Bringing Your Basement Suite Up to Code

by Team

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Having a secondary suite is a great way for homeowners to add resale value to their homes and make a little extra cash on the side. However, not all basements can be legal secondary suites. There are certain requirements that must be implemented before the City of Calgary will approve a permit. 


Why Make it Legal

According to this article, Calgary’s registry of legal suites sits around 1,500 units whereas there are an estimated 16,000 illegal secondary suites. This is said to be attributed to a complicated legalization process. Fortunately, City Council has made some changes to streamline the process for aspiring landlords and even Okotoks has joined in. To obtain a permit, the following requirements must be met.


Electrical Panels

In the past, the electrical panel was to be accessible to both suites. Depending on the setup of the home, this could be a huge challenge. This is now only recommended, but no longer necessary. Landlords should keep in mind, however, that tenants should have timely access to the electrical panel in the case of an outage and make a contingency plan in the instance the landlords are not in the house at the time. What hasn’t changed is the requirement that the electrical supply is sufficient to maintain the needs of both the landlord and tenant. 


Entry & Exit Points

There must be at least one exit that leads directly outside for the suite. In many cases, this is a door that leads to a set of internal stairs separated from both the main residence and the basement suite. For safety, this area is required to have at least one light fixture with switches at the top and bottom of the stairs. This gives both suites access to the light. 



In terms of heating and ventilation, an independent system is required for secondary suites. This could be in the form of a forced-air furnace, electric baseboard heaters, or hydronic radiant heating. All equipment must be easily accessible, not only for the tenant but for inspection and maintenance as well. 

Whether you are upgrading a current suite or developing a new one, remember that each municipality has its own requirements. You can find information for Okotoks here and for Calgary here. For electrical projects to help bring your suite up to code, give our team at Westridge Electric a call today!