Secondary suite licensing bylaw moves forward

A proposal to see owners of secondary suites paying an annual licence fee was given first reading in Red Deer city council chambers on Monday.

A proposal to see owners of secondary suites paying an annual licence fee was given first reading in Red Deer city council chambers on Monday.

Inspections and Licensing brought forward a Secondary Suite Licensing Bylaw — one that could become effective on March 1, 2012. All property owners would have to get their licence before June 1, 2012.

The proposed annual fee is $165 — the same as what is paid for a home occupation licence.

The bylaw would keep track of any new self-contained suites coming on stream in residences, suites that were existing and are now being removed, and any legal, non-conforming suites.

Joyce Boon, co-manager of Inspections and Licensing, said that owners could face additional fees, such as charges if the city had to clean up the property.

This licensing proposal comes after city council introduced regulations on secondary suites on Dec. 14, 2009. This bylaw amendment gave secondary suite owners the chance to legalize existing suites.

Owners could also develop new secondary suites in order to provide safe, alternative and affordable housing in Red Deer.

More than 450 secondary suites have been considered by the development authority since 2009.

If approved, the $165 licence fee would result in about $8,000 additional revenue for Inspections and Licensing.

Councillor Tara Veer said this licensing bylaw will be a good way for people to know which suites are legal.

A designated officer may inspect a secondary suite prior to a licence renewal.

“The annual cost is too much, especially for those who have gone through the approval process,” Veer added. “If we’re here to incite compliance. . . some would have more than one suite.”

Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said she struggled with the amount too.

“It can be looked like a tax grab,” said Wyntjes, who voted against first reading. “I don’t see this as a home occupation business.”

Besides Wyntjes, Coun. Chris Stephan voted against first reading. He referred to a letter from a secondary suite owner who wondered why rental properties aren’t considered as well. In essence, a rental property is similar and so maybe owners of rentals should be charged licence fees too, Stephan said.

“I think there are exceptions with secondary suites where people are housing family members and not collecting any rent,” Stephan added. “They just have a separate kitchenette. They shouldn’t be charged as a business.”

Stephan said he’s also opposed to the bylaw because of the unreasonableness of the enforcement provision, with regards to landlord and tenant relationships.

He said a tenant could pay December’s rent on Dec. 1, and if the landlord is found in breach of the secondary suite licence on Dec. 2, the suite could be shut down as early as Dec. 8 without any fault of the tenant.

“I don’t think this is right,” he said.

A public hearing, along with consideration of second and final readings, is slated for Jan. 9 at 6 p.m.

In other council news:

l Council supports creating an in-house legal service unit, comprising of one lawyer and one support staff, that would report to the Legislative and Governance Services Department. Change would take effect in January 2013.

l Council gives first reading to traffic bylaw amendment, plus general penalties bylaw amendment, so that all parking violations would increase by $25 as of Jan. 1, 2012. As well, the early payment reduction would amount to $35 instead of $20.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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