Colwood is cracking down on illegal secondary suites, beginning with homes housing multiple suites.
A home on Benzanton Way recently learned the hard way that illegal secondary suites will not be tolerated. Following up on a complaint, bylaw officers inspected the home, currently under construction, and found a suite being built over and above the one legal secondary suite permitted in the bylaw.
Bylaw officers ordered the removal of the suite, which the homeowner completed at their own expense.
No fines were issued.
“The cost to remove everything was more significant than the fines,” bylaw enforcement manager Kevin Atkinson said. “We use our discretion on that.”
Atkinson said the case is a good example of the system working. Colwood bylaw is currently pursuing homes with multiple suites and cracking down on the illegal ones. The process is still largely complaint driven but Atkinson said they are starting to go after homes they know have illegal suites, whether there is a complaint or not.
Eventually, Atkinson said, bylaw enforcement officers will turn their attention to all suites without permits or not up to code regardless of whether there has been a complaint.
“Eventually we will get to them. Eventually it will be not complaint driven, when we discover them we will follow through,” Atkinson said. “If you haven’t registered your suite and we come and knock on your door, it’s going to cost you money to bring your suite up to code or you’re going to have to deactivate your suite, one or the other.”
Safety is the primary reason for the crackdown, as suites without permits are often not up to building codes. Also, during emergency situations such as a fire, emergency personnel need to know who is in the house and how many residences a home has.
A recent gas leak, for instance, caused an evacuation, said Atkinson. Emergency crews thought everyone was out of the area only to find out some time later that there were still people in a secondary suite unknown to crews.
“This is why we need to know where all these suites are. It is clearly a health and safety issue,” Atkinson said. “And we want to know our residents are safe.”