Sometimes referred to as an in-law suite, a mortgage helper, or a built-in revenue opportunity, secondary suites have a strong appeal for many home buyers. If this is true of you, it’s important to know the legalities of secondary suites before you plan to build or buy a home in the Comox Valley.
The Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) Planning and Development Services is the agency responsible for preparing plans and policies for land use throughout the region. Their recommendations are then considered by the CVRD Board of Directors. Within the Comox Valley Regional District, the municipalities of Courtenay, Comox, and Cumberland each have their own zoning bylaws, which regulate how land is used including the use of secondary suites. Because the land zoning designation changes from one municipality to another, it’s important to do some homework to ensure tenant safety and avoid disappointment.
Secondary Suites in the Comox Valley
Secondary suites are legally defined as ‘accessory dwelling units’ or ADU’s, which are completely self-contained apartments within an existing residence. These are commonly used to generate a second income, or to provide privacy for one or more of the building tenants. The legality of including a secondary suite really depends on which town or city the dwelling is in. For example, in the city of Courtenay, the zoning is designated as ‘R2’, which means it is legal to have secondary suites built into the overall framework of a dwelling. In the town of Comox, secondary suites are legal, but at least one of the suites must be occupied by the actual owner. Another regulation specific to the town of Comox is the requirement of having a suite be 40% of the dwelling’s total square footage, which means the area on the first floor must not be equal to the area on the second floor.
If a secondary suite is declared illegal in a Comox Valley development, it’s typically the result of an unintentional oversight by builders or architects. When this happens, there are often several alternatives which can be adopted to bring the building back into code, and to have it considered acceptable.
The first step is to have a building inspector visit the premises to personally review the entire building, and then provide you with recommendations for bringing the dwelling up to the legal code. If it would be too costly to make the necessary renovations, or to implement some other solution, the only remaining option is to de-commission the suite for use as a separate residence.
Purpose of Zoning Bylaws
The main purpose of building permit laws in the Comox Valley region is to provide homeowners with regulations that ultimately ensure the safety of tenants. Included in those aims are the following:
Number of smoke detectors
Exit routes from the property
Once a dwelling is considered by the owner to be occupant-ready, it must first be inspected by local authorities to gain the official seal of approval. If the dwelling passes inspection, an Occupancy Permit will be issued. You then have documentation that the suite is deemed suitable as a residence and as the owner or complex manager, you would be free to advertise and seek tenants to occupy the residence.
Do you have more questions? We’d be happy to answer any other questions you have about including a secondary suite in your plans. Contact us today!
There are several building inspectors who offer home inspection services in the Comox Valley, and each one of them provides an invaluable service to both owners and tenants. It is much better to know about any issues with a home or property before occupancy, because if there are any major repairs necessary, it’s going to be more difficult to get it done when you’re moved in and the furniture is already in place.
First Impression of a Home Inspection
The importance of having a thorough home inspection before moving in can hardly be overstated. In this discussion, we’ll look at the various aspects of a typical inspection and what’s involved.
The basic point of a home inspection is to ensure that a residence is truly 100% ready for occupancy. First, every home inspection must be carried out by a licensed inspector. This means that you are receiving information from a trained professional as all home inspectors are required to complete a level of education. This way, you can be confident that he/she is aware of the regulations that pertain to the dwellings in your area.
Most building inspectors prefer to begin their inspection with a ‘macro look’, which is a general, overall view of the dwelling to take in the feel of the place and what it looks like. Although there may not be any obvious problems detected during this initial impression, a trained eye is able to check for a good square presentation, possible sagging roof lines, or anything which looks obviously wrong.
Next, the exterior of the home is checked in detail, specifically in the areas of the siding, the free-flowing gutters, solid roofing, a water-tight building envelope, windows, doors, and any possible entry points for moisture, which could breach the exterior and cause interior damage.
Next, the inspection moves indoors and will include the crawlspace and attic to ensure that there are no code violations, and that they are weathertight. From there, the major systems of the home must be examined and tested, so plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling systems are all thoroughly checked to ensure that they are working as intended, and that they will provide adequate service to residents. Safety is a big part of this aspect of the building inspection, because if any of these systems should somehow fail, it could be potentially dangerous to anyone living inside.
A final sweep of the interior will then be conducted to make sure that the doors and windows are all in good working order and that they mesh well with jambs. This is because doors or windows that no longer operate properly can be an indication that some settling of the building has occurred. It may be a sign that the framework has been slightly re-positioned. Any signs of moisture are also inspected during this final pass to identify the cause or entry point of the moisture.
Knowing the true condition of a building offers peace of mind for both the buyer and seller. If any issues are detected during the inspection, it can provide some points for negotiation, or a condition of sale. Knowing that all the items on the building inspection checklist come up ‘good to go’ means that the building is declared ready for occupancy.