July 29th, 2017

With Victoria having the lowest vacancy rate in Canada (0.5%), it’s easy to understand why there are so many illegal suites for rent. There’s simply too much demand for rental units that homeowners are clearing out the boxes in their basement to make room for the hot plate and mini fridge. A quick browse through the local online classifieds and you will notice a steady flow of questionable housing options.

That being said, here are 5 reasons why you should buck the trend and do the right thing by building your own legal suite.

1) There is an incredible amount of demand for rental units. The extra money you spend on building it right with permits will pay off because someone will take it regardless of the price you set to offset the additional costs. The current vacancy rate is at 0.5% which is so absurdly low, I didn’t even think that number was correct when I first looked it up. To put that into context, a healthy vacancy rate is between 5 to 7%, according to experts. In addition to that, a new generation of young adults has simply been priced out of the housing market due to the erosion of affordability. With new mortgage rules reducing the buying power of first-time homeowners, and rising interest rates around the corner. Renting becomes the only option for many.

2) It’s all about safety. The purpose of a building permit is to ensure that the suite is built to code and has proper fire separation, ventilation, and emergency egress for both you and the tenant. There’s no excuse for not providing this quality of safety for the tenant’s family and yours!

3) Resale value. Having a legal suite will attract more people down the road when you decide to sell as it is such a huge part of being able to afford a house in Victoria. Putting in an illegal suite limits your selling features and return on investment, while also prompting a cycle of continued illegal suite use. Why not make it easier on everyone and do it right the first time around?

4) That insurance thing… In order to simplify a rather complicated matter, let’s assume you bought a house and had it insured with all the normal fixings. A couple years down the line, you decide that you want to create in an illegal suite. Sticking with the frugal actions of putting in the illegal suite in the first place, you decide not to inform your insurer that you now have a tenant living in your basement. How will your insurer view your claim if there is ever a fire? Chances are you’re not going to get the coverage you were expecting. Alternatively, let’s say you do inform your insurer about the illegal suite. Great, you did the right thing! However, it’s unlikely the insurer will cover the cost to replace the suite as it would have to do so legally with permits, which is above and beyond what you did in the first place, eventually leaving you without a suite again.

5) A sense of community. Providing a solution to what is becoming a serious problem in living accommodations and affordability in Greater Victoria will get us one step closer to building a more livable city for generations to come. It’s important to provide respectable housing for younger generations so that the fabric of the community stays intact. The last thing we would ever want is for people to leave the island because of the lack of suitable housing options.

My job as a designer is to provide solutions to home owners and help them navigate the many bylaws in order to achieve their goals for their project. In a situation where you would like to explore the possibilities of putting in a legal secondary suite, I am more than available to provide you with some options and ideas through my free consultation.