West Coast Ivana Blog

Legal Suite vs Unauthorized Suite, what’s the difference?

Have you been looking to upsize and find a home that can help with your home purchase?

A suited detached home might be what you are looking for. A lot of the time you may be able to afford more if there is a suite in the house. You should check with your Mortgage Broker if the lender is ok with different classifications of suite.

How many types of suites are there?


Legal Suite

A legal suite is a suite  approved by the city and meets secondary suite and building permit requirements.


Unauthorized Suite

An unauthorized suite is one that does not meet all of the requirements of a legal suite. These may include but are not limited to: fire separators, smoke alarms, door heights, laundry, suite entrances, and more.

An unauthorized suite will have all the basics a legal suite would have, such as a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen separate to the rest of the house.


Can I still rent out my suite if its unauthorized?

In Grater Vancouver, the reality is that in some areas 80% of the suites are unauthorized. This means that a majority of them do not comply with all the rules and permits. However, they continue to  be rented with little to no issues.

The Residential Tenancy Act (RTA) applies to secondary suites, whether that be ‘legal’ or ‘unauthorized’. A secondary suite could be a basement suite, laneway house, or other unit that is on the same property as a residential house. Even if the suite is illegal (not registered with the city, or in a city that does not allow secondary suites) both the landlord and tenant must comply with the RTA.

Benefits of legalizing your suite

• Safety of occupants – When you legalize your suite, you comply with a variety of safety standards and follow city regulation and specific requirements.

• Ensure adequate property and home insurance coverage – If your suite is legal, you can obtain the proper insurance coverage that will protect you in cases of emergencies and/or disasters caused by either a tenant or a member of your family.

• Reduce neighbours’ complaints – A legalized suite allows you to provide adequately for your tenants. Impact on the neighbourhood is minimal. What does that mean? Example: You provide adequate parking so the impact to the neighbourhood and street is minimal.

• Maintain the value of your home and potentially increase its value – The work to legalize a suite is seen as adding value to a property. The suite would have been inspected and has the potential for supplemental income.

• Avoid costly penalties – If the City received a complaint about your suite and it is not ‘legal’, the home owner can be charged with additional water and sewage fees.

City of Coquitlam Utility Charges

Detached home ‘no suite’




Does adding a secondary suite add value to my home?

YES! Buyers do not need to deal with risks of unauthorized suites. When selling your home, buyers also look for authorized suites as it is easier to qualify for a mortgage with a ‘mortgage helper’.



Creating a New Secondary Legal Suite

Secondary suites are subject to a number of provincial, territorial or municipal requirements, including:

  • zoning;
  • building code;
  • unit size and location
  • parking spot for tenant
  • inspections and licensing.



  • Electrical and Plumbing codes will have to be up to date
  • If the suite is located in the basement, it will have to comply with height and natural light standards.
  • Must have a separate entrance
  • Must meet fire safety standards


If you’re looking to purchase or sell a home with a secondary suite, work with an agent that knows about the differences between the two. There are a number of legal questions, clauses, and terms that need to be answered and also added in to a contract when dealing with a secondary suite, which is why you need an experienced agent. Call me at 778.686.8344 email ivana@livingtricities.com to start a conversation.



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