Regarding Secondary Suites

This page is a one-stop shop of information for homeowners who are considering building a secondary suite. It is our hope that easy access to information will assist homeowners in deciding to have a secondary suite and to take the first steps towards making it a reality. The information on this page should  be considered a guideline only. Please make sure that you consult with the permits department at Richmond City Hall before proceeding with your plans. See the landlord section of our website for information relating to renting, tenancy, etc.

Secondary Suites in Richmond

Zoning bylaws in the City of Richmond now allow for a single secondary suite in a single family dwelling. The secondary suite must be completely enclosed within the same building as the dwelling unit and not in a detached accessory building.  The secondary suite must be incidental and integrated with the dwelling unit so as not to externally appear as a separate unit. To be legal, the secondary suite must be inspected and upgraded as required to meet building code requirements. http://www.richmond.ca/__shared/assets/building2217698.pdf

It should be noted that some houses in Richmond built during the 1960’s and 1970’s were constructed under a Land Use Contract (Bylaw 1430) which does not allow for secondary suites, despite the recent zoning enacted by City council.   If you are concerned that your home may be affected by the Land Use Contract, you should check with the Permits Department before you proceed with plans to build a secondary suite.  Call 604-276-4285.

Construction of a New Secondary Suite

How to decide to build a secondary suite in an existing house Checklist from Canada Mortgage and Housing website: http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/renoho/refash/refash_040.cfm

Building a secondary suite in your house can be a cost-effective way to provide accommodation for a family member or create new rental space. But you must ask yourself whether your house is a good candidate for such a project. If the space you intend to use is not high, dry and sound, you should correct these problems before or during construction of your secondary suite. The following questions may help you decide whether it is a good idea to add a secondary suite to your house:

  • Must you stoop to avoid bumping your head on a beam, pipe or duct? You might have to raise a beam, relocate ductwork and plumbing or lower the floor.
  • Are there intermittent or permanent traces of moisture or mold on the floors, walls or ceiling? Is there a persistent musty odour in clothing and other objects that are stored there? Repairs to the roof, walls or foundation might be necessary and you might need additional mechanical ventilation in the space.
  • Are there newly formed cracks or other foundation damage to the walls or on the floor? You might need to repair a structural problem.
  • Is there a door that opens directly from the secondary suite to the outside? This is the safest means of egress and provides the most privacy to the occupants.
  • If no door opens directly from the secondary suite to the outside, can you enter the secondary suite without going through the principal dwelling? Some jurisdictions permit a common entry serving the principal residence and a secondary suite, provided it is enclosed in fire-resistant material and closed off from both dwellings by smoke-tight doors.
  • Is there an operable window of sufficient size in each bedroom? In addition to providing light and ventilation, it might have to be used as an exit during an emergency. If it opens into a window well, as is common in basements, be sure there is enough space in the well to allow a person to crawl out through the window in an emergency.
  • Is there sufficient capacity in your electrical panel for the additional lights, plugs and heating appliances needed for the secondary suite? You might need to enlarge your panel or add circuits.
  • Is there radon gas in your basement? Radon is a radioactive gas that is colourless, odourless and tasteless. The known health risk associated with exposure to radon is an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Consider testing for radon before construction to determine whether or not remedial measures are required to protect occupants. See Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s  Radon: A Guide for Canadian Homeowners for more information.

Other Costs to Consider

  • Insurance – it is important to inform your insurance company of your intention to build a secondary suite. It is important that an assessment of safety risk and change in property value be reflect in your insurance policy. Seek advice of an insurance agent or broker.
  • Property Tax – adding a secondary suite will likely increase the value of your property, and may result in a small increase to your property tax.
  • Income Tax – rent collected must be declared as income, reasonable expenses operating expenses may be declared as deductions – seek tax advice for determining expense deductions and documentation required
  • Universal Design Construction – refers to a range of measures to produce a living space that is accessible to people with disabilities. Retrofitting an existing living space can be very expensive. When done at the time of construction, the cost is much lower and the space more easily adapted in future. For more information: http://saferhomesociety.com