Legal, Illegal, and Non-Conforming Suites in Calgary: Understanding the Differences

As one of Canada's fastest-growing cities, Calgary is facing a growing demand for affordable housing options, and one solution to this challenge is secondary suites. A secondary suite is a self-contained living unit within a single-family home or a detached accessory building. Secondary suites are an excellent way to increase the availability of affordable housing while also providing homeowners with an additional source of income. However, there are some important legal considerations that homeowners must keep in mind when considering the creation of a secondary suite on their property.

Refer to City of Calgary's newest Bylaw IP2007 for all  Secondary Suites information.

Legal Suites

A legal suite is a secondary suite that has been authorized by the City of Calgary through the proper permitting process. To be considered legal, a secondary suite must comply with all relevant zoning bylaws, building codes, and fire codes. The permitting process involves submitting an application, paying a fee, and meeting specific requirements, including a site inspection and the submission of floor plans.

Legal secondary suites are an excellent way for homeowners to increase the value of their property while providing affordable housing options to tenants. Legal suites also offer the homeowner some protection from liability in the event of an accident or incident on the property. Legal secondary suites are also more attractive to potential tenants, as they offer the assurance that they are renting a safe and compliant living space. The Secondary Suite Registry will help you find whether the suite is legal or not.

Illegal Suites

An illegal suite is a secondary suite that has not been authorized by the City of Calgary through the proper permitting process. Illegal suites are a concern for both homeowners and tenants, as they often do not comply with zoning bylaws, building codes, or fire codes. In some cases, an illegal suite may have been built without obtaining the necessary permits or inspections, or it may have been created by modifying the existing living space in a way that does not meet building code requirements.

Legalizing an existing secondary suite

Illegal suites are not only a safety concern, but they also expose the homeowner to significant liability if someone is injured or harmed on the property. Additionally, if the city becomes aware of an illegal suite, the homeowner may be subject to fines and other penalties. Sometimes they are referred to as a mother in law suite.

Non-Conforming Suites

A non-conforming suite is a secondary suite that was legally established but no longer complies with current zoning or land use bylaws. This means that the suite was legal at the time it was created, but changes to the bylaws or regulations mean that it is no longer in compliance.

For example, a non-conforming suite may have been created before the city changed its zoning regulations around secondary suites, and as a result, it no longer complies with the current regulations. In some cases, a non-conforming suite may be grandfathered in, meaning that it can continue to operate as long as it does not undergo any significant changes or modifications. In other cases, a non-conforming suite may be required to undergo changes or modifications to bring it into compliance with the current regulations.

History using Bylaw 2P80 (pre existing IP2007)

1983 to 2007:
The current bylaws ( Calgary Land Use Bylaw 2P80) ie. a kitchen ( cooking facilities as above, and also sinks, lower cabinets and counter tops) is not allowed in a basement suite.

There are many ways you can determine the age of a suite such as contacting previous owners; interviewing neighbors; judging the age of fixtures, moldings, cabinets, wiring, etc.

The City of Calgary responds to complaints about illegal suites and inspects these properties to see if there is a violation of the Land Use Bylaw. Our development field technicians, through their investigations, determine the date of construction and apply the rules as listed above. If a violation is found, the property owners are required to remove either the full kitchen or just the cooking facilities. If the owners fail to comply, legal action is taken against them. The City of Calgary will not inspect properties for the benefit of lawyers, realtors, or perspective buyers to determine the legal status of a suite, nor will the City give a "letter of comfort" for this purpose. A common misunderstanding occurs with R-2 properties. In order for two suites to exist, the rule states that the property must have a minimum 15-metre frontage AND 466 Sq Metres oflot area.

The bylaws in effect at that time said the cooking facilities such as a stove, 220 volt wiring, hot plate, microwave oven or toaster oven) were not allowed in a basement suite.

Prior to 1970:
The courts have determined that anything constructed or in use prior to 1970 is considered to be non-conforming.

If you are a homeowner considering the creation of a secondary suite on your property, it is important to understand the difference between legal, illegal, and non-conforming suites. Legal suites offer homeowners and tenants peace of mind, while illegal suites can expose homeowners to significant liability and penalties. Non-conforming suites require careful consideration and may require modifications to bring them into compliance with current regulations.



Time for a change?
Whether you're relocating for work or a fresh start, I've got you covered! Connect with me to tap into my network of Realtors across North America.

Smooth transitions, expert advice, and a new chapter awaits you!

Jason Streich⁠

Greater Calgary Real Estate⁠
403 807 2204⁠

Understanding Withholding Tax and Underused Housing Tax in Canada

As a Foreign Seller looking to sell property in Canada, it is crucial to be aware of other significant concerns, in addition to the ongoing discussions surrounding the Foreign Buyer's Ban.

