For more information on landlord and tenant law in Alberta go to: www.landlordandtenant.org
How do I know if I live in an illegal secondary suite?
Secondary suites (sometimes called basements suites, mother-in-law suites or granny suites) are self-contained units within a single family home. A secondary suite has its own kitchen, bathroom and entrance.
Secondary suites must comply with the Alberta Fire Code and Alberta Building Code, as well as municipal bylaws. If your suite was built after December 31, 2006, it must have:
- a separate mailing address
- a ceiling height of at least 1.95m
- direct access to the outdoors
- a window in each bedroom
- fire protected walls and ceiling between the secondary suite and the main home and around common exits by the use of ½ inch of drywall
- interconnected smoke alarms that cover both the secondary suite and the main home
- an independent heating and ventilation system
- enclosed gas-fired furnaces and water heaters that are in an enclosed space that is insulated with ½ inch drywall
If your suite was built before December 31, 2006, the above requirements may not apply. To be legal a safety codes officer must approve the existing structure of your secondary suite.
The secondary suite must also comply with municipal bylaws which vary throughout Alberta.
I live in an illegal secondary suite. Is this a reason for breaking my lease?
No. The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) applies to illegal secondary suites. There are specific rules in the RTA for when a lease can be broken. See here for more information: http://www.landlordandtenant.org/glossary/substantial-breach/
If Alberta’s Minimum Housing and Health Standards are not being followed by your landlord, see here for more information:
I rent out an illegal secondary suite in my house. Can I be penalized for doing this?
Yes. If you rent out an illegal suite that is unsafe you can be fined under the Public Health Act or a provincial safety code, such as the Alberta Fire Code.
If your home is inspected and a safety codes officer finds that your suite does not comply with the rules, you may be required to renovate the suite.
Check your municipality’s website to see if your property is zoned for secondary suites and whether you are eligible for grants or financial assistance if you are constructing or renovating a secondary suite. Contact your municipality to see if there are any grants available to you.
Where can I find more information on illegal secondary suites?
For more resources and information on illegal secondary suites see:
*Access to safety codes online is limited. The most recent (2014) Alberta Fire Code and Alberta Building Code can be viewed online or ordered in hard copy (for purchase) through the National Research Council of Canada:
Your local public library or a courthouse library may carry copies of safety codes as well.