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Secondary Suites


Legal Secondary Suites need to be approved by Development Services and must meet requirements of the Building Code.

Step 1: Review

Development Considerations

Secondary Suites are only allowed as a Discretionary Use in the R-L Low Density Residential District and a Permitted Use in the R-M Mixed Density Residential District.  
  1. Determine the zoning district for your parcel using the Property Information Map
    • Click the 'Property Search' button and enter your address. 

  2. Once you have determined your zoning district, locate the corresponding district rules in Land Use Bylaw 6300 to determine the minimum requirements for your parcel.

Application Workflow


Step 2: Prepare your Application

You will be required to prepare the necessary documentation for your application, please ensure you meet all of the following requirements.

Special Consideration - Secondary Suites Existing prior to September 2, 2007

  • The applicant must prove when the suite was originally constructed or brought into existence. Proof can come in a variety of forms such as rent receipts, MLS listing, or other sources of information.

Development requirements

  • Complete a Development Application Checklist. Ensure that the documentation also addresses the following requirements:
    • Only one Secondary Suite will be allowed per parcel. 
    • One additional off-street parking stall must be provided and maintained at all times for the Secondary Suite.
    • The Suite must have a separate access either through an entryway from the exterior of the dwelling or through a separate entrance within a common landing.
    • The secondary suite shall not be subject to separation from the principal dwelling through a condominium conversion.

Design Considerations - Secondary Suites Existing prior to September 2, 2007

All Code references are to the National Building Code - 2019 - Alberta Edition (NBC 2019-AE)

Height of Rooms and Spaces:  Sentence 9.5.3.1.(2) states "ceiling heights in secondary suites shall be not less than 1.95m."

INTERPRETATION: 

  • Although the minimum ceiling height may be achievable in some secondary suites contained in later model homes, many homes built decades ago may have lower ceilings due to shallower basements/foundations. In cases such as these, the authority having jurisdiction, may deem it acceptable to reduce the minimum requirements to a level the Safety Codes Officer deems appropriate.


Bedroom Windows:  Sentence 9.9.10.1.(1) states "except where the suite is sprinklered, each bedroom shall have at least one outside window or exterior door openable from the inside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge and without the removal of sashes or hardware."

INTERPRETATION:

  • Egress windows must meet the requirements of Articles 9.7.1.2. and 9.7.1.3. and provide an unobstructed opening of not less than 0.35 m2 in area, with no dimension less than 380mm., and maintain the required opening during an emergency without the need for additional support.
  • Where an egress window opens into a window well, a minimum clearance of 760mm shall be provided
  • Where an egress window sash swings toward the window well, it shall not reduce the clearance required
  • Where a cover is installed over a window well, it shall be openable from the inside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge.
  • If security bars are installed at an egress window, they shall be openable from the inside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge.


Smoke Alarms: Article 9.10.19. regulates the requirements for smoke alarms.

INTERPRETATION:

  • Smoke alarms conforming to CAN/ULC-S531 shall be installed in each sleeping room, and in a location between the sleeping room and the remainder of the storey. If the sleeping rooms are served by a hallway, the smoke alarm shall be located in the hallway.
  • Smoke alarms shall be installed on or near the ceiling.
  • Smoke alarms in a house with a secondary suite shall be interconnected so that the activation of any one smoke alarm causes all smoke alarms within the house to sound. (Including those within the primary dwelling)
  • A smoke alarm installed in a room containing service equipment is permitted to have a smoke alarm in lieu of a smoke tight barrier.


Carbon Monoxide Alarms: Article 9.32.3.9. states Carbon monoxide alarms conforming to CSA 6.19, "Residential Carbon Monoxide Alarming Devices," shall be installed in accordance with Sentence 9.32.3.9.(2) of Division B of the NBC 2019-AE in the primary and secondary dwelling units.

INTERPRETATION:

  • Carbon monoxide alarms shall be installed in the primary dwelling and in the secondary suite by permanent connections to an electrical circuit, and interconnected so that the activation of one carbon monoxide alarm will cause all alarms within both dwelling units to sound.
  • Carbon monoxide alarms shall be installed in areas that are common to both dwelling unitsby permanent connections to an electrical circuit and interconnected so that the activation of one carbon monoxide alarm will cause all alarms within both dwelling units to sound.


