Archive for the ‘Secondary Suites’ Category

Have a Secondary Suite? Make It Legal and Make It Safe

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

June 1st, 2013

Lethbridge alberta landlords illegal suites

According to a report in the Lethbridge Herald some tenants are being evicted because their rental home is a fire hazard. Instead of being legal and safe, the secondary suite violates fire codes, municipal zoning regulations and provincial health and safety laws.  And once the renters are gone, there’s little the city can do to make sure other prospective tenants don’t fall victim to the same kind of illicit accommodations.

We know there is political pressure in our province to make secondary suites legal and safe. The problem is the majority of renters who are heading to illegal properties know that they aren’t lawful right from the start. 

Groundhog Day

At the moment, it is very difficult to keep tabs on illegal suites.

The same property owners are being caught time and time again as they need to rent in order to cover the costs of owning a property. This is because once a person has been evicted, the inspectors will return to check the property to ensure nobody is living there.

However the inspectors return only once.This leads to some property owners to start all over again and re-rent until they receive the next complaint. The whole situation repeats itself. It is only in the most extreme circumstances that any landlord is actually fined under the Public Health Act.

Delayed Evictions

At the moment, inspectors are taking the stance where people are not going to be evicted straight away. In fact, many are willing to work with the landlords to bring the property up to scratch. Only if there is an immediate risk will somebody get evicted.

With the lack of affordable rental housing many tenants living in these rental apartments face homelessness if they let word get out. Instead, they are keeping quiet and not complaining. At the moment, there is one new illegal suite being discovered every two weeks, which means that a lot of people’s life are currently in danger as a result.

Tenants unwilling to find themselves homeless are less likely to report their illegal living situations, thus, the real number of illegal suites in Lethbridge remains unknown. 

Fire Prevention Officer

According to fire prevention officer Doug Braodhead, “There’s kind of a catch-22 in that situation, that if they come to me and say that ‘I live in an illegal suite,’ then there’s certain options. One is that they might get kicked out, because that’s the option that we give the owners – they have to vacate the suite. So they might be putting themselves in a bad situation,” by making a complaint.

Broadhead estimated he inspects at least one unregistered suite every two weeks. He says “The thing is, when they get caught is when they have a fire, and that’s when they’re really in trouble,” he said. “That’s the risk they’re taking by putting someone back in there month after month. In the long run, it’s better to just upgrade your suite, make it legal, make it safe. And then if there is a fire they’re not held liable for it.”

The system isn’t broken like other provinces, it’s up to individual landlords to invest back into their properties.

To discuss this and other landlord and tenant issues go to the Alberta Landlord Forum.

Calgary Mayor Nenshi on the Calgary Rental Market “Let’s Encourage Landlords To Rent Out Secondary Suites”

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

April 1st, 2013

Mayor Nenshi Calgary rental market secondary suites

The Mayor of Calgary Wants To Help Renters Which Includes More Landlords and More Secondary Suites

Vacancy rates in Calgary at 1.3%, which is ten year low for the city. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Mayor of Calgary who says he and city council have their eyes on the challenge of having a strong rental market and also having affordable housing.
In an interview with CBC news, he admitted the government has “limited powers”  because of market forces. However, there are things that can be done to deal with the shortage of affordable housing in the city.
According to the mayor, there are threes levels to make change. These are:
1. Make sure there is rental housing on the market
2. Assist non-profit organizations provide subsidized affordable housing
3. Create government housing for people who are very difficult to house
Creating More Landlords and More Rentals in the Market-place
Nenshi made it clear his priority is point number one.
The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Calgary is $1113/month.Calgary is seeing higher rents, lower vacancies and new buyers.
The way to increase the supply of rental housing is to encourage people to rent their basements out by reforming
The plan to increase the number of registered secondary suites — apartments found in existing homes, typically in basements — has met with considerable resistance since the Mayor first proposed the idea. But this time, he says he thinks he can get it done.
Hasn’t He Been Saying This For Years?
The mayor used a football analogy. He said that in previous attempts to change the policies on secondary suites were like trying to score a ‘touchdown’. This time he will use a different strategy of going for first down yards “to move the ball down the field.”
Nenshi wants to introduce a new bylaw to oversee the creation of more secondary suites in the couple of meetings of City Council. He believes there are at least 50,000 units of ‘illegal’ secondary housing in the city now. He wants to create paths to legalize them. He also wants to lobby the federal government to encourage new rental housing using tax credits.
Nenshi admits his plan to have more legal secondary suites in Calgary has some strong opponents. However, he believes he can get it done.

