Tenancies in Secondary or Illegal Suites (19:XVII)

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This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on July 1, 2022.



Municipalities all over the Lower Mainland are attempting to regulate secondary suites. In most Lower Mainland municipalities, secondary suites are regulated and may be legal (though some landlords may be operating the secondary suite without approval). The bylaws and policy guidelines are municipality-specific, so clients should be directed to their municipal offices to find out what the specific enforcement policies are for their municipality.

The City of Surrey approved secondary suites in December of 2010. See http://www.surrey.ca/city-government/7617.aspx for information.

Vancouver’s Zoning and Development By-law makes it possible to have a secondary suite in every detached single family home in the City of Vancouver. Council also approved the relaxation of various building code standards to facilitate the secondary suite process.

The City of Vancouver will continue to respond to complaints received from neighbours or tenants regarding illegal suites. Where legitimate complaints are received, homeowners will have to apply to make the suite legal. In the case of some houses with multiple suites, Council policy limits the house to a principal dwelling and one secondary suite. The application process is described online, and can be accessed at: http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/creating-a-secondary-suite.aspx.

If a city inspector determines that a suite should be closed down, the landlord may be given notice to shut down the suite by the City, which will allow them to give a One Month Notice to End Tenancy for Cause to the tenant. The RTA applies independently of the legality of the suite.

For more information on the issue of tenancy agreements relating to illegal or unapproved suites, see RTB Policy Guideline 20: Illegal Contracts.


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