Seller Non Resident of Canada

In the context of a residential real estate transaction in Canada, withholding tax can apply to non-resident sellers of the property. The amount of withholding tax that a buyer of residential real estate in Canada may be required to withhold and remit to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on behalf of a non-resident seller depends on the type of property being sold and whether it was used to generate income.

If the seller is a non-resident of Canada and the property was used to generate income, the buyer is required to withhold and remit 25% of the sale price related to the land value plus 50% of the sale price related to the building value, unless the seller obtains a Clearance Certificate from the CRA. If the property is capital property, meaning it is a personal-use property, such as a cottage or vacation home, and was not used to generate income, the buyer is required to withhold and remit 25% of the gross sale price.

Filing for a Clearance Certificate with the CRA as soon as your property is sold is best to avoid a withholding tax. If the seller applies for and obtains a Clearance Certificate from the CRA before the sale, they can provide it to the buyer, who then does not have to withhold any tax from the sale price. The Clearance Certificate confirms that the seller has complied with all Canadian tax laws and does not owe any taxes.

On the other hand, if the buyer fails to withhold the required amount of tax, they may be liable for any taxes owed by the seller, plus interest and penalties.

A Clearance Certificate is required in a residential real estate transaction in Canada when the seller is a non-resident of Canada. The certificate confirms that the seller has complied with all Canadian tax laws and does not owe any taxes. The Clearance Certificate serves as proof that the non-resident seller has paid any taxes owed to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) related to the sale of the property.

Obtaining a Clearance Certificate is the responsibility of the seller, who must apply to the CRA for the certificate after the sale has been completed. The application process can take several weeks to complete, and the seller must provide documentation to the CRA to support the application.

It's important for non-resident sellers of residential real estate in Canada to obtain a Clearance Certificate to avoid any delays or complications in the sale process. It's important to note that the rules and requirements related to withholding tax in residential real estate transactions can be complex and vary depending on the specific circumstances. Sellers and buyers of residential real estate in Canada should consult with a tax professional or lawyer to ensure compliance with applicable tax laws and regulations.

Seller of Underused Housing "Tax"

The Underused Housing Tax in Canada is an annual 1% tax on vacant or underused housing, which came into effect on January 1, 2022. The tax is primarily targeted towards non-resident, non-Canadian owners, although it can also apply to Canadian owners in certain circumstances. It is important to note that failure to file a return for this tax can result in significant penalties, with minimum penalties of $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for corporations.

If you are a foreign seller of Airbnb properties, you may be required to pay the Underused Housing Tax. The tax applies to foreign real estate owners who do not reside in or rent out their properties. However, if your property has been occupied for at least 180 days in a year, you may be exempt from this tax.

It is also worth noting that detached residential homes with more than 3 self-contained “dwelling units” are automatically exempt from the Underused Housing Tax. Furthermore, if a detached home has at least 4 separate rentable dwelling units with private kitchen, bath, and living areas, it is exempt from the tax even if the rentals are less than one month at a time. However, this exemption only applies to detached homes and not to semi-detached homes, townhouses, or condos.

In summary, as a foreign seller, you need to consider the Underused Housing Tax when selling an underused or vacant property in Canada. If you are unsure whether this tax applies to your property, it is recommended that you seek professional advice from a tax specialist or lawyer.



Remembrance Day

On this Remembrance Day, we pause to honor and remember the brave individuals who have sacrificed so much for our freedom and peace around the world.

In the midst of our own challenges, let's take a moment to appreciate the resilience and strength that has carried us through. It's a time to reflect on the importance of unity, gratitude, and the enduring human spirit.

Wishing you a day filled with reflection, gratitude, and the warmth of community.


October 2023 | Calgary Real Estate Housing Market Update

October sales activity slowed over the last month in alignment with typical seasonal patterns. However, with 2,171 sales, levels were 17% higher than last year and amongst the highest levels reported for October. Sales activity has been boosted mainly through gains in apartment condominium sales as consumers seek affordable housing options during this period of high-interest rates.

New listings also improved this month compared to last year, reaching 2,684 units, reflecting the highest October levels reported since 2015. Despite the gain, relatively strong sales prevented any significant shift in inventory levels, which remain over 40% lower than levels traditionally available in October.

With a months of supply of one and a half months, we continue to experience upward pressure on home prices. The unadjusted benchmark price in October reached $571,600, a gain over last month and nearly 10% higher than last October.

Jason Streich⁠
Greater Calgary Real Estate⁠
403 807 2204⁠⁠

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