Approximately 80% of all basement suites in West Vancouver are illegal. This can make it hard for home buyers to get a mortgage for the property. In this article, we will discuss why it’s important to legalize a basement suite and how to do it.
80% of rental suites are unauthorized
Whether you’re looking to buy a new home, sell your current home, or are just interested in adding an extra living space, it’s important to understand unauthorized basement suites. Having an unauthorized suite in your home can cause you a lot of headaches, and may even make it harder to get a mortgage. It’s also possible to incur hefty fines, and you might have to pay for additional water and sewer fees.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to avoid an unauthorized basement suite. Vancouver City has introduced a program called the Secondary Suite Program, which helps to educate residents on how to comply with the regulations pertaining to this type of home. Obtaining a legal basement suite can be a relatively simple process, and can help you save money in the long run.
The Residential Tenancy Act governs landlord-tenant relationships. Unless the rental suite meets certain requirements, you can’t rent it out. Despite the rules, a significant number of homeowners have unauthorized suites in their homes.
An illegal suite is not a safe living environment for tenants. It may not be fire-safe, and it could lack necessary features. Your insurance company might also reject your coverage. In addition, the cost of getting a permit for your unauthorized suite may increase. In some cases, you may need to upgrade the plumbing and electrical systems.
In West Vancouver, there are a number of restrictions regarding the size and location of unauthorized secondary suites. They must meet certain requirements, such as having a separate entrance. They must also have a dedicated parking space.
Often, unauthorized suites are on the same property as the primary residence, which is why it’s so important to make sure they are legally authorized. It’s also a good idea to seek professional help from an experienced real estate agent when looking for a home with an unauthorized suite.
The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) estimates that there are 155,000 unauthorized secondary suites in British Columbia. This number is likely less than the real percentage of unauthorized units, and it doesn’t include laneway houses or family suites.
Legalizing a basement suite can help a homebuyer qualify for a mortgage
Buying a property that has an unauthorized secondary suite can be a tricky thing. It is important to research and weigh the risks and rewards.
Despite the fact that a home’s unauthorized suite may be a good source of extra income, it is also illegal and can make mortgage qualification more difficult. If you decide to purchase a home with an illegal secondary suite, you should consider getting a real estate agent who knows the rules.
In many cases, you’ll need to get a building permit to convert the basement into a secondary suite. You’ll also need to ensure that your home meets local zoning bylaws and fire code requirements. Depending on the size of the suite, you’ll need to meet additional electrical code requirements.
If you’re planning to sell your home, you’ll need to disclose the unauthorized accommodation. In addition, your mortgage lender won’t recognize the income that you’re earning from the illegal suite. However, if you can demonstrate that the apartment is legal, you’ll be able to use the rental income as a way to qualify for your mortgage.
If you’re a first-time home buyer, you might be able to get a line of credit secured on the home or a renovation loan. The additional income from your unauthorized suite can help you cover your expenses and carry the costs of owning your new home.
You’ll need to ensure that your home has a dry entry door, separate exits, enough headroom, and smoke detection equipment. The kitchen and bathroom in an unauthorized suite will be separate from the rest of the house. The entry door to the secondary suite may be on the outside of the main entrance, which isn’t a good idea.
You’ll need to verify that the tenant’s employment history and current pay stubs are accurate. You also have to be sure that your tenants aren’t in conflict with the Residential Tenancy Act. You shouldn’t ask questions about the tenants’ ethnic background, marital status, or sexual orientation.
If you buy an illegal secondary suite, you’ll need to take a lot of time to get the suite up to code. This will involve a significant investment.
Legalizing a basement suite in older neighbourhoods
During the Second World War, a number of basement suites emerged in Vancouver. These were popular with multi-generational immigrant families. Some of them also had two kitchens. This was a sign of a new trend in the city.
However, many of these suites were unauthorized. Neighbors complained about the noise and crowding. The number of illegal suites in Vancouver grew by thousands during the 1970s.
In the early 1980s, a group of UBC students tried to change the city’s zoning bylaws to allow more students per dwelling. They had to go through eight years of bylaw amendments to get the change approved.
A secondary suite is similar to a duplex. However, it must have at least one living room, a bathroom, and a kitchen. The suite can be anywhere from 205 square feet to a full-size basement.
Legalizing a basement suite in Vancouver is a complicated process. It involves licensing, business fees, and special inspections. It can cost more than $1,300.
A secondary suite can provide many benefits to homeowners. It can generate income, reduce impact on the neighbourhood, and provide adequate insurance coverage. It can even add to the value of the home. But it’s important to know that you can’t just buy a basement suite and start renting it out. There are also requirements that you must meet before you can start renting out your suite.
If you’re planning to add a suite to your home, you’ll need to apply for an initial inspection. You’ll also need to register with municipal services. Your license could require you to pay additional water and sewer fees.
The City of Vancouver has a website that lists the requirements for livable basement suites. You can also call 3-1-1 for more information. If you’re wondering how to get a building permit, you can contact the city’s Building Department.
If you live in an older neighbourhood, there’s still time to legalize a basement suite. You may be able to get your suite approved through a multi-family conversion dwelling process. That’s a complicated process that requires high building standards and fire separation.
Cost of legalizing a basement suite
During the Second World War, Vancouver’s first basement suites emerged. These apartments were rented out to immigrants in the eastern part of town. They were also rented out to students in the western part of the city. However, they were illegal. The trend began to change in the mid-’50s. The government’s growth strategy was to channel more people into dense new neighbourhoods. Eventually, the housing market responded to the demand.
As a result of the influx of immigrants and students, the number of unauthorized basement suites in Vancouver increased. The city started to enforce the definition of a basement suite in the building code. This meant that new and existing houses had to meet certain requirements before they could be allowed to be occupied.
This process is expensive and involves fire separation, stratification of units, and high building standards. It can take years to make a single-family home legal.
The City of Vancouver has begun to shut down dozens of unauthorized rental suites every year. It has a responsibility to protect the public, so it is only natural that the City would begin to investigate any complaints.
In September 2021, a city inspector visited a house on East 19th Avenue. He noted that the property had two basement suites. The owner had plans to rent one of the units to his brother’s family. He was also planning to rent two other units to others. The inspector found that the house was not in compliance with the building code.
The city then suspended the short-term rental business license. The 114-year-old house had two decks, too. The house had narrow hallways and lower ceilings. The city also cited a neighbour for not providing proper notice to the owners.
As part of the Vancouver Housing Re:set project, Adriane Carr introduced a motion in March 2017 to legalize existing unauthorized suites. This was a controversial move, with Vision Vancouver and its members arguing that they should grandfather the unauthorized suites.
The motion was passed by the city council and has now been studied. It is unclear whether the study was representative of the total population of unauthorized suites.
Among many other things, David A. Grantham is a contributing author to UmassExtension West Vancouver Blo. He is a renowned expert on real estate in BC.
Born in North Vancouver, Louisiana, Dr. Grantham grew up in Lower Lonsdale. He then went on to complete his business degree at the University British Columbia. As of this writing, Grantham has completed over 100 projects, including the development of a high rise building in Vancouver.
He is a husband, father, son, brother, and friend. He was a dedicated outdoorsman and enjoyed sports such as hunting, fishing, scuba diving, and snow skiing. His wife, Alison Grantham, and their two daughters survived him. He is survived by his wife Alison Martin Grantham and two daughters.