As a REALTOR® with very good experience on both residential and commercial investment properties, I often get questions from investor clients on the topic of basement suites. Below are Five Steps Required to Legalize a Basement Suite in the City of Edmonton (note: what is supplied in this article is general information only; municipal Bylaws may be subject to change at any time, and readers are encouraged to contact the appropriate municipality for any specific related questions they have):
Step 1: Because a large number of existing properties in the City of Edmonton unfortunately do not have permits for basement suites, if a landlord Buyer desires to achieve ’legal status’ on his rental property (as he or she always should for important legal and insurance liability reasons) he or she must allow for the costs to improve the property including permit applications and upgrades, the extent by which (depending on the inspector's level of experience and competency) could be answered in part during a home inspection (i.e. recommended Buyer’s question to inspector: what exactly would be required to raise this property to 100% compliance with the current Alberta Building Code?) Note that a permit is only required if a suite is being used for renting out to a separate family - not for vacant or occupancy by a single family since there are currently no rules against a single family having a second kitchen existing in the basement.
Step 2: Once the certified home inspector advises his or her opinion of the extent of renovations and repairs required to raise the property up to the current Alberta Building Code standard, the next step is to contact reputable trades and companies for estimates on the work to know the entire cost impact of buying new or upgrading an existing property.
Step 3: Apply to the City of Edmonton for a Building and Development Permit first by opening the file link below (updated June 2017) and then by calling 311 or 780-442-5311 to schedule an appointment:
Step 4: The City may approve and issue the building and development permits for the suite (before visiting the site) based on their review and acceptance of the submitted floor plans, permit fees, and application forms, and then send out an inspector to the property to verify that all renovations have been completed in accordance with the Alberta Building Code (e.g. smoke alarm system wired in, adequate access / egress (separate basement entrance), adequate bedroom window sizes, laundry and furnace considerations, adequate fire separation, adequate parking, etc.) The inspector is prohibited from raising issues that are not contained in the Alberta Building Code (i.e. subjective nonsense) and there are procedures in place that a homeowner can appeal superfluous recommendations or requirements made by an inspector of which may cross over the City's intrusion boundaries.
Step 5: Once the City of Edmonton Inspector comes to a property, there is a deadline issued for compliance and re-inspection once any further required improvements are completed. The City currently does not send out random inspectors trying to catch landlords that do not have the proper permits in place, rather they would only inspect a property if there is a problem such as a serious neighbor complaint with justification, Capital Health violation complaint, and / or some other serious issue (e.g. devastating fire) that happens at the house. Once the permit has been received, the landlord could then operate the suite subject to continued adherence to the City of Edmonton’s regulations for suites and also compliance with the Alberta Landlord and Tenancy Act.
The above are my opinions of steps required by the City of Edmonton to build a new basement suite or retrofit an existing basement suite to be considered legal for the purpose of renting out to a separate family. The City of Edmonton Planning and Development Department can be reached at 311 or 780-442-5311 for clarification or to answer any further general or specific property-related questions because rules and regulations are subject to change as is the City’s interpretation of these Bylaws. For jurisdictions outside Edmonton, you must contact the respective City, Town, or County Council responsible for setting and enforcing local basement suite bylaws. These same jurisdications can be contacted for information related to grants given to homeowners who fully or partially upgrade a suite to current codes.
[Article written and ©2009, ©2017 by Kelly Grant, M.Eng., ABR, NCSO, P.Eng. - REALTOR® at Maxwell Devonshire Realty in Edmonton, AB]
Disclaimer: for those readers not currently represented by another licensed REALTOR®, to obtain more information on this topic and / or if you are serious about selling or buying in the Greater Edmonton Area, call Kelly at 780-414-6100 (pager) or send Kelly an email to SOLD@KellyGrant.ca to schedule a confidential appointment.