During Calgary’s current economic slowdown, it’s very tempting for some homeowners to make things a little easier by adding a basement suite and attracting potential tenants. Rental revenue is a great source of income for first-time homeowners. Older people might also wish to remain in their home but no longer need all the space in the house. Creating a basement suite allows them to stay in the area of the city they prefer.

Secondary suites are defined as a self-contained residential area within an existing home that was originally built for a single family. In Calgary most of these are in basements. The suite has separate living and sleeping areas, including bathrooms and kitchens, but might share some things with the other residents, such as parking, a yard or garden area, laundry or storage facilities, and so on.

However, although this may seem like an easy solution to generate extra income in the short term and also add long-term value to your home, there are lots of things to consider. Just because you have an existing suite in your basement or the ability to turn your downstairs living area into a tenant suite, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s legal.

As you’d imagine, legal basement suites are ones that were built in compliance with all the correct rules with all the right permits. If things have changed since the original construction, the suite needs to still meet all the current regulations. The City might also approve a legal suite if certain rules are relaxed for an existing situation. There are many illegal basement suites in Calgary. These were built without the required permits, didn’t follow the rules, and were perhaps built in areas of the city where secondary suites aren’t permitted. Some of basement suites in Calgary also fall into the non-conforming category. This means that they were built legally at the time but don’t conform to current City regulations. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the original builders did anything wrong, since requirements change over time, as do zoning and land use rules in different parts of Calgary. In some of these cases the rules might be waived after the suite has undergone an inspection.

If you do decide to go ahead and develop a basement suite or make sure that an existing one is legal, you can easily check with the City to determine if basement suites are permitted in your neighbourhood. You’ll also get an idea if your main residential property is large enough to add a legal suite. This is particularly important in parts of the city where some of the older homes may be smaller. If the house isn’t that large you may not be able to obtain permission to add a downstairs suite. A thorough investigation will also tell you if your downstairs area is even suitable to renovate so that it will be able to comply with all the required building standards.

At Basement Builders, we’re familiar with all the City and provincial rules and regulations relating to legal basement suites. We can help you to ensure that your basement suite development is in full compliance with the law.

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