Legal Basement Suite

A secondary suite is a secondary living space or a self-contained rental suite contained within the main residence that is designed to accommodate a single family. Secondary suites can include basement suites and backyard suites, while garden and laneway suites are incorporated with the property itself. In Calgary, most secondary suites are located in basements. Secondary suites are usually rented out by the owner of the property. These suites provide more affordable rental housing in Calgary. They also make owning a home more affordable for renters and homeowners. A secondary suite is a residential unit that you are in charge of.

  • You Can Rent It or Live in it Yourself.
  • Let Your Kids or Parents Move in.
  • But it is not a Unit That You Can Sell.

In order to be classified as a “secondary suite,” the living space must have its own sleeping, kitchen, living and bathroom areas. They may also include shared areas such as a backyard, parking spaces, laundry and storage areas.


To conform to Building & Development codes, some things homeowners should keep in mind when considering a basement rental unit are the location of the unit, the structure’s fire rating, and extra electrical wiring. Some of the following are:

-Separate entrance for tenants
-Separate Heating System
-Fire Separation & Safety between units
-Egress window size for safety in bedrooms
-Electrical Panel & Mechanical access for both units
-Designated parking Etc

The potential benefits of having a secondary suite are straightforward. With the income you can make renting out a secondary suite on an ongoing basis or occasionally on Airbnb, you can offset your mortgage and other expenses while also adding resale value to your home! However, it’s important to remember that having a secondary suite is not just an easy solution to generate extra income in the short term – there are lots of things to consider. And, just because you have an existing suite in your basement, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s legal.

Why Make Your Secondary Suite Legal Now?

The city’s current bylaws were put in place in 2014 but the new 2019 bylaws will come into effect as of June 2020. When you apply before May 31, 2020, your suite will need to meet the 2014 bylaws to be approved as an existing suite, after which it will need to meet the 2019 updates to be approved as a new suite.
As of June 2020, any new unit will also need to include a separate heat source, like a furnace, and comply with new exterior stair specifications. To find all of the new requirements see the New Secondary Suite PDF.
The process for having your basement suite registered as a legal suite has never been easier, thanks to the approved amendments to the process.
Interested in building or registering your secondary suite? Here is everything you need to know to ensure your basement suite is legal!

Illegal vs. Legal Secondary Suites

What makes a basement suite illegal?

Any suite that was built without the proper permits, or was built in an area of the city where secondary suites aren’t permitted is considered an illegal suit. Some suites fall into the non-conforming category — this means they were built legally at the time but don’t conform to the current regulations.

What makes a basement suite legal?

To be considered legal, a secondary suite must be built in compliance with all the rules and with the right permits. If things have changed since original construction, the suite needs to still meet all current regulations.

Secondary Suite Safety Requirements:

  • Windows

Each bedroom needs to have at least one window that can be opened from the inside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge.

  • Smoke Alarms & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

These must be present in each unit within the house and connected to each other so when one alarm is activated the other alarms sound as well.

  • Exits

Each unit within the house should have at least one exit that leads directly outside and every exit door must be able to swing inward.

Interested in building a new secondary suite or making your existing suite legal? We’d love to help!

Calgary Process for Applying for a Secondary Suite

Before You Apply – Resources from the City of Calgary

Steps to Building a New Secondary Suite

  1. Get Planning Approval – Development Permit
  1. Get Building Code Approval – Building Permit
  • Provide a copy of a site plan
  • Provide a copy of floor plans
  • Provide a copy of elevations

Steps to Making an Existing Suite Legal

  1. Get Land Use Approval – Development Permit
  • If the suite has not had any inspections completed prior to your application, contact the city to book an inspection
  • Complete an application form
  • Provide a copy of the site plan
  1. Get Building Code Approval – Building Permit

Remember, owning a legal basement suite pays off by allowing you to rent out your suite and increasing the value of your property. A legal basement suite can be a major selling point for renters and buyers as it means the suite meets all the requirements under Alberta’s Safety Codes Act.

It’s also important to let your insurance provider know about your secondary suite, whether its legal or not. If a homeowner fails to let their insurer know about the suite, they open themselves up to significant risk and the possibility that in the event of a claim, the insurance company can deny coverage and void the existing insurance policy.

Insurance companies will not ask for verification to confirm if the suite is legal or illegal. However, a claim can be denied if it is deemed that damage due to homeowner negligence. It is definitely still advisable to go through with making sure your secondary suite is legal. For example, if a tenant is harmed while escaping a fire because you did not ensure proper fire routes, you could be sued or face criminal charges.

At Budget Home Renovation, we’re familiar with all of the city and provincial rules and regulations relating to legal basement suites. We can help you to ensure that your secondary suite development is in full compliance with the law and built with your specific needs and preferences!

Have a Secondary Suite Project in Mind?

contact us, our process are outlined below!

Legal Basement Suite Include:

  • Contact us for free onsite Consultation, call now 587 436 233 to book an appointment
  • Detailed Quotation based on agreed design
  • Review the quotation and sign the contract
  • Applying for Permits and material selections
  • Construction Begins after acquiring building permit/development permit include Site Management with Different Construction phases
  • Roughing Inspection By City – Building, Electrical and Plumbing roughing inspection.
  • Project Finishing Complete
  • Final walk through with Client
  • Inspection By City Inspector – Building, Electrical and Plumbing roughing inspection.
  • Handover the secondary suite key to client
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