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Secondary suites: An accessible option for the owners and the tenants

Secondary suites: An accessible option for the owners and the tenants

A “secondary suite” is an autonomous housing located inside a house, or adjacent to it, which is separated from the principal dwelling. That is why the secondary suite must have its own kitchen and its bathroom as well as an independent entry.


The secondary suites offer to the members of the same family, to the elderly, to persons alone and to other types of tenants an accessible place to live, all the while giving to the owners an additional source of income. If you think of building a secondary suite or of doing renovations to arrange one, there are certain things which you should know before beginning the work:


- First, ensure yourself that the secondary suite will be in conformity with all the regulations of your locality as regards zoning, building and fire protection. The majority of the Canadian municipalities have adopted zoning regulations which determine the type, the dimensions and the height of the buildings that one can build on their territory. The municipalities have also the capacity to regulate the use which will be made of the dwellings, the site of the windows, the possibility of making a secondary suite and, if this kind of construction is allowed, the authorized dimensions.


- The design and the construction of a secondary suite are also regulated by the provincial or territorial building codes. To be certain that your secondary suite will be in conformity with all the regulations of the municipality and the requirements of the building code, communicate with the office of information on the installation, the zoning service or the permit office of your municipality.


- Once you will be ready to proceed, do your best to create a secure, healthy and comfortable life environment for your tenants. Your apartment will at least offer a liveable space of suitable size, sufficient headroom, natural light in abundance, a good ventilation and heating installation, good thermic and acoustic insulation, an environment not prone to recurring humidity problems, a suitable protection against fires as well as reliable warning signals of heat and smoke.


- If you build a secondary suite for a handicapped adult or an elderly person with low income, you could be admissible for financial assistance under the Homeowner Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program — Homeowner RRAP of the CMHC. Communicate with the CMHC for more information on this subject.


- Be advised that the addition of a secondary suite will probably increase the value of your property; which means that your property tax could be subject to a rise. You must moreover declare any rent perceived like an income under the terms of the Income Tax Act. Do not forget to warn your insurance company of the changes which modify the nature, the use and the value of your property.


For more information or to obtain a free specimen of the flyer of the series “Your House” entitled Secondary Suites or for information relating to any other aspect of the possession, the maintenance or the purchase of a dwelling, consult the CMHC.

About the author

Québec Landlords Association (1)

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