1) Check the zoning of YOUR house. Until city council fully approves a change to the bylaws, you can’t add a secondary suite to your house if you have an R-1, R-C1, R-C1L zoning without a lengthy and uncertain re-zoning (Land Use Amendment) process. This can take a year in some cases, sometimes after the fight you still can’t add the suite. R-2 zoning (and some others) is the proper zoning allowing secondary suites in Calgary.
2) Apply for a permit with the City of Calgary. Then, cross your fingers and have a LOT of patience!
3) Your lot must be large enough. Minimum size in most cases: 13 meters wide by 30 meter deep.
4) You must change/add basement egress windows to allow proper emergency escape. An egress window should be a minimum of 3.77 sq/feet with no dimension less than 15 inches – unobstructed with a proper window well to allow escape (you must verify the latest building codes, this is just a guideline).
5) Minimum ceiling height for suite is 1.95 meters.
6) The secondary suite must have their own balcony, deck or patio of at least 7.4 sq/meters.
7) An independent heating and ventilation system, along with an independent electrical service panel or a convenient access to a shared panel must be installed. This is a surprise to so many that they can’t use the same furnace that heats the rest of the house.
8) Furnaces and hot water tanks must be in a separate, enclosed, fire dry walled (at least ½ inch thick) room.
9) Smoke (fire) separation between the main dwelling and secondary suite must be installed (meaning, add a ½ inch fire rated drywall on ceiling/walls/common area/exit).
10) You must install interconnected smoke alarms to both dwellings of the home.
As you can see, it's not as simple as putting a new door to your basement and collecting rent. Done right, to code, and with permits, adding a suite will INCREASE not decrease your property value in most cases (contrary to popular opinion). Done without proper building codes and permits, you are putting your tenant at risk not to mention the potential to destroy your life savings!
If you have any questions regarding the effect on value or my own personal philosophy regarding city density and secondary suites please contact me!
I have financed the purchase and construction of secondary suites many times, if you have a mortgage question please don’t hesitate to call and ask!
This list is to provide information only. The list is not comprehensive and not to be relied on (check the current building codes and bylaws before proceeding with any renovation).
William Charlton - Mortgages