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Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the City of Edmonton's Secondary 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 or Garden Suites.

What is a garden suite?

Typically, garden suites are single or two-storey structures built in the back yards of single detached homes and must have their own kitchen, bathroom and living space. You may also know them as garage suites, carriage houses, backyard suites or laneway homes.

The Edmonton Zoning Bylaw defines a garden suite as:

An accessory building containing a dwelling, which is located separate from the principal use which is single detached housing, and which may contain a parking area. A garden suite has cooking facilities, food preparation, sleeping and sanitary facilities which are separate from those of the principal dwelling located on the site.

Learn more about garden suite regulations in the City's Garden Suites video.

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 and garden suites allowed?

Secondary suites are only allowed within a single detached house, and garden suites are only allowed on a site with a single detached house.

Both secondary suites and garden suites can be created in most residential zones of the city, although specific development regulations apply.

In most low-density residential zones, they are considered to be a permitted use, while in other residential zones, they are considered to be a discretionary use.

A permitted use will be approved provided if 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 garden suites, along with the location restrictions for garden suites, are explained in the Zoning Bylaw.

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 the 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 which zoning applies to my home?

You can find out what zone your property is in, by visiting Edmonton Maps. Once you have entered the site, select “Zoning”, then enter the House Number and select "Street or Avenue Name."

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 Edmonton Service Centre, 2nd Floor, 10111 104 Avenue NW, 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 garden suite.

Which applications are required and what fees apply?

Secondary 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 for an Existing Single Family Home Application Form

Secondary Suite in a new home

Garden 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).

Refer to the Secondary Suites web page and Garden Suite Combined Fee Schedule for more information on fees.

You can also visit the Edmonton Service Centre, 2nd Floor, 10111 104 Avenue NW, Edmonton, between 8am and 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

  • 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 garden 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 or garden suite on a site with a semi-detached (side-by-side duplex) house?

No. Secondary and garden suites may only be developed on a site that has a single detached house. Secondary 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 secondary 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 and garden suites?

Yes, there are restrictions on secondary and garden suites.

The regulations, including parking requirements, can be read in the Zoning Bylaw.

With the exception of some specialty zones, the following regulations apply:

Secondary Suite regulations

Garden Suite regulations

Should you have any questions regarding the regulations, visit the Edmonton Service Centre 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 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 affect 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 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 garden suites in existence before 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.

For More Information

Edmonton Service Centre

Sustainable Development
2nd floor, 10111 104 Avenue
Edmonton, AB  T5J 0J4

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 garden 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 and Garden Suites)

Title Contact 311
Telephone

In Edmonton: 311

Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

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