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 August 10, 2021.

Municipalities all over the Lower Mainland are attempting to regulate secondary suites. In most Lower Mainland municipalities, secondary suites are legal and regulated (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. For a website with links to various municipalities’ polices on secondary suites, see http://www.homeswithsuites.ca/MunicipalSuitePolicies.ubr

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 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 will be given 30 days’ notice to evict the tenant. That notice will begin to run from the day on which rent is next due. Regardless of the legality of the suite however, the RTA may still apply. A tenant may be entitled to more than the 30 days’ notice given by the municipality, and may therefore have a claim against the landlord if proper notice is not given.

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

© Copyright 2021, The Greater Vancouver Law Students' Legal Advice Society.