick drywall on the ceiling and on both sides of wall studs of the mechanical room or installing an automatic sprinkler(s) as an alternative to drywall in the mechanical room only. A plumbing permit is required if an automatic sprinkler is installed and the sprinkler must be installed by a journeyman plumber or sprinkler fitter. The sprinkler system must have no more than nine heads with no isolation valve between the heads and domestic water supply.
- The mechanical room must have a door. The path of travel to an exit door cannot pass through a mechanical room.
- Any services such as pipes or ductwork, which pass through a protective separation, need to be tightly fitted and sealed with drywall compound. In retrofit situations, existing mechanical rooms may have obstructions that make a smoke-tight separation difficult to construct. One option may be to remove all existing HVAC ducts to ease the installation of 12.7 mm (½”) drywall. Once the separation is constructed, new holes may be cut where required to install ductwork.
- Double wall (B-Vent) chimneys will require minimum 25.4 mm (1”) clearance to ½” drywall and tightly fitted sheet metal fire stop to maintain the smoke separation.
- Single wall vent connectors will require minimum 152.4 mm (6”) clearance to ½” drywall.
- Smoke alarms must be installed at, or near, the ceiling of each floor level in both the primary dwelling and secondary suite. Smoke alarms are required in each bedroom, common space and any supplementary spaces including furnace rooms. Smoke alarms must be permanently wired to the electrical panel through a circuit that contains lighting or a mix of lighting and receptacles, if that circuit is protected by an arc fault circuit interrupter and/or a ground fault circuit interrupter, the smoke alarms must contain an integral battery (10-year battery) as a secondary supply source. They must also be interconnected, so the activation of one smoke alarm will cause all units in the secondary suite and a minimum of one smoke alarm to sound in the main residence.
- Carbon monoxide alarms should be centrally located in the primary dwelling, the secondary suite and mechanical room. They should be installed at the height specified by the manufacturer and located within 5 m (16’5”) of any bedrooms. They must be permanently wired to the electrical panel through a circuit that contains lighting or a mix of lighting and receptacles, if that circuit is protected by an arc fault circuit interrupter and/or a ground fault circuit interrupter, the carbon monoxide alarm must contain an integral battery (10 year battery) as a secondary supply source. They must also be interconnected, so the activation of one carbon monoxide alarm will cause all units in the secondary suite and a minimum of one carbon monoxide alarm to sound in the main residence. An electrical permit is required if installing additional wired smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms.
There are additional requirements to consider when the only exit for a suite is through an exterior stairway.
Where an exterior stair from the secondary suite leads by a door or window of the primary dwelling, that door or window must have wired glass or glass block or some other protection for the occupants of the secondary suite to have safe egress away from the building.
- It is important to know that only fixed windows can be fire-protected in this way. Bedroom windows must be operable.
- Another option is to construct a roof over the exterior exit stair for fire protection. Option B shows an exterior exit stair with a roof providing protection from the window above it.
See theProtection of Openings Near Unenclosed Exterior Stairs and Ramps advisory for more information.
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.
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
Step 3: Apply
In order to get started, create a myID account.
Create a myID account
Businesses can register for a myID business account. A business account is intended for myID services to be submitted on behalf of a business or organization. Please follow the steps outlined on the myID business account page.
Step 4: Inspections and managing your permit application
Planning Services Centre
Legal and safe: suite registry
Check the Secondary Suite 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.