A secondary suite is a separate unit contained within the main residence, usually the basement, that can be rented out. Having a secondary suite can dramatically increase the value of your home and create a passive extra income for you.

Owning a legal basement Suite can pay off huge for homeowners in the following ways:

  • Landlords can rent out the entire suite.
  • Boost your passive income and increase the speed at which you pay down your mortgage.
  • Help pay for the cost of property taxes as well as home maintenance.
  • Allow extra space and accommodations for visitors such as family or adult children.
  • Increase the net value of your property.

The advantage to potential tenants includes being located on the ground level, giving tenants access to space like a backyard while living in a neighborhood setting instead of an apartment or highrise.


All secondary suites built after March 2018 must comply with the National Building Code, with the most notable requirement being a second heating source, like a furnace, included in each unit. 

Alberta has safety codes that all secondary Suites are required to meet. These codes can help protect you as a tenant under the occurrence of certain emergencies like fires. Some of the most key safety features include:

  1. One bedroom window, at the very least, must be inside each dwelling, and that window must be able to open from the inside without the use of any special tools or keys. It must be large enough so that anyone can fit through it. In the case of an emergency like a fire, it must also be accessible and unobstructed.
  1. Every single secondary suite or area within like a bedroom or commons areas must have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. They must all be connected to each other. This is vitally important so that when one alarm is activated, the other ones will also sound. It’s important that landlords, as well as tenants, test these alarms and detectors regularly.
  1. The unit or secondary suites within the home must have at least one exit that leads directly outside, and there must also be solid core doors with self-closing devices. It would be an excellent idea for landlords to hire contractors who are current on the changes that are constantly being made to the code because it’s easier and cheaper to get things done right the first time than having to fix them later to meet legal requirements down the road. 

All the specifications needed to convert your basement into a secondary suite are here: https://www.calgary.ca/pda/pd/home-building-and-renovations/new-secondary-suite.html

It should also be noted that to have what is considered a legal secondary suite, you must live in an area that is zoned for it, and you must get a permit from the city of Calgary. This process was recently made much easier by the city of Calgary.


If you are a landlord and wish to legalize an existing basement area or secondary suite on land that is already zoned, there’s a process by which you can skip applying for the developmental permit under the DP exemption program. You can only do this if the suite meets all the rules of the land use bylaw. Each district, of course, has different rules, and to find out whether secondary suites are allowed in your District, enter your property’s address in the property information tool.

If you are able to use the DP exemption program, it can save you around $2,200 and a lot of hours of paperwork, as well as headaches like architectural drawings, and it will eat up two as much as three months for the process to complete.

If you are unable to qualify for the DP exemption program and you still want to legalize an existing secondary suite on land that is situated in a district that does not list basement suites as a listed use, you are able to apply for a land-use redesignation application. This will show you how to apply to change the District of a property.

If you already have a secondary suite, here’s how you can legalize it and make sure it’s up to code:


If you’re considering developing a legal secondary suite on land that is situated in an area zoned for secondary suites, here are the steps you need to follow to get a building permit:

Step 1: Find the building permit complete application requirement checklist and make sure that you have prepared all the items in the checklist.

Step 2: Use the online portal to book an appointment.

Step 3: Take the time to fill out all the application forms and submitted for review.

Step 4: Once all these steps have been completed, you may begin construction on your secondary suite. Just make sure that the suite is built according to legal requirements outlined in the regulations assessment checklist.

This entire process normally takes three to six months. But you can skip all of these headaches by turning to a professional contractor like Tartin Basement Developments.

So what are the hazards of not applying for a legal building permit?

  •  The city inspector could slap you with a stop-work order
  •  You could receive a hefty fine
  •  It’s possible you could be forced to undo work that has already been completed
  •  It can be very difficult to get an insurance claim or deal with any issues related to your property

It should be noted that even if you hire a contractor to do this work and the contractor claims that a building permit is not required and it is in fact required, you will still be held responsible, and you will be the one who gets fined.

You may want to consider working closely with a well-known contractor that is up to speed on the current issues pertaining to secondary suites in Calgary. This can save you a lot of time and hassle, which will help make the process of setting up your secondary suite faster and easier.

You are legally required to apply for a building permit if:

  • You are utilizing an existing basement to develop it into a secondary suite.
  • Any Renovations you are making are more extensive than mere cosmetic upgrades
  • You are adding or removing walls
  • You’re making significant structural changes

As stated by law, it is your responsibility to verify that the work you’re planning does not violate any extensive restrictive covenants, caveats, or any other restrictions against the property.


To help clarify the situation with secondary suites, the City of Calgary launched the secondary suite registry and sticker program. This was done in an effort to promote the importance of legal and safe secondary suites within the city. Included are an online searchable registry tool and registered sticker program that will help Calgarians verify the legality of any secondary suite and make sure that it has been inspected by the city and meets all the requirements of Alberta’s building codes.

Also included with each secondary suite is a registered sticker that can be used to promote the suite to current and future residents. The individually numbered sticker corresponds to the suite’s address which can be verified online as well.

Register your secondary suite with the city of Calgary:


If you have a basement area that you are considering converting over to a secondary suite, there’s a lot of important things to take into consideration; however, the advantages can prove to be large as they include a boost your overall property value, your home’s value as well as a steady stream of passive income that can be used to improve your level of living. 
Hiring a professional contractor that is current on all the important laws pertaining to secondary suites and can handle the job is a very smart move as doing it yourself can be a massive headache and be very time-consuming. Go to: https://tartinbasementdevelopments.com/ for one of the top contractors in the Calgary area.