What is a secondary suite anyways and what makes a suite legal? These are things that are important to know and consider when purchasing a home in Calgary!

A secondary suite is a separate dwelling unit contained within a residence (City of Calgary, website). For example, a basement suite is known as a secondary suite. There are also “backyard suites” which refer to a second dwelling that is separate from, but on the same property as, the main residence. These include carriage house suites, garden suites or laneway suites.

What’s so good about having a legal secondary suite?

When applying for a mortgage, having a legal suite can increase your purchasing power in regards to how much you can qualify for. This is because CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) will consider and include the future gross rental income as part of your total annual income when reviewing your mortgage application.

Here’s an example: if you were to purchase a $400,000 house with 5% down ($20,000 down payment), a 1.79% interest rate with a 5 year team and 25 year amortization rate, you monthly mortgage payments would be approximately $1,633.71 per month. Imagine if you could rent out the basement suite for $800-$1200 per month? This would pay for half or more of your mortgage amount each month! Who wouldn’t want to save this much money? It’s a no brainer!

How can you convert a secondary suite into a legal suite?

A legal suite must have the following criteria:
  • Each bedroom in the suite must have at least one egress window. This means it must be operable and have the ability to escape in case of emergency
  • The suite must have smoke-tight separation to ensure smoke and fire cannot be spread easily throughout the residence.
  • If the secondary suite has an exterior stairway as an entrance/exit to the suite, it must have safe egress for the occupants of the suite (meaning the stairwell needs to be covered or the windows/doors above the stairwell need to have wired glass or glass block.
  • A single heating and ventilation system can service both the suite and the main dwelling on the property if the secondary suite is pre-existing. If it is a brand new suite, it needs to have 2 separate systems (one for the suite and one for the main residence).

For information on how to legalize a secondary suite, please visit: The City of Calgary

If you are planning to build a home with a secondary suite, other rules apply. Please view the City of Calgary secondary suite guidelines for more information.

It’s important to note that until December 31, 2021, The City of Calgary is waiving up to $900 in fees for development permit and secondary suite registry!!!

*ALSO - it will be mandatory for all secondary suites to be registered with the City of Calgary by December 31, 2021. The purpose of this is to bring awareness to the safety of the public regarding suites and ensure that suites comply with building code and are safe for its occupants.

The City of Calgary has some great information on secondary suites on their website. If you have any questions about this information, or would like to find a home with a secondary suite so you can save money on your mortgage payments, reach out and I would love to help you find a property that matches your wants and needs.