Kelowna Construction Company Sees Rise in Demand for Legal Suites

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Rafter 4K Contracting, a renovation and construction company in Kelowna, explains what it takes to install secondary suites to legal standards.

Legