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 suites must meet the regulations of the Zoning Bylaw and BC 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 long term rental units. Contact the Planning Division to confirm whether a secondary suite is permitted at a property.


In August 2021, the City adopted updated requirements to simplify regulations, improve application review times, and streamline the process for applicants.

The revised secondary suites program:

  • replaces existing secondary suite requirements with a simplified set of life safety and livability requirements;
  • removes items already regulated through the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC);
  • no longer has separate regulations for suites in older or newer homes; and
  • removes Zoning Bylaw Design Standards and instead offers Best Practices for Secondary Suite Design.

You can learn more about the updates by reading the January 18, 2021 Staff Report to Council and Zoning Amendment Bylaw.

The guide below provides more information about secondary suites:

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

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

    Secondary Suites and Laneway or Carriage Houses

    Most single detached dwelling properties are allowed both a laneway/carriage house and a secondary suite, provided each unit can meet the requirements of the Zoning Bylaw, the Laneway and Carriage House Development Permit Area guidelines, and the 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 a 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 house, 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.

  • Since July 6, 1998, the City has allowed one authorized secondary suite per single detached house.

    An authorized (or "legal") suite must have been created with a Building Permit. 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, the City may investigate and pursue appropriate enforcement action, particularly where health or safety concerns are identified. This action may include the requirement to authorize the suite by bringing it into compliance with City bylaws or to remove the suite (see below), and will require a Building Permit.
  • In some cases, a secondary suite may be required to be removed rather than authorized.  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 townhouse, 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.

    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.  Payment of the secondary suite utility charge to the City does not mean a suite is authorized.  There are certain circumstances where a property may be eligible for exemption.

    If the suite is vacant, or the suite is internally connected with the rest of the house and all occupants may come and go throughout the principal dwelling and suite, then the property may be eligible for an exemption from the suite utility charges. 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, that if you decide to occupy it as a separate unit in the future you will notify the City, and that you are aware the secondary suite utility charge would resume. The Stat Dec signing must be done in person at City Hall and will take approximately five minutes. To determine a property's eligibility or make a Stat Dec, contact the Planning Division.

    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. 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 to the beginning of the previous calendar year.

  • Building Division

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

    Phone: 604-527-4580
    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
    Website: Energy Save New West

    Engineering Operations

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

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

    Parking Permits

    For information about residential and visitor parking permits.

    Phone: 604-519-2010
    Website: Parking Permits

    Planning Division

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

    Phone: 604-527-4532
    Website: Zoning Bylaw

    Tree Bylaw and Regulation

    For information about Tree Permits and tree protection.

    Phone: 604-636-4318
    Website: Tree Permits