The new Calgary basement suite rules - What to know Legalizing or developing a legal secondary basement suite in Calgary was a lengthy expensive process that deterred most homeowners. But that changed on July 22nd, 2015 when the city adopted a new cheaper and quicker process to make it easier for Calgarians to have a legal basement suite. Here is what you need to know about legalizing or developing your basement suite. What is meant by a Secondary Suite A secondary suite could be a basement suite, garden suite, in-law suite, or a backyard suite. They must have their own sleeping, cooking, living and bathroom areas. They may include shared areas with the main residence such as a backyard, garage, and laundry area. Finding out if a secondary suite is legal in Calgary The City has an online Secondary Suite Registry and registered sticker program. You can access a map that indicates all legal secondary suites in Calgary here. This helps to verify if a secondary suite meets the Alberta Building Code requirements at the time of an inspection by the City. You can enter a property address or registry sticker number to identify whether a secondary suite is legal. Homeowners who own a legal secondary suite can also have a registered sticker that can be used in marketing their suite. Finding out if a building permit would be needed to develop your basement suite A building permit is legally required if you are developing an existing basement, need to add or remove walls, make structural changes, or extensive upgrades.It is also the homeowner’s responsibility to make sure the work does not violate restrictions against the property. If you are unsure, you can contact us, and we can help with any questions you have. The benefits of legalizing your basement suite As a homeowner, it allows you to rent the suite, boost your income, help you pay down your mortgage quicker, or offset the cost of home maintenance and property taxes. It also provides an extra space to accommodate your visitors and increase the value of your property. As a tenant, legal basement suites give you direct access to outdoor space in addition to meeting the safety code requirements. What happens if you don't apply for a required building, electrical or gas permit Failing to apply for the right permits before starting the work may put you at a risk of being subject to a stop-work order by a City inspector, receiving a fine, being forced to undo work already completed, or facing issues when selling your property or filing an insurance claim.As a homeowner, make sure you hire a contractor who is aware of the required permits, as you will be held responsible if the needed permits are not acquired. What changed in the process to legalize a basement suite Previously, the old process included applying for a development permit even if the basement suites where a permitted use for the land, in addition to a building permit. Currently, where a basement suite is a permitted use, the development permit exemption will allow the homeowners to proceed directly to the building permit, each district has different rules. There are special designations for single-detached dwellings with secondary suites and they contain a lower case ‘s’ in the district code. For example, an R-1 district does not allow secondary suites, but an R-1s district does. To find out your property land use designation, check your property’s address here. The exemption only applies to basement suites where they are listed as a permitted use, the backyard suites still need a development permit as they are only listed as discretionary use since they result in a visible change to the property. If eligible, you can save around $2,200 and hours of paperwork and can get your application to get your basement legalized can be processed in a matter of days. If not eligible, you need to apply to legalize an existing basement suite on a land situated in a district that does not list basement suites as a permitted use, you can apply for a Land Use Re-Designation Application. This application allows changing the land use designation of a property. Safety features that legal basement suites must have - Why the city cares Legal basement suites are required to meet Alberta’s safety codes, which can help protect tenants in emergencies, all legalized basement suites are required to have adequate Bedroom Windows that can be easily opened from inside, unobstructed, and large enough to be used in case of an emergency. There should be enough Smoke alarms & Carbon Monoxide Detectors that are connected to each other and should be tested on a regular basis. Also, there should be at least one exit leading to the outside for each unit within the house and solid core doors that have self-closing devices. Homeowners are encouraged to hire contractors who are familiar with the code changes, as it is always cheaper to get things done right the first time than to fix them to meet legal requirements later. Applying for a building permit for a legal basement suite in your house If you are thinking of developing a legal basement suite on a land zoned for secondary suites, the application process would typically take from three to six months. You will need to apply for bothe: The Development Permit, and Building Permit. To apply for a development permit for a secondary basement suite start with permit application checklist, you ma apply online or visit the City Hall fill out the application forms, and submit it for review at the Municipal Building. Once all the forms, drawings, architectural plans, mechanical and electrical plans are submitted you will get a review E-mail from the planning department and if no further information is required you will get your development permit. Once the DP is in place you will need to apply for a building permit along with all trade permits i.e electrical, mechanical, gas permits. Finally, you may begin building your legal basement suite. If you plan on developing your secondary basement suite but feel overwhelmed by the process with all the details and paperwork it entails, or need a professional to help with a legal basement suite contact us and we would for sure be able to help. Happy Building!