Licensing of secondary suites moving forward

A licensing fee will be implemented for homeowners renting or leasing secondary suites in the City.

Right now the fee is up for debate, but licensing of secondary suites is going to go ahead in the City.

The initial issue was brought up in December 2010 and it is expected that 450 suites will be approved and licensed by December 2011.

“The Secondary Suites Committee has been discussing this for a couple of years now and it will obviously be subject to considerable debate,” said Councillor Tara Veer.

The idea behind the licensing, said Veer, is to make sure that landlords and tenants are made aware of what is legal and what is not regarding secondary suites.

The logic behind a fee for secondary suite owners is that it is essentially a business. The fee for a home-based business owner is $160 so the committee is looking at a figure close to that dollar value.

The licensing and registration is tentatively geared to take effect in October of this year. Owners would be given notice in the mail that they have to license their suites.

Paul Harris pointed out a potential issue with the one month of notice owners were going to be given and Mayor Morris Flewwelling said that may be re-evaluated.

Harris also questioned the fact that unused secondary suites would have to be shut down, sometimes including renovations or removal of locks in order to guarantee they not be used.

“What we’re saying is someone is going to physically go in and shut them down. What I would prefer is some sort of fine if they get used unregistered,” said Harris.

Harris said he would rather err on the side of honesty and allow people to come forward and say they are not using their suites so they don’t have to license or register them.

“It’s like speed limits. We don’t make our cars to go the speed limit but when people go over it, we fine them,” said Harris.

Councillor Chris Stephan also brought up the fact that many people use secondary suites to house parents or family members who otherwise have nowhere to go and that there should potentially be an exemption for them.

However, an exemption of this type, said Flewwelling, could raise all kinds of other issues regarding how to monitor who is a paying tenant and who isn’t.

The issue of secondary suites and licensing will be re-evaluated in October.