A “secondary suite” is a self-contained dwelling located in, or adjacent to, a house, and which is separate from the principal dwelling. A secondary suite must have its own kitchen and bathroom, as well as a separate entrance.
Secondary suites can offer family members, seniors, singles and other renters an affordable place to live, while providing homeowners with a source of extra income.
If you are thinking about building or renovating a secondary suite, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers the following tips on what you need to know before you begin construction:
First, make sure the secondary suite conforms to all zoning, building and fire code requirements for your area. Most municipalities in Canada have zoning by-laws that regulate the type, size and height of all buildings that can be built within their jurisdiction. Municipalities can also regulate how the houses will be used, where the windows can be placed, whether secondary suites are permitted and, if so, how large the secondary suite can be.
The design and construction of secondary suites is also governed by provincial or territorial building codes, which vary from one province or territory to another. In some parts of the country, the rules depend on whether you are constructing a new building or renovating an existing one. To make sure your secondary suite meets all the municipal and building code requirements, contact your city’s Development Information Office, Municipal Zoning Department or Building Permit Office.
Municipalities may also have their own by-laws to regulate secondary suites. Therefore, it’s a good idea to contact your Development Information Office to find out how local regulations might affect you.
Once you are ready to proceed, do your best to create a healthy, safe and comfortable living environment for your tenants. At a minimum, your suite should have sufficient living space and headroom, ample natural light, good heating and ventilation, adequate thermal and sound insulation, no recurring moisture problems, good fire protection, and reliable heat and smoke alarms.
If you are building a secondary suite for an adult with a disability or a low-income senior, you may qualify for financial assistance under CMHC’s Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP). Contact CMHC to find out more.
Remember that adding a secondary suite will likely increase the value of your property, so your property taxes may rise as a result. You must declare any rent you collect as income under the Income Tax Act. Be sure to notify your insurance company about the change in the nature, use and value of your property.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.