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Legalization of non-conforming Secondary Suites & Accessory Dwelling Units

This page was last reviewed on September 19, 2016.

Are you thinking of building a new Accessory Dwelling Unit (coach house, carriage house)? Do you have an existing secondary suite in your house that was built without a building permit? Do you have an existing garage, garden shed or other unit (such as a secondary suite connected by a breezeway) that you’d like to convert into a legal Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?

The new 2016 Zoning Bylaw provides more flexibility in regards to the construction of ADUs in certain zones and with conditions. In order to encourage the conversion of pre-existing non-conforming ADUs and suites the Village of Cumberland is waiving building permit fees and plumbing permit fees from October 1, 2016 – March 31, 2016 (six months) for homeowners who choose to convert their non-conforming ADU/suite into a conforming ADU/suite.

Constructing a brand new ADU

If you are considering building a brand new ADU the waiver of building permit and plumbing fees does not apply – the waiver only applies to pre-existing non-conforming suites.

In order to help navigate the new processes for the construction of a brand new ADU the Village will be hosting an Accessory Dwellings & Secondary Suites Workshop on Wednesday October 26, 2016. This workshop will help to clarify the regulations and processes required for building a conforming ADU, as well as providing information for those who wish to convert their pre-existing ADU or suite.

Converting a pre-existing ADU or suite

Many “studios” and various accessory buildings that function as dwelling units have not been built legally and have not obtained building inspections that would ensure the health and safety standards of the BC Building Code. There are also buildings that were constructed in the Village that were not originally intended to be an Accessory Dwelling Unit, but can now be legally converted into an ADU (such as garages, garden studios).

In order to be converted into a conforming ADU/suite the preexisting unit will need to meet minimum Equivalent Life Safety Standards in order to meet a critical level of health and safety concerns:

Equivalent Life Safety Standards means measures that could be taken to provide a level of safety equivalent to that outlined in the BC Building Code (BCBC) for secondary suites and Accessory Dwelling Units. These may include but are not limited to additional handrails or slip resistance for stairs that cannot meet the strict interpretation of the BCBC, additional smoke detection and alarm, sprinklers, or other such measures that protect the inhabitants from smoke or fire and allow for ease of evacuation in case of emergency.

Equivalent Life Safety Standards apply only to suites and ADU’s constructed prior to the adoption date of the new Zoning Bylaw (September 6, 2016). Contact the planning department or building inspector for more information on the Equivalent Life Safety Standards, or download the standards in pdf format.

Why should I legalize my existing ADU or suite?

Research shows that people will choose to legalize and/or upgrade these units in order to:

  • Have legal dwelling units with building inspection approval to meet health and safety concerns;
  • Be able to sell the property with the advantage of a legal unit;
  • Be able to get house insurance for the units, to protect themselves and tenants;
  • Have the certainty of continued operation without possibility of enforcement to terminate the use;
  • Apply for a business licence for vacation rentals in the R-1A zone

What additional Village fees will I incur?

In the Village of Cumberland water is metered to the property (not to the individual units), so water costs will not increase through legalization, however sanitary sewer and garbage pickup is charged for each dwelling unit on the property, and legalizing the number of units on a property will increase these fees to reflect the actual costs for the municipality. The new Zoning Bylaw provides flexibility for meeting any additional on-site parking requirements triggered through legalizing the ADU/suite. Depending on whether or not parking can be met on-site there may be additional cash-in-lieu of parking costs.

What is the process for legalizing my existing ADU or suite?

The Village already has a process in place for conversions of secondary suites, and that conversion process will be implemented for the transition to the new zoning regulations.

Prior to making an application for a building permit, homeowners are encouraged to call the building inspector for preliminary assessment of the proposed conversion.

Process for Conversion

  1. Apply for a Building Permit

Homeowner applies for a Building Permit to change or legalize a portion of an existing single family dwelling to a suite or an accessory building into an ADU. (Applicant discusses process with staff to receive initial clarification if needed).

Application forms for a Building Permit are available at the office and online.

The application fee (non-refundable) is based upon the estimated cost of construction and would typically be between $50 and $250. Plumbing Permit applications for this type of construction are $50 each.

For pre-existing units these fees are waived from October 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.

Costs for an electrical and gas inspection, if required, are at the owner’s expense.

  1. Review of Application

The Building Inspector receives the application and plans and discusses with the applicant what more may be needed. He carries out an inspection if needed in order to provide additional information. The Inspector provides written documentation regarding upgrades that must occur in order to convert the units, and reminds the owner to contact other inspection agencies for their input.

Once the plans are satisfactory, the Building Inspector issues the Permit. Permit fees are based upon estimated cost of construction and would typically be between $50 and $250 with a $250 damage deposit (which is refundable).

Plumbing Permit fees are based on the number of fixtures plus $50. Typically, a suite and an ADU would have 5 fixtures each (at $5 per fixture) so the cost would typically be $75 each.

For pre-existing units these fees are waived from October 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 (except for the refundable damage deposit).

At the time of application the additional utility costs will be added to the property’s record, and proper billing of utility fees would be incorporated into the Village’s accounting system.

  1. Building inspection:

Although Building Permits must have their first inspection within six months AND then expire after two years, suite and ADU conversions will need to be completed within the six month timeframe. If they are not completed, the Permit could be extended for a further six months. Following those time periods, if the upgrades are still not completed enforcement procedures to have the unit decommissioned from a dwelling unit or to place a Notation on Title per section 56 of the Community Charter will commence.

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