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Frequently Asked Questions

Secondary Suites Project
Home Can I have a Secondary Suite? FAQ Process

This information is provided for convenience. Please contact Planning Staff or refer to applicable zoning regulations.

FAQ's

  1. What is a secondary suite?
  2. How does the BC Building Code define secondary suites?
  3. Are suites currently permitted?
  4. What form can suites take?
  5. How many suites can I have?
  6. What are the size limits for a suite?
  7. Does the floor area in a detached accessory building get included in the maximum accessory floor area calculation defined by the applicable zone?
  8. Where do I find out more about the requirements to have a secondary suite?
  9. Can I have a detached secondary suite if my property is not located within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)?
  10. Can I have a detached secondary suite if my property is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)?
  11. What is the maximum permitted height of a detached secondary suite?
  12. Can a secondary suite have a separate title?
  13. Can my suite have a Home Based Business?
  14. Can I have a Home Based Business in my principal dwelling unit and have a secondary suite on my property?
  15. What if I already have a suite?
  16. Do I need a building permit for my secondary suite?
  17. Can I have my unrecognized secondary suite recognized?
  18. Can I have a detached secondary suite if my property is a building strata?
  19. Can I have a detached secondary suite if I have existing accessory buildings?
  1. What is a secondary suite?

    A secondary suite is defined as "one or more habitable rooms and a cooking facility for residential accommodation, consisting of a self-contained unit with a separate entrance but which is clearly accessory to a principal dwelling unit located on the same parcel as the secondary suite and may not be subdivided under the Strata Property Act".

    A secondary suite can be located within a dwelling unit (i.e. basement suite) or detached as either a standalone building (garden suite or granny flat) or as part of an accessory building (carriage home).

    A secondary suite is an accessory use on a property and must be maintained within the same legal title as the principal dwelling unit.

  2. How does the BC Building Code define secondary suites?

    Secondary suites are regulated under Section 9.36 of the BC Building Code. Most local governments that permit secondary suites adopt the definition contained in the BC Building Code which reads as follows:

    A Secondary Suite is an additional dwelling within a single family dwelling:

    • With a total floor space not exceeding 970 sq. ft. (90 sq. m);
    • Occupying not more than 40% of habitable floor space of the building;
    • Located in a building of residential occupancy containing a maximum of one other dwelling unit; and
    • Located in and part of a building which is a single real estate entity.
  3. Are suites currently permitted?

    In the RDN secondary suites are allowed within the following zones:
    • Areas covered by Bylaw 500: RS1, RS1.1, RS2, RU1-RU10
    • Areas covered by Bylaw 1285 (Electoral Area F): A-1, R-1, R-2, R-3
    If you would like to confirm your zoning designation, please contact the Planning Department or look up your property information on RDN Map by clicking here.
  4. What form can suites take?

    A secondary suite is an additional dwelling unit that is accessory to a principal dwelling unit on the lot.

    Under this definition a secondary suite may take on a number of different forms including:

    1. A suite above the main floor of a single-detached dwelling;
    2. A suite below the main floor of a single-detached dwelling (basement suite);
    3. A suite attached to a single-detached dwelling at grade;
    4. A suite as part of a detached garage at grade (coach house, garage suite);
    5. A suite above a detached garage (coach house, garage suite); or
    6. A suite detached from the principal dwelling but on the same lot (garden suite, carriage house).

    Please refer to the diagrams below for a graphic illustration of each of the above.

    What form can suites take?
  5. How many suites can I have?

    Within the applicable zones where secondary suite is a permitted use, a maximum of one secondary suite is allowed per permitted dwelling unit to a maximum of two per parcel, provided that only one secondary suite is detached and there is adequate site area in accordance with the relevant zoning bylaw provisions.
  6. What are the size limits for a suite?

    • Secondary suites within a principal dwelling unit must not exceed 40% of the habitable floor space* of the building that it is located in nor 90 m2 of total floor space, whichever is lesser.
    • The maximum floor area of an accessory building (the whole building) containing a secondary suite shall not exceed 40% of the habitable floor space* of the principal dwelling unit which it is associated with nor 90 m2 of total floor space, whichever is lesser.
    *The habitable floor space calculation excludes uninhabitable and unusable areas such as garages and open airspace above stairwells and entryways.
  7. Does the floor area in a detached accessory building get included in the maximum accessory floor area calculation defined by the applicable zone?

    Yes, a detached secondary suite is considered an accessory building for the purpose of calculating accessory building floor area.
  8. Where do I find out more about the requirements to have a secondary suite?

    Information related to the requirements for secondary suites is available within the General Regulations section of the applicable zoning bylaw. This includes requirements related to off-street parking, minimum setback requirements, restrictions on the type of building in which a suite may be located, limitations on suite configuration, and other regulations that secondary suites must follow. For more information about the requirements for secondary suites click here to access the relevant zoning bylaws.
  9. Can I have a detached secondary suite if my property is not located within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)?

    Within the applicable zones where a secondary suite is permitted, a detached secondary suite is permitted on properties which are at least 800 m2 in area and are serviced with community water and sewer. In all other cases, the parcel must be at least 8,000 m2 in area for a detached suite to be permitted.
  10. Can I have a detached secondary suite if my property is located within in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR)?

    For parcels in the ALR, a detached secondary suite is only permitted on a farm (a parcel that is currently assessed as farm by the BC Assessment Authority) and must be located on the second floor of an existing building in accordance with the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision and Procedure Regulation. Parcels must also meet the minimum site area requirements identified in 9 above. Please refer to the Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision, and Procedure Regulation for more information.

    Properties located within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) are subject to the Agricultural Land Reserve Act and Regulations, and applicable orders of the Land Reserve Commission. Please contact the RDN Planning Department to discuss a specific inquiry.

  11. What is the maximum permitted height of a detached secondary suite?

    On properties regulated by Zoning Bylaw No. 500, the maximum permitted height for an accessory building containing a secondary suite is 8.0 m.

    On properties regulated by Zoning Bylaw No. 1285, the maximum permitted height for an accessory building containing a secondary suite is 10.0 m.

  12. Can a secondary suite have a separate title?

    No, a secondary suite is not a separate housing unit with its own Certificate of Title, nor can it be stratified. The zoning bylaws and BC Building Code require a secondary suite to be part of a single 'real estate entity'.

    In cases where the principal dwelling unit and a detached suite are under construction at the same time, or within six months of each other, the owner will be required to provide a Section 219 Covenant to prohibit subdivision of the detached suite under the Strata Property Act. To see a template form for this covenant Click Here for areas covered by Bylaw 500 and Click Here for areas covered by Bylaw 1285.

  13. Can my suite have a Home Based Business?

    No, in accordance with the General Regulations a home based business is not permitted within a secondary suite nor by the occupants of a secondary suite elsewhere on the subject property.
  14. Can I have a Home Based Business in my principal dwelling unit and have a secondary suite on my property?

    Yes, provided that the home based business is not a bed and breakfast. There are also additional limitations on home based businesses that occur on parcels that are less than 4,000m² and have a secondary suite.

    In, Bylaw 500, where a secondary suite is located on a parcel less than 4,000 m² in area, the home based business must:

    1. be limited to one (1) business; and,
    2. not include any non-resident home based business employees.

    In Bylaw 1285, where a secondary suite is located on a lot less than 8,000 m² in area, the home based business must be contained in a building.

    Please note a bed and breakfast is not permitted on a parcel that contains a secondary suite.

  15. What if I already have a suite?

    Throughout the secondary suite project, it was widely acknowledged that there were many existing secondary suites that were playing an important role in providing affordable housing in the region.

    Within the RDN, secondary suites fall into one of three categories: Unrecognized, Recognized, and Fully-Compliant. The following provides a description of each of the secondary suite categories:

    1. Unrecognized Secondary Suites
      A secondary suite which existed prior to May 27th, 2014.

    2. Recognized Secondary Suites
      A secondary suite on a parcel where:
      1. secondary suite is a 'permitted' or 'permitted accessory' use; and
      2. was constructed prior to May 27th, 2014; and
      3. where no building permit was originally issued or required for construction of the suite; and
      4. after May 27th, 2014 the secondary suite has since been the subject of a building permit and has been inspected to confirm that the secondary suite meets basic life safety requirements of the British Columbia Building Code.

    3. Fully-Compliant Secondary Suites
      A secondary suite which fully complies with RDN zoning and building regulations and the edition of the British Columbia Building Code in effect at the time the building permit was issued for the suite.
  16. Do I need a building permit for my secondary suite?

    Building permits are required for any new construction, alteration or addition to a structure in the RDN Electoral Areas.

    A registered owner or agent for the owner may apply for the building permit. Construction must commence within six months from date of issuance, and must be completed within two years. It is the responsibility of the owner or agent to call for the required inspections.

    For building permit application requirements, please visit the RDN Building Inspection Services, or contact RDN Building Inspection Services. Staff are available to answer your questions and assist you with making a building permit application.

  17. Can I have my unrecognized secondary suite recognized?

    Should an owner make a building permit application to "recognize" an "unrecognized secondary suite", a building inspector will conduct a visual inspection to determine if safety items pertaining to fire detection (smoke alarms), fire spread (drywall), and exits (a safe way out) have been addressed. These three items would form the basis for the upgrades (if required) to recognize an unrecognized secondary suite.

    A Notice under Section 57 of the Community Charter may be registered on the title as a means of disclosure to future land owners that the suite was originally constructed without a building permit.

    Please note, in order to have an unrecognized secondary suite recognized, secondary suite must be a permitted use in the applicable zone. In the case of a detached secondary suite, the parcel must also meet the minimum site area requirements for a detached secondary suite.

  18. Can I have a detached secondary suite if my property is a building strata?

    Bylaw 500 only recognizes the parent parcel that the building strata lots are located on and not the building strata lots themselves. As a result, where secondary suites are a permitted use, each permitted dwelling unit (building strata lot) is allowed one secondary suite to a maximum of two secondary suites within the parent parcel. However, only one detached secondary suite is permitted on the parent parcel.

    Bylaw 1285 does not support building strata subdivisions. However, where a building strata exists and secondary suites are a permitted use, each building strata unit is allowed one secondary suite to a maximum of two within the parent parcel. However, only one detached secondary suite is permitted on the parent parcel.

    Approval from all strata owners is required in order to obtain a building permit for a detached secondary suite in relation to a building strata.

  19. Can I have a detached secondary suite if I have existing accessory buildings?

    Yes, however detached secondary suites are considered accessory buildings. As a result, in zones where a maximum accessory building floor area is specified, the floor area of the detached secondary suite must be included in the calculation of maximum accessory building floor area.

    Please contact Planning Staff at (250) 390-6510 or by email to planning@rdn.bc.ca if you require any clarification on the above.