Council hears from public on secondary suite licensing issue

Once again secondary suites were at the forefront at City council this week and about 40 members of the public showed up to speak against the idea of licensing.

“The purpose of the bylaw would be to monitor and track the status of owners or property managers of new suites, existing suites and legal non-conforming suites,” said Inspections and Licensing Manager Joyce Boon.

Boon said some of the current issues with just having the permits is that once a permit exists the City has no knowledge of who the owner is or who looks after the suite if the owner isn’t living in Red Deer.

“We have no way of knowing when suites are decommissioned,” said Boon.

The new licensing would require information on the owner or property manager and would cost $165 annually if approved.

A concern of many of the members of the public who came out to speak as well as ones who wrote some of the 65 letters to council was the requirement that the owners’ name, contact information and personal residence address be posted in the window of the secondary suite.

Boon said there may be options for what information is posted in the window of the secondary suite.

The licensing only applies to basement suites and not single-family homes that are rented out as well as up-down fourplexes or any other type of rental property.

A concern of Councillor Chris Stephan’s were the provisions of the proposed bylaw that would enable the City to remove a tenant from the premises if an owner fails to comply. “If a suite is decommissioned, the provisions of the bylaw conflict with the Alberta landlord tenant act.”

The bylaw allows for tenants to be required to vacate a property in a shorter time span than the time required by the provincial landlord tenant act.

In total, 17 members of the public chose to speak at the public meeting and many of them echoed each other’s sentiments regarding their disdain about the new proposed licensing.

Harold Line, one of many who wrote a letter and appeared in Council Chambers, said he does his best to comply at considerable expense and doesn’t feel it’s right that suite owners are now being presented with a fee.

“Having our names and addresses and telephone numbers posted really scares me. Some of the tenants we get aren’t so good and now we’re giving them our information? It’s just dangerous,” said Line.

One speaker, Dieter Brandt, said he isn’t against the licensing proposal but doesn’t agree that suite owners should have to pay per suite or that a City bylaw could override federal or provincial regulations.

“I realize licensing is necessary so that owners can be contacted should the need arise. This can be done with a single business license for each owner listing the properties,” said Brandt.

Some members of the public were accepting of the idea of having a secondary suite marked on the outside of the house, while others like Brandt were not.

Those people who were in agreement with marking secondary suites said it would mean that the fire department would know when to look for a secondary suite with potential tenants in it and would allow police to know when attending a call if they’re in a situation where there could be other people involved.

Al Kennedy, a suite owner, pointed out that secondary suites have been identified as a solution to low income housing and that the new licensing fee will be imposed on tenants and could potentially raise rent.

“I do think there’s a bit of a perception in the City that secondary suites are bad and we have to control them. But we have about 500 good ones that have permits so why not leave them alone and deal with the bad ones instead?” said Kennedy.

Council decided to table the issue until the Feb. 21 council meeting so that they can go over some of the recommendations made by the public and find a common ground before making a decision.