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Secondary Suites FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the City of Edmonton's Secondary, Garage and Garden Suite regulations.

What is a secondary suite?

A Secondary Suite is a separate dwelling inside a single detached house with separate cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities.

Secondary Suites must have an entrance separate from the primary house, either from a common indoor landing or directly from the side or rear of the house.

Secondary Suite Graphic

A Secondary Suite can be created through the conversion or development of a basement or other interior space. 

Duplexes, semi-detached houses, townhouses and apartments do not qualify for Secondary Suites, Garage Suites, or Garden Suites.

What is a garage suite?

A Garage Suite is a dwelling located above or attached to the side or rear of a detached garage which is accessory to a single detached house. A Garage Suite has separate cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities.

A Garage Suite has an entrance either from a common indoor landing or directly from the exterior of the garage that is separate from the vehicle entrance to the garage.

Garage Suite Above Grade

Garage Suite at Grade

What is a garden suite?

A Garden Suite is a self-contained, single-storey dwelling which is separate from the principal single detached house. It has separate cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities.

Garden Suite at Grade

What are the benefits of developing secondary suites?

Secondary suites provide affordable rental accommodation and can be developed relatively quickly compared to other forms of rental housing.  Also, the rent that homeowners collect from a suite helps pay their mortgage, making home ownership more affordable.  For more information, please read
Secondary Suites: Tenant, Owner and Community Benefits.

Where are secondary, garage and garden suites allowed?

Secondary suites are only allowed within a single detached house in most residential zones, as either permitted or discretionary uses.

Garage suites and garden suites are only allowed on a site with a single detached house, and only in specific locations on a discretionary basis.

A permitted use will be approved provided it fully complies with the Zoning Bylaw.

A discretionary use may be approved, but the approval is not guaranteed.  Adjacent landowners are notified of the decision and the decision can be appealed by either the property owner or anyone affected.

The zones that allow secondary suites and garage and garden suites, along with the location restrictions for garage and garden suites are explained in this summary document.

Additional Restrictions apply to the following neighbourhoods:
Gold Bar, Maple Ridge, Beverley Heights, Rundle Heights, and a portion of Horse Hill rural subdivision. These locations are near the Edmonton-Strathcona boundary, where limitations apply within 1.5 km of Edmonton-Strathcona boundary due to heavy industrial areas.

Please call a Development Technical Advisor at 311 (or 780-442-5311 outside of Edmonton) for more information.

See map of affected areas and Section 822 of the Zoning Bylaw.

How do I find out what zoning applies to my home?

You can find out what zone your property is in, my visiting Edmonton Maps. Once you have entered the site, use the “Locate” tab, then select “Zoning”, then “Locate Title by Address.”

Suites cannot be developed in conjunction with group homes, limited group homes or major home-based businesses (except in the case of a Bed and Breakfast).

You can also visit the Current Planning Service Centre, 5th Floor, HSBC Bank Building (10250 – 101 Street), Edmonton, between 8am and 4.30pm,  to speak to a Development Technical Advisor. They can provide information about your property including zoning and requirements for a development permit, provided that your property is zoned for a secondary or garage suite.

What applications are required and what fees apply?

Secondary, garage and garden suites require a development permit as well as a building permit.

You must complete the application form for the type of suite you want to build and submit the documentation listed on the application form.

Secondary Suite in an existing home

Secondary Suite in a new home

Garden and Garage Suites

In addition, applicable Heating, Plumbing and Gas and Electrical permit charges will apply. A Sanitary Sewer Trunk Charge also applies. 
Additional monthly waste management fees also apply (charged as 2 multi-family units for the house and the Suite on your monthly EPCOR bill).

Visit Residential Licenses & Permits: Additions and Improvements for current permit fees.

You can also visit the the 5th floor of the HSBC Bank Place (10250–101 Street) between 8am-4:30pm Monday to Friday for assistance in filling out the required permit application forms, or contact 311 and ask for a Development Technical Advisor or Building Technical Advisor.

What makes many of the existing secondary suites illegal?

Many secondary suites that exist in Edmonton are illegal suites because:

  • The suite does not have a valid development permit and/or building permit connected to it
  • The zone does not allow secondary suites or restricts the location of secondary suites. While location restrictions for secondary suites have been removed in the Phase 2 Bylaw, location restrictions still apply in most zones for garage and garden suites.  
  • The suite does not meet the requirements of the Alberta Building Code or Fire Code

Because of zoning bylaw changes, some properties that may not have been eligible for a legal secondary or garage suite may now become eligible.
Call the Development Technical Advisor at 311 (within Edmonton) or 780-442-5311 (outside of Edmonton) for more information.