To listen to the mayor click here.

We are happy to have a mayor who understands that creating conditions for more investment in rentals is a great policy tool. Unlike provinces such as Ontario that seems to want to force landlords to do what the government wants (and ends up failing miserably), Nenshi is taking a smart and realistic approach.


To discuss this and other issues facing Alberta landlords go to our Landlord Forum and network with thousands of other landlords across the province and across Canada.

Calgary Landlords – Get Ready for a New Safety Program For Secondary Suites

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

November 1st, 2012


New Pilot Program Targets Calgary Landlords With Secondary Suites

Landlords who have secondary suites in their homes are being target by the city of Calgary’s new safety program.

What’s the Aim of the Program?

According to the city, this is a new program aimed at safety.  More information is available at the Calgary Herald.

How So?

The new program will bring secondary suites up to the city building code.

Has the Program Started?

Yes.  Calgary is sending letters to fifty homes with secondary suites throughout the city.

What Do the Letter Say?

The letters inform these fifty landlord they have been singled out. Their homes will be inspected.

Inspected for…

The landlords will need to prove they have things such as land-use designation, needed permits, and if their secondary suite meet provincial building and fire codes.

According to building official chief Kevin Griffiths, the program will bring ‘awareness’ of safety issues. Any properties which don’t meet official code with face immediate consequences.

They will not inspect or help landlord out who are renting to Tenants from Hell.

 What Are The Consequences?

The city of Calgary says it will help home-owner fix up their secondary suites to meet the provincial code.

What Are Some of the Other Things Government Inspectors Will Look For?

Safety and zoning inspectors will be checking for working smoke detectors, clear exits, window size and other safety requirements.

How Long Does This Program Run For?

The program runs until April 2013. A report will go before council by June with the findings and recommendations.

What Prompted This?

Griffiths says he wants to to provide education to home-owners with secondary suites.  A huge fire in a basement apartment in 2009 that ended the lives of three tenants has brought this issue to the political table.

The landlords in this case was fined for not having proper smoke alarms and for having jail-like bars on the windows.

What’s the Goal of this Crack-Down?

One of the questions the pilot project aims to answer is whether owners are closing their suites because of the prohibitive costs of making them safe or the tricky path to legalization. It’s a great reason to make sure you rent to good tenants.


Calgary Landlords Get Ready for a New Program to Make Sure your Secondary Suites are Legal!


Landlords – Fire Prevention Week! Time to Make Your Secondary Suites Legal

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

October 10th, 2012


The City of Lethbridge Will Help Landlords Create Legal Apartments!

What’s Going On During Fire Prevention Week in Lethbridge, Alberta?

Lethbridge Fire Prevention officers are encouraging residents to take advantage of the city’s “secondary suite program.”

What Does the Program Offer Landlords?

The program reimburses residents 50% of the cost of legalizing suites, up to $2,500.

What a Great Idea!

Yes.  It’s a great way to encourage landlords to create safer, high quality rental housing.  Very different than in Ontario, where they like to fine landlords and punish them for creating affordable rental housing.

How Can Landlords Make Their Secondary Suites Safer?

The Alberta Landlords Association promotes fire safety.

Mark Hoveling is a Fire Prevention officer.  He says it can be simple to legalize a suite.  It might be as simple as making a window larger.  or installing a sprinkler system in the rental unit’s furnace room.

What a Great Program by the City of Lethbridge Government and Fire Services Team!

Yes, and this secondary suite program comes at the same time as the Fire Prevention holiday.  This year’s theme happens to be: you need to have ‘2 ways out!’

Lethbridge, Alberta landlords take advantage of a great opportunity to create legal secondary suites with the government’s help.