Basement Suites in Calgary: Basement Suite Requirements for Tenants

A basement apartment for rent can help you with your mortgage payments, but it must be legally compliant with Calgary’s rules and regulations for secondary suites before you can start looking for tenants. Basement Builders is here to help you out.

Once you’ve decided to develop a basement suite in your property and had all the work completed by the experts at Basement Builders, you need to think about renters. Improving your downstairs space isn’t going to do much for you financially until you have tenants paying rent to help you with your mortgage payments. The cost of basement development can be offset, but only if you do it right.

You might start by thinking about what types of renters you want. You can certainly do some research on potential tenants, including speaking to previous landlords and ask questions about a prospective renter’s workplace, how many people will be living in the suite, if they smoke or have any pets, and so on, but there are some things that you’re not allowed to ask according to the law in Alberta. These include questions about martial status, ethnicity, religion, or plans for having children. Make sure you’re aware of all the rules before you start to speak to potential tenants.

What are Calgary’s basement suite requirements for tenants?

In Calgary, there are some basement suite requirements you are obligated to meet before you can legally rent out your lowest floor to a potential tenant. Understanding legal vs. Illegal basement suites is crucial to avoid any mishaps.

Some basement suite rules, as of 2021, are as follows:

  • Egress windows
  • A separate heating source
  • An exit door that can swing inward to the outside
  • Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
  • A separate living, sleeping, kitchen, and bathroom area. Can include a shared backyard, parking space, storage space, and laundry space
  • Basement and backyard suites cannot be on the same property
  • Electrical panels can be shared but must not share branched circuits
  • Plumbing, including a shower and/or bathtub, a bathroom sink, a kitchen sink, and a separate hot water supply from the main residence
  • Must follow specific city of Calgary drawings
  • Must be registered with the city of Calgary

Note that requirements and regulations change, so if you’re a landlord you should keep up-to-date with the changes and updates. If you need any help remodeling or developing your basement in Calgary, Basement Builders can help you get your space up to code.

What requirements for tenants should a landlord implement? 

You need to make sure that you sign a proper lease with your tenant that is very clear about all the expectations regarding rent, timing of payments, damage to the suite, parking, use of yards or any interior shared facilities, the length of the lease, and so on. There are plenty of examples available to use as your template about how other landlords do this in Calgary, as seasoned landlords are typically up-to-date on Calgary’s latest basement suite requirements.

Consider implementing the following expectations for your tenants:

  • Timely payment of rent each month
  • If rent remains unpaid after a specific due date, the landlord is in their rights to initiate the eviction process
  • A tenant should be aware of what damage is versus wear-and-tear
  • They can receive their security deposit back after they have left the premises
  • You handle their repair requests
  • They are aware of what constitutes as an emergency
  • They are liable to comply with your rules and regulations, as set out in your lease

Even once you’ve done all you’re homework, before you leap into this situation it’s a good idea to ask yourself if you’re ready to be a landlord. It’s not just a hobby and can be like a full-time job. There are a lot of rights and responsibilities for Alberta landlords, condominium corporations, and even for the tenants themselves. As a landlord, you handle all maintenance and repairs of the basement suite and this often means being available 24 hours a day, in theory. Even if you have the security of a damage deposit any damage still needs to be repaired. Maintenance and repairs are the main long-term hidden costs of renting out your basement suite. These costs will take up a percentage of any money you make from having a tenant and can’t be avoided. If you don’t keep the suite in good repair you’re not going to attract good tenants or lose the good ones that you already have.

If you already do not have a basement suite on your lowest floor, then your basement will need to be remodeled. There are a lot of aspects of a basement remodel, and not everyone is financially or mentally prepared for the process.

Even if the basement suite is separate from your main living area and has a separate entrance, you’ll still have to deal with some privacy issues. You’re going to see your renter around your property and in the summer they might be using the backyard when you’re interested in some family time or want to invite friends around for a barbeque. This might simply be an awkward situation that’s easily dealt with but you still have to bear this in mind when you’re getting ready to develop and later rent out your downstairs area.

You also have the right to choose “the right” personality. Even though the tenant is living in your home, admittedly on the lower level, you can’t be friends with them since you might have to be firm when you must enforce the rules and regulations associated with them renting the suite from you. It might seem like a good idea to rent the suite to a family member to avoid this. However, if things do take a turn for the worse this can be an extremely uncomfortable situation, not just for the family member who is renting the suite but also for other members of your extended family if something happens.

Finally, you’ll need to make sure you’re familiar with all the laws related to tenants and landlords in Calgary just in case things go sour. Even with the best intentions and a wonderful relationship between you and your renter, there can always be the possibility of tenants not paying rent or being late on a regular basis or there being damage to the basement suite. While no one with a basement suite ever wants to face these issues, it’s best to be prepared.

You can find some tips and advice on marketing your basement suite to potential tenants on the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation website.