Calgary and Secondary Suites

Having a secondary suite is an excellent way to offset the cost of your home, getting you to your goal of being mortgage free sooner! But what is a secondary suite in Calgary, really? So many terms are thrown around when it comes to suites, mother-in-law, nanny, conforming, non-conforming and so on.

The fact is Calgary has two types of suites, Secondary Suite and Backyard Suite, and both are considered either legal or illegal, based on the permits in place. A building permit is required for all secondary suites, regardless of when they were constructed.

The city defines a secondary suite as a “self-contained residence with two or more rooms and includes a kitchen, living, sleeping and sanitary facilities.” They go on to say that all suites must have:

  • Bedrooms with proper egress windows
  • A separate bathroom
  • Separate cooking facilities
  • An entrance that is accessible from outside without passing through the main dwelling unit. A shared stairwell is acceptable, but each unit must have a private entrance.

What is the difference between a secondary suite and a backyard suite? A backyard suite is a self-contained residence, detached from the main residence/dwelling. Some examples include garage or laneway dwellings.

Given the abundance of secondary suites, both legal and illegal in Calgary, the City has implemented new, more streamlined processes to first determine the legality of your unit and subsequent direction on how to bring your suite to a legal status.

If you aren’t sure if your suite may be considered existing and need to be legalized, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the suite include a bathroom, cooking facilities and sleeping/living facilities?
  • Is the suite accessible from outside without passing through the main dwelling unit (a shared stairwell is acceptable but each unit must have a private entrance)?
  • Was the suite built prior to March 12, 2018?
  • ALL permits are current with the City of Calgary?

If you can’t answer YES to all of the above, it would be best to check with the city here. Especially if you are a seller looking to list their home on the MLS® System as it is required to select “Legal” or “Illegal” if inputting a suite in the listing. Have questions, looking to buy or sell and property with a suite? I’m here to help with the resources you need for a successful, stress-free transaction. Visit me on Facebook and Google!