Secondary Suites

Secondary suites provide affordable, ground-oriented rental housing and contribute to the amount and diversity of housing available in the city, while preserving the character of residential neighbourhoods.

Secondary must meet the regulations of the Zoning Bylaw, Secondary Suite Design Standards, and Building Code, but are permitted in most single detached houses in New Westminster. Secondary suites cannot be strata-titled, sold, or used for short term rentals, but can be used for family or as rental units. Contact the City’s Planning Division to confirm whether a secondary suite is permitted at a property.

The guide below provides more information about secondary suites:

  • Before making plans to create a secondary suite in a new or existing house, or making renovation plans to authorize an unauthorized suite, contact the Planning Division to confirm that the property has appropriate zoning.

    Secondary suites must conform to the regulations in the Zoning Bylaw, including regulations for size, parking, and flood construction levels. Zoning regulations for secondary suites are provided for convenience in the Secondary Suite Guide. Plans must be approved by the Building Division to ensure conformance with the Zoning Bylaw and Building Code before a Building Permit can be issued. A Tree Permit also required.

    Secondary suites must also meet the City’s design standards to ensure they provide safe, healthy and good quality housing. Different design standards apply for houses built before July 1998 and for houses built after July 1998.


    Secondary Suites and Laneway or Carriage Houses

    A laneway or carriage house and a secondary suite is allowed in most single detached zoning districts, provided each unit can meet the requirements of the Zoning Bylaw, the Laneway and Carriage House Development Permit Area guidelines and Building Code.


    Creating the Opportunity for a Future Secondary Suite

    If you are building a new house or renovating your basement and do not wish to build a secondary suite at this time, but think that you may like to add one later, the following steps will make the process easier in the future:

    1. Install hard-wired smoke alarms that are interconnected with smoke alarms in the rest of the house (i.e. when one smoke alarm goes off, they all go off simultaneously).
       
    2. Prepare your heating system. If your house is heated through a forced-air system, the heating ducts in the area where a future suite may be added should be closed. Electric baseboards or some other kind of heating would then need to be installed.
       
    3. Protect your gas furnace. If you have a gas furnace that will be inside or near the area where a future suite may be added, the furnace room should be protected by adding 5/8” Type X (Fireguard) drywall inside and out, including the ceiling. The access door to the furnace room should be a 45-minute fire rated door with a self-closing mechanism.
       
    4. Ensure fire safety between the two units. Install 5/8” Type X (Fireguard) drywall on the ceiling of the area where a future suite may be added and on any walls that are shared by the principal unit or a common area (such as a shared laundry room).
       
    5. Ensure access access points between the two units are fire safe.  For access points between the future suite and the principal unit or a common area, the door connecting the areas should be a 20-minute fire rated door with a self-closing mechanism.
       
    6. Ensure that each bedroom contains a window that has an openable area of at least 3.8 sq. ft. (0.35 sq. metres), has no openable dimension less than 15 inches (38 cm) and whose window sill is no higher off the floor than 4 ft. 11 inches (1.5 metres).


    Completing this work at the time of building or renovation will not be a significant additional expense and will greatly reduce the expense of creating the suite in the future. Contact the Building Division regarding questions about preparing for a future secondary suite.


    Adding a Secondary Suite to an Existing House

    When adding a secondary suite to an existing home, the following items will need to be reviewed for Building Code compliance: 

    • Access and entrances,
    • Ceiling height,
    • Window size and area,
    • Fire separations,
    • Heating and ventilation systems,
    • Electrical and gas systems, and
    • Fire and carbon monoxide detectors.

     

    Significant changes or upgrades to a house may be required by the Building Code in order to create a suite.  Property owners are encouraged to discuss required upgrades with their contractor or design professional early in the renovation project. Contact the Building Division regarding questions about adding a secondary suite to an existing house.

  • Authorized suites are sometimes also referred to as “legal” suites. Since July 6, 1998, the City has allowed the creation of one secondary suite (or authorization of one existing suite) per single detached house.

    A secondary suite is authorized if it was created with a Building Permit. This is the only way a suite can be considered authorized. Payment of the secondary suite utility charge to the City does not mean a suite is authorized. To find out if your suite was created with a permit, contact the Planning Division.


    What happens if a secondary suite is unauthorized?

    If an unauthorized secondary suite comes to the City’s attention due to health or safety concerns, negative impacts to the neighbourhood, or a Building Permit application being submitted, the City will investigate and pursue appropriate enforcement action. This action may include the requirement to bring the suite into compliance with City bylaws or to remove the suite. To authorize a secondary suite, a Building Permit is required. See our Removing Secondary Suites section below for more information.  
  • In some cases, a secondary suite may be required to be removed.  For example, if there is more than one suite in a single detached house, if there is a secondary suite in a duplex unit, or if a secondary suite is not otherwise permitted based on the zoning of a property, the secondary suite may be required to be removed. In other cases, removing a secondary suite may be preferred to authorizing it.

    The guide below outlines the steps to a remove secondary suite.

  • All properties with secondary suites are subject to secondary suite water and sewer charges; however, there are certain circumstances where a property may be eligible for exemption.

    If the suite is vacant or the suite area functions as part of the house, with occupants coming and going throughout the principal dwelling and suite, then the property may be eligible for an exemption from the suite utility charges. To determine a property's eligibility, call the Planning Division. To qualify for the exemption, an affidavit called a Statutory Declaration (Stat Dec) must be signed.  By signing the Stat Dec you will be swearing under oath, as if in court, that the suite is not occupied as a separate unit, and if you decide to occupy it as a separate unit in the future you will notify the City and be aware that the secondary suite utility charge would resume. The Stat Dec signing process will take approximately five minutes.

    The City will also consider “back-dating” the utility charge exemption if the secondary suite has been unoccupied as a separate unit for a period of time prior to the inspection. To qualify for a refund, you must write a letter to the Planning Division describing the occupancy of the suite, including dates of occupancy. An exemption can be granted back to the beginning of the previous calendar year.

    Please note that payment of the secondary suite utility charge to the City does not mean a suite is authorized.

  • Building Division

    For information on Building Code and Plumbing Bylaw requirements, and the Building Permit process.

    Phone: 604-527-4580
    Email:
    Website: Single Detached Dwelling Building Permits


    Electrical Utility

    For information about service connections and metering.

    Phone: 604-527-4528
    Website: Electrical Utility
     

    Energy Savings

    For information about Energy Save New West and access to energy evaluations, upgrades, rebates and incentives.

    Phone: 604-515-3818
    Email:
    Website: Energy Save New West
     

    Engineering Operations

    For information about recycling and garbage collection and water and sewer services.

    Phone: 604-527-4592
    Email: 
    Website: Water, Sewers & Drainage
    Website: Garbage & Recycling
     

    Parking Permits

    For information about residential and visitor parking permits.

    Phone: 604-519-2010
    Email:
    Website: Parking Permits


    Planning Division

    For information about the zoning of a property and zoning regulations for secondary suites.

    Phone: 604-527-4532
    Email: 
    Website: Zoning Bylaw
     


    Tree Bylaw and Regulation

    For information about Tree Permits and tree protection.

    Phone: 604-636-4318
    Email: 
    Website: Tree Permits