“When vacancies start climbing, you want to have an edge on attracting good tenants,” says Sean Hayes, a real estate agent at Re/Max Rocky View Real Estate. “That’s the time to freshen up your suites, do renovations and get an edge on other landlords.”
The regulations, which are part of an 18-month pilot program, came in on Sept. 1. The City of Calgary has created an online registry that has every single legal suite in the city on a database. It is also handing out stickers to landlords to put in their legal secondary suites to show that they own a safe suite.
“When the registry was launched there were only 432 legal suites in the City of Calgary, which is unbelievably low,” adds Hayes. “That shows the amount of illegal suites that have been around.
“The idea with the new legislation is to streamline the process and get people with illegal suites to come forward and legalize them, now that it’s a lot quicker and easier to do it.”
Hayes, who is a landlord himself, was a consultant on the pilot program, and has already reaped its benefits. His latest application for a permit took just five days, rather than the typical five weeks he had faced in the past.
The City of Calgary has seen the benefits already as well, with an increase in building permits. “In the past there have been both a development and a building permit that landlords had to get,” explains Hayes. “It takes a lot of time to get those permits, and then everything has to meet building code.
“In the legislation, for properties that qualify, the city will eliminate that development permit, you can go right to a building permit, and you don’t have to meet building code if the suite existed prior to Jan. 1, 2007. You just have to meet fire code. People are saving a lot of money in the renovation costs.”
Another benefit for landlords is the increased value of an income property that has a legalized suite. “We typically see that properties with legal suites are appraised at $20,000 more than illegal suites,” adds Hayes.
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After months of declining oil prices, job losses, and the subsequent rise in vacancy rates, landlords in Calgary must set themselves apart from the pack – and new regulations around secondary suites might be just the way to do so.