Skip to content

Fewer than expected illegal suites unearthed in Langley Township

As of December, over 600 have been identified — less than the “900 to 1,000” illegal suites predicted.

An “elevated” level of enforcement has so far found fewer illegal secondary suites than expected in the Township of Langley.

An unsigned memo from the community development division to Township council said as of December, over 600 have been identified.

That is less than the “900 to 1,000” illegal suites a previous staff report to council predicted would be uncovered by the end of the year.

Staff estimate there are 10,000 to 12,000 unauthorized secondary suites, which is roughly one out of every four houses in the Township.

That is based on Township-published statistics showing there were 39,114 private dwelling units in the municipality (as of the 2011 census), more than 90 per cent of them detached houses and townhouses.

The updated memo said staff are working with owners of “close to 50 per cent” of the illicit suites to bring them into compliance with Township regulations.

Making an illegal suite legal can be a time-consuming process, the memo said, because it usually involves construction upgrades with “significant costs.”

It can take even longer to close an illegal suite because of provincial rental regulations that require advance notice for tenants, usually 90 days.

“To date, staff has been successful in achieving a relatively acceptable balance between enforcement and obtaining voluntary compliance, utilizing existing staff complement, including auxiliary personnel and administrative support staff,” the memo said.

The memo said staff have been identifying illegal suites “based on complaints, MLS listings, newspaper, internet and social media advertising.”

The Township website also has an on-line form for reporting suspected illegal suites.

Anonymous reports are accepted.

After the new regulations were approved in March of 2013, one current staff member was reassigned to administer the program full-time.

“In 2014, the level of enforcement was elevated using existing staff complement,” the memo said.

Next year, the memo said, “one additional technical staff position” will be added to carry out inspections.

When a secondary suite is discovered in a house where no building permit was issued for one, Township building inspection staff will hand-deliver a notice to the owner warning they could be fined as much as $500 (with multiple tickets possible) for failing to obtain a licence.

The crackdown was announced at the same time council approved an annual secondary suite licence fee on homeowners with authorized suites.

It requires the 1,100 homeowners who have properly registered their suites to pay as much as $580 a year.

The exact amount billed will vary depending on whether a house is connected to municipal sewer and water services.

Township staff estimate the suite fee could bring as much as $700,000 a year by 2015.

Critics have called the new fees a cash grab by the municipality that penalizes the law-abiding.

Defenders say the new fees will generate enough revenue to cover the cost of stepped-up enforcement against lawbreakers.

When the City of Langley legalized secondary suites in 2006, there were 667 applications from single family homeowners to avoid $3,350 in fees that took effect at the end of 2007.

Starting in 2008, homeowners with illegal suites face penalties “including but not limited to daily fines [$100 a day for every day the suite exists] and legal actions” the city of Langley web page states.

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
Read more