Legalize an existing secondary suite
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.
Step 1: Review
Do I need a permit?
- 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.
- 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.
|Planning Approval - Development Permit (if applicable)||Fee schedule||Permit fee||Advertising fee||Development Completion Inspection||Total|
|Existing Secondary Suite||$0||--||--||$0|
|Building Safety Approval - Building Permit||Fee schedule||Permit Fee||Safety Codes Council Fee (4%)||Total|
|Existing Secondary Suite||$202||$8.08||$210.08|
How long will it take to get a permit?
To avoid delays, make sure your application includes all the required documents, plans and information listed on the Existing Secondary Suite checklist.
|Planning Approval - Development Permit (if applicable)||Our process||Timeline|
|Proposed structures that do not meet all rules of Land Use Bylaw 1P2007||60 days to decision 21 days advertisement/appeal period||10 - 12 weeks|
Review our Development Permit Process page for more information about the planning approval process.
|Building Safety Approval - Building Permit||Timeline|
When does my permit expire?
You will receive a permit expiry reminder in the mail. If you need more time, you can extend your permit. Review the extend or reinstate your permit section.
|Permit Type||Expiry (from date of issuance)|
|Building Permit||180 days|
|Contractor Trade Permit||365 days|
|Homeowner Permit||365 days|
Step 2: Prepare
Use the information below to prepare your application. Follow the rules in the location, design and construction sections to help make sure your application meets the City's requirements.
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 3: Apply
The personal information on this application is being collected under the authority of The Calgary Building Permit Bylaw 64M94 (Section 5) and amendments thereto, as well as section 33(c) of the FOIP Act. The name of the applicant and the nature of the permit will be available to the public through general inquiries, paid subscription reports for permit data and resources found online, as authorized by the FOIP Act.
To apply online, you need a myID account. Create a myID account.
Step 5: Changes
For more information about changing your permit visit Permit changes - Manage your application.
Two inspections are required.
Framing (rough-in) inspection requirements:
- Install and complete any structural changes.
- Install and complete all the wall and ceiling framing.
- Install proposed windows and exterior doors.
- Install and complete any HVAC changes.
- Rough in, install and complete all plumbing and electrical components that are required under associated permits.
- Have requested documentation on site.
- Do not install insulation, vapour barrier or drywall over any work that requires inspection prior to concealing.
Final inspection requirement:
The construction should be completed and the suite should be ready for occupancy.
Trade permit inspections you may need, if applicable
The following tasks must be completed before booking an inspection. Please note it is not necessary to have drywall installed for a final inspection.
Please review the green service label policy to determine if you require a green service label (sticker).
- Have all wiring and interior of outlet boxes readily visible.
- Remove vapour barrier and insulation where it’s covering any wiring. The exception is for wiring fished into walls.
- All wiring must be supported.
- Remove outer sheath of wiring and terminate all wiring into outlet boxes and fixtures.
- Ensure all splices are made and all grounding is complete in outlet boxes and fixtures.
- Do not secure devices (plugs, switches) to outlet boxes. Leave all wiring and terminations visible.
- Cables may be terminated into the panelboard, but wires should not be on breakers.
- Never energize exposed wiring.
- Rough and underground inspections should be combined.
- Expose the trench on at least one end to confirm depth.
- Access must be provided to all areas where electrical work has been completed.
- For secondary suites, use the secondary suite electrical load calculation sheet to ensure your current electrical service is adequate. When complete, please email the form to us. If the main electrical service must be increased from 60 amps, 100 amps, or 200 - amp service, please have your Contractor contact ENMAX.
- Do not have any exposed live wiring.
- Install all devices, receptacles and light fixtures.
- Any open outlet boxes or unfinished wiring must be properly secured and installed in a junction box with an approved splice cap and a junction box cover.
- Install, terminate and energize all breakers, if safe to do so.
- Complete the panelboard breaker directory, all breakers must be labeled correctly.
- Access must be provided to all areas where electrical work has been completed.
For more information, review the Homeowner electrical wiring guide.
What you need to complete before you call for each plumbing inspection:
- Install and complete all plumbing drainage and venting.
- Install and connect water lines to the rest of the water distribution system.
- Properly support all drains, vents, and water lines.
- Install the bathtub/shower valve.
- Install and ensure all fixtures and equipment are ready for use.
- Ensure the bathtub and shower water temperature does not exceed 49 degrees Celsius.
- Seal all piping designed for future fixtures with an approved plug or cap.
- Provide a shut off valve for all toilets.
Following an inspection, The City’s safety codes officer (SCO) may identify corrective action to comply with the Alberta Building Code. In place of a re-inspection, the SCO may provide an option to submit a verification of compliance (VOC).
Book an inspection
Inspections occur Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For next day inspections, please book before 2 p.m. the previous business day (e.g. book by 2 p.m. on Friday for a Monday inspection).
You will receive a confirmation e-mail on the morning of your inspection that states your inspection window (8a.m.-12p.m. or 12p.m. to 4 p.m.). If you have not received an email by 8:30 a.m. on inspection day, please call 311.
Planning Services Centre
We are experiencing higher than normal volumes and longer wait times. We appreciate your patience while our agents answer your questions and review your applications.
If you are trying to reach us, please select only one method of contact for your inquiry. Multiple inquiry services at the same time can increase volumes and wait times. For applications, we encourage the use of our online system as the timelines for drop-off and online submissions are the same.
Monday - Friday*
8 a.m. - 4:15p.m. (Mountain Time Zone)
*closed on statutory holidays
COVID-19 changes to services
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.