As mortgage rates have climbed, pushing up monthly payments, rental income has almost never been more important for many borrowers. While property values have cooled in some or even many markets, many have found that the actual prices of like-for-like, location-for-location properties may not have declined as much as the statistics may indicate and the idea that falling home prices would make homes more affordable is not happening as quickly as borrowing costs have risen. This has led many borrowers to find alternatives for subsidizing their mortgages and income from a rental property or suite is often the first option.

Confirming the permissibility of a suite can be confusing particularly for those only looking to purchase an existing property with a rental unit who may not have full access to the property such as in a purchase scenario. It could even be for a property you are considering and have not yet decided to go ahead with.

An inquiry with your realtor or agent representing the property may be a good place to start. But maybe you don’t have that option or you’d like to verify it yourself or maybe it is even your own property but you are unsure. The good news is that many municipalities, cities, and districts have published their zoning bylaws. Along with those you may find the GIS mapping helpful. If you are somewhat computer savvy you can usually simply search the district you are interested in and add the term GIS map to your search criteria. Such as the City of Kelowna GIS. If you find that difficult to navigate you may wish to call or visit the district office. If you want to give the online self-help method a go. You will probably come up with something like this Once you have found the GIS mapping you will need to get familiar with the layers and tools. You can go by trial and error or google your way through.

I will post a bit more on tips and tricks in an upcoming post but feel free to reach out to me directly if you have a pressing need to get this sorted out and I would be happy to give some further guidance. If you are proceeding on your own here you should be able to find your property with a search and identify the details and zoning. There may be property-specific details or restrictions, so before relying on any information here be sure you have verified the details with a trusted professional, realtor, appraiser, or district official.

One of the most common issues I have come across is where some regions and zoning details restrict the maximum size of a suite or maximum percentage of the total floor area. Such as a basement suite can only be typically about 40% of the total living area. So in a 2,000-square-foot dwelling, the suite could only be a maximum of 800 square feet or the lesser of the maximum size limit as specified by the by-law. This can be problematic in a number of ways but the most obvious is when the suite occupies the entire lower floor often being 50% of the total area with no means of altering the floor plan to allocate that area to the primary dwelling.

The other issue may be that the actual size of the suite is unknown, this would require some kind of confirmation which may come in the form of an approved permit from the appropriate authority or an onsite visit by an appraiser to validate for the lender that the suite at least conforms to the guidelines. If it is an active listing you may be able to obtain floor plans or a virtual 3d model that may have sufficient information to get an idea. The actual legal permit and building code approvals, if necessary, would need to be provided by the City or Municipality.

If you have any issues, questions or concerns reach out to your local professional, be that your realtor or a trusted appraiser. If we can be of assistance, as always, let us know we’d be happy to help or refer you to someone who can.

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