Nothing seems to perk up interest in home buyers like the mention of a ‘secondary suite,’ which brings up those other sweet words — ‘mortgage helper.’ However, due diligence is necessary to confirm the legal parameters of having a secondary suite, which varies somewhat from one municipality to another.
In the Fraser Valley, all municipalities require registration of secondary suites by the home owner and fees payable to the municipality to compensate for the increase in residential usage for services such as; water, sewer, garbage and recycling. That can be considerable when a secondary suite could up to double the volume of services required.
In each of the Fraser Valley Board communities, all secondary suites are defined as livable units that provide the essentials of an independent living space and follow these rules:
- Meet the BC Building Code which sets out minimum provisions for public health, fire protection, and structural sufficiency. Section 9.36 of the BC Building Code outlines specific requirements for secondary suites, including requirements for fire separation, smoke alarms, access and egress, and other safety standards as defined by the Code.
- Must meet all municipal bylaws.
- Must be registered as secondary suites.
- Must comply with the BC Building Code which stipulates a size not more than 40 per cent of the total building floor area, or 90 sq. m. (968 sq. ft.) of total floor space.
- Property owner must live on the premises; the exception is Delta where it’s not required.
- Property owner must agree to an inspection by the bylaw department.
- Permitted in certain zones of each city, but not all zones.
- Only one secondary suite is permitted on each property.
- The suite must be located in the single family dwelling, not in a townhouse unit, row house, duplex, coach house or multi-family building or detached building (The exception is in Mission).
- Under the Strata Property Act, a secondary suite cannot be subdivided from the building.
- You may need to conduct a Property Title Search to determine whether there are any restrictions registered on the title of the property that may not allow the owner to have a secondary suite such as a restrictive covenant or a Land Use Contract.
- The existence of a secondary dwelling unit is not determined by the payment of rent, nor is it negated by occupancy by family members or property owners. If the facilities for an independent residence exist, then it is a secondary suite and subject to local bylaws and fees and provincial statutes.
- Realtors must not advertise suites in their property listings unless the suites have been registered.
The following highlights secondary suite guidelines that are specific or unique to each of the Fraser Valley municipalities.
Describing its new Official Community Plan as “suite‐friendly,” Abbotsford allows the removal of old restrictive covenants in the hope that an estimated 80 per cent of Abbotsford homes will be eligible for suites.
- To accommodate parking, suites are generally allowed with the following conditions: not located in: a cul‐de‐sac, strata land, or arterial street. There must be a minimum 12 metre frontage.
- At least one off-street parking space must be provided for the secondary suite, in addition to the two spaces provided for the principal dwelling.
- Existing suite registration fee (infrastructure fee also required for current year) – $572
- New suite registration fee – $260
- Infrastructure fee paid through property taxes on annual basis – $260
- Suite removal permit – $62.50
- The $300 annual reduction in flat rate utility fees will continue to be offered to secondary suites with an Occupancy Permit until a water meter is installed.
- All properties with a secondary suite will be receiving a water meter installed at Delta’s cost. Once the meter is installed, the property will be charged based on water consumption.
- Secondary suites are permitted in all single family zones with the exception of the RS9 zone, which allows a detached secondary suite also known as a Coach House.
- Boarders are not permitted.
- One off-street parking space must be provided for all secondary suites. The precise stipulations, size and placement, is explained in detail on the Corporation of Delta’s website here.
- All single family homes must have at least two off-street parking spaces. A secondary suite will require one more off-street parking spot.
$40 re-inspection fee if initial inspection reveals changes have to be made to get legal standing as a secondary suite.
Licence: $350 (For secondary suites occupied by family members where there is no income generated, there is a family rate of $175; but a statutory declaration exemption must be provided with the application.)
Utilities: 30% of applicable water/sewer charges to be included on the Property Tax Statement
A secondary dwelling unit is one in addition to the main dwelling unit, (suite, coach house or cottage) used or capable of being used as an independent residence by one or more persons, having sleeping and living spaces, a bathroom and cooking facilities and that can be a suite, coach house or cottage.
$77.44 For both the Decommissioning a Secondary Dwelling Unit form and the Application for a Secondary Dwelling Exemption
$1,188 Water, sewer, garbage and recycling annual services cost above the base rate for a single family
Note: An exemption may be available to the home owner for an unoccupied secondary dwelling unit. Any existing exemption is void from the date of a sale. It is the seller’s responsibility to inform any potential buyers of the conditions of the exemption. It is the new homeowner’s responsibility to apply for the utility exemption if they qualify or apply to decommission their Secondary Dwelling Unit within 60 days of the sale.
- an additional off‐street parking space is required for the suite
Secondary Suite Service Fees $568
Water, based on consumption or $332
Sewer $580 or based on 80 per cent water consumption
Penalty of $1,000 if the City of Surrey becomes aware of a suite that is not registered
- one additional on-site parking space for occupants of the registered secondary suite
An annual service fee of $270
**The information on secondary suites within each jurisdiction as cited in this article comes with a disclaimer that the information is accurate only to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication, and does require original source verification for legal, financial, or other than general information purposes.**