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.
Phase 1: the empty lot
It almost goes without saying that before the home construction process begins, you start with an empty lot. But don’t discount the importance of this phase.
An empty lot can give you a real feel for what your home and property are going to look like. What’s the size of the lot? What do the surrounding homes and the surrounding area look like? It’s also important to consider the size of your home and how well it’s going to fit on the lot. Will there be enough space for the yard or landscaping you envision? How close will your home be to your neighbors or to the street? Will you have the space for the garage? Chances are you’re planning to be living in your new home for years to come, so you want to be sure you’ve got enough elbow room and some flexibility.
The lot you choose to build on influences the price of your home
It’s important to note that when you’re buying a home, you’re paying for two items: the house of course, as well as the lot itself. Which of these two has more value depends on a few things:
When a plot of land is vacant, it’s considered “unimproved land”. The value will reflect the size of the lot as well as its location. For instance, where is your lot in relation to the developing neighborhood? Is it located further back where it is quieter with less traffic? Is it on a busy corner? Does the lot back up against green space or the fence of a neighbour? How does the size of the backyard compare to other houses in the neighbourhood? A smaller backyard area could mean a reduction in value, while other factors like the proximity to schools could make it more valuable to buyers.
New construction in the Comox Valley Ridge
When you buy a potential home that’s still in the empty lot phase you’re getting in on the ground floor. Right now, ground floor opportunities are available in the booming real estate market at the Comox Valley Ridge. With both ocean and mountain views from these lots, it’s no wonder so many new home buyers are considering The Ridge as the potential location of their new home. The Ridge has several residential communities already underway but there are still some empty lots to choose from. Whether you have a large family and need plenty of living space, or you’re retiring and just want to enjoy the quiet and the view, building lots at The Ridge are well worth investigating. Give Bill and Michele a call to see if one of these empty lots is the potential building site for your dream home.