May I develop a secondary, garage or garden suite on a site with a semi-detached (side-by-side duplex) house?

No. Secondary suites may only be developed within a single detached house. Garage and garden suites may only be developed on a site that has a single detached house.  Secondary, garage and garden suites are not allowed on sites with other types of housing, including, but not limited to, semi-detached houses, duplex or row houses (town houses).

May I develop more than one suite in conjunction with a single detached house?

No. You may only develop one of a secondary suite, garage suite or garden suite (within the single detached house or on a site with a single detached house).

Are there size, height and parking requirements for secondary, garage and garden suites?

Yes, under the current Zoning Bylaw there are restrictions on secondary, garage and garden suites. With the exception of some specialty zones, the following regulations apply:
Secondary Suite regulations

Garage Suite and Garden Suite regulations:

The regulations, including parking requirements, can be read in the summary document.

Should you have any questions regarding the regulations, you can visit the Sustainable Development Department on 5th floor, HSBC Bank Place (10250–101 Street) between 8am-4:30pm Monday to Friday, or call 311 (or 780-442-5311 outside of Edmonton) and ask for a Development Technical Advisor or Building Technical Advisor.

Is financial assistance available to help upgrade or create a suite?
The Cornerstones program provided grants to qualified homeowners who wished to construct or upgrade a secondary suite, garage suite or garden suite. 

Please read the grant program page for updates and current information.

Contact the City before applying for permits, if you think you are eligible for grants.

Will suites developed or upgraded with grant funding be inspected?
Yes, all new suites will be inspected to ensure they meet building and fire codes. This includes existing suites, some of which may be illegal, where the owner has applied for funding.
Will adding a secondary suite affect my taxes?
Property assessments are based on market value. Renovating a home to create an additional living unit will increase the assessed market value of the home and the taxes. The amount of increase depends on the extent of the renovation.

Secondary suite rental revenue must also be declared as income to the Canada Revenue Agency.
What if I add a secondary suite and then sell my house?
You may be subject to capital gains tax at the time of sale. Contact the Canada Revenue Agency for more information.
How does the Alberta Building Code and Alberta Fire Code impact secondary suites?

All proposals for new or existing suites must conform to the Zoning Bylaw and the Alberta Building Code and Fire Code.
 
The Building Code applies in the following situations:

  • A new dwelling unit with a secondary suite included at the time of construction 
  • An existing dwelling unit with an unfinished space being converted to a secondary suite  
  • An existing dwelling unit with a finished space being converted to a secondary suite  
  • The construction of a garage or garden suite

For questions on Building Code requirements, please call 311 (within Edmonton) or 780-442-5311 (outside of Edmonton) and ask for a Building Technical Advisor.

The Fire Code applies to all secondary or garage suites in existence prior to December 31, 2006.  Those existing before December 31, 2006 must be upgraded to meet the Alberta Fire Code. Those built after December 31, 2006 must be upgraded to meet Building Code.

For questions on Fire Code inquiries on existing secondary suites call Fire Prevention at 780-496-3628 or visit the Fire Prevention Secondary Suites web page.

For online information on Building and Fire Code amendments please visit the Alberta Municipal Affairs website.

 

Where can I find a summary of the regulations and zones where Secondary, Garage and Garden Suites are allowed?

Please read the summary document.

For More Information

Permits and Licensing Service Centre

Sustainable Development
5th floor, 10250 - 101 Street
Edmonton, AB  T5J 3P4

Hours of Operation:

Monday to Friday
8am to 4:30pm

Telephone

780-442-5054

Fax 780-496-6054

Building Permit and Building Code inquiries on new secondary or garage suite developments

Title Building Technical Advisor
Telephone

In Edmonton: 311

Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

Building and Fire Codes-Provincial Standards

Title Municipal Affairs and Housing
Telephone

1-866-421-6929

Fire Code Inquiries (Secondary Suites)

Fire Prevention, Fire Rescue Services

Title Fire Prevention Coordinator
Telephone

780-496-3628

Sanitary Sewer Trunk Charge (applies to Secondary, Garage and Garden Suites)

Title Contact 311
Telephone

In Edmonton: 311

Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311