Exit Stairs: Sentence 9.8.2.1.(2) states that "Exit stairs serving a single dwelling unit or a house with a secondary suite including their common spaces shall have a width of not less than 860mm."

INTERPRETATION:

  • The ideal width for stairs is 860mm, however this dimension may not be achievable in existing structures. The Safety Codes Officer will make recommendations upon inspection of stairs.


Landings: Article 9.8.6.3. regulates the dimensions of landings.

INTERPRETATION:

  • Dimensions of landings in existing secondary suites may not comply fully due to conditions. The Safety Codes Officer will make recommendations upon inspection of landings.


Handrails and Guards: Subsections 9.8.7., Handrails, and 9.8.8., Guards contain regulations regarding handrails and guards

INTERPRETATION:

  • Existing construction may make regulations unachievable. The Safety Codes Officer will make recommendations upon inspection of handrails and guards.


Exit Doors: The Safety Codes Officer will determine minimum door sizes upon inspection of the premises.


Dwelling Unit Separations: Sentence 9.10.9.14 (4) states "In a house with a secondary suite, Walls and floor-ceiling framing that separate dwelling units from each other or dwelling units from ancillary spaces and common spaces shall be protected by a continuous smoke-tight barrier of not less than 12.7 mm thick gypsum board installed on both sides of walls, and the underside of floor/ceiling framing".

INTERPRETATION:

  • The requirements outlined in the above statement are to be applied to existing suites. In furnace rooms, an interconnected smoke alarm will be accepted in place of the smoke tight barrier.


Heating and Ventilation Systems: For an existing secondary suitea single heating and ventilation system may be used to serve both the secondary suite and main dwelling unit.



Design Considerations - New Secondary Suites & Secondary Suites Existing After Sep 2, 2007

New secondary suites must be in full compliance with the National Building Code 2019 - Alberta Edition. 



Step 3: Apply

Development Permit

  1. Development applications can be made online by completing the Development Application Form and sending an email to developmentservices@lethbridge.ca.

    • Please reference the development checklist for the documents required as part of a complete submission.
  2. For those looking to apply for a suite existing prior to September 2, 2007 you are encouraged to make the application in person at Development Services to discuss the compliance process.

Building Permit

  1. Building permit applications can be made through eApply or in-person at Development Services. A Building permit application should only be submitted after the Development permit has been approved.
    • Online applications require a MyCity Account. Please refer to the MyCity Registration Guide.
    • Instructions on making an online application can be found on our FAQ.
    • Required Documents:
  1. Floor plan of the proposed Secondary Suite indicating:
    • locations of smoke and C0 detectors
    • location, size, and type (casement, awning, slider, etc) of egress windows
    • location and width of stairwells and landings
    • location and width of doorways
  2. Floor plan of the Primary Dwelling Unit
  3. Site plan
  4. Elevations if a forced basement entry (dug down, retaining wall) is to be installed, or other changes impacting the exterior footprint of the home

Step 4: Inspections

All inspections can be scheduled online either through MyCity or eInspections.

  • Development Permit: For suites existing prior to September 2, 2007 only: Safety Codes Pre-application Inspection
  • Building PermitFraming/Vapour Barrier inspection (new suites only) and Final inspection is required once all work is completed.
  • Electrical Permit: An Electrical ServiceRough-in and Final inspection are required.
  • Plumbing Permit: A Rough-in and Final inspection are required. 
  • Gas Permit: will only be issued to a licensed gas installer. A Rough-in and Final inspection are required.
  • Heating & Ventilation: A Rough-in and Final inspection are required.

Secondary Suites and Life Safety Concerns

Occupants with concerns their suite may have unsafe conditions may submit a Building Inspection Complaint Investigation Form.

Building Safety Codes Officers may perform a preliminary inspection of the suite for a current occupant which has first-hand knowledge that safety codes infractions exist in the building, or for a third-party when a credible life safety concern can be demonstrated.

Please note that a copy of the preliminary inspection report and all supplemental documentation will be provided to the property owner.