Blog › March 2013

Secondary suite in West Vancouver


Legal or not the "mortgage helper" in West Vancouver?

On March 1, 2010, secondary suites became legal in West Vancouver.

What is a Secondary Suite?

A secondary suite is a separate residential unit within a home, generally located in the basement, and significantly smaller than the dwelling in which it is located. The size must be either 40% of the square footage of the home, up to a maximum of 968 sq.ft., whichever is less.

What Are the Fees to Register a Secondary Suite?

  • The application fee is $450, which covers the inspection and the first calendar year licence fee.
  • The annual renewal fee for rented suites in non-owner occupied homes is $450
  • The annual renewal fee for rental suites in owner-occupied homes is $350
  • The annual renewal fee for non-rented (unoccupied or family use) suites is $85

Why Does the District West Vancouver Require an Annual Fee?

The annual fee is intended to cover a portion of the additional costs to the District of West Vancouver of providing services to the tenant of the suite.  Such services include, but are not limited to, the Library, the Seniors' Centre, the Aquatic Centre, the Community Centre and Police and Fire Department Services.

What Are the BC Building Code Requirements?

After May 31, 2012, all owners will be required to comply with the full BC Building Code Standards which may incur extra costs by requiring them to:

  • provide a separate heating system for the suite
  • add or alter an existing sprinkler system
  • provide a 45 minute fire separation between the suite and dwelling
  • provide both an ionized and photo-electric interconnected hard wired smoke alarm in the suite and dwelling
  • increase the width of the exit stairs or corridors to the suite
  • provide a self closing solid core door between the dwelling and the suite
  • provide an exit door to the suite which swings on a vertical access (no sliders)
  • remove or provide protection to doors and windows of the dwelling that could expose the suite exit stairs to fire
  • enclose exposed combustible plumbing piping in the suite as it is not permitted to pass through the rated floor system
  • upgrade the electrical and plumbing systems to those code standards
  • make any other alterations necessary to bring the suite and the dwelling into compliance with the BC Building Code or other provincial regulations

What Are the Risks of Having an Unregistered Suite?

Unregistered suites are in contravention of the Zoning Bylaw and owners may be subject to fines and/or other enforcement, including:

  • Fines may be as high as $10,000
  • A lien may be placed on the property to prevent it from being sold with contraventions in place
  • A Court Order requiring the owner to take remedial action (stop renting, remove the suite, apply for permits etc.)

Other implications of having an illegal suite:

  • The value of the home on the real estate market is decreased
  • Illegal suites are not covered by insurance in the case of fire
  • Basic life and safety features may not be available including sufficient emergency egress, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors

Alternatives to Registering Your Suite

If a home owner does not wish to register their suite, they have the option to decommission it. This is a simple process which involves the following steps:

  • Hiring a qualified electrician to obtain an electrical permit to remove the stove wiring from wall outlet and from electrical panel
  • Removing all cooking facilities from the suite, which means equipment, devices or appliances that can be utilized to prepare a meal. i.e. stove, hot plate, microwave, etc.
  • Submitting a declaration to the District of West Vancouver once the work has been completed

the information has been provided by city hall of West Vancouver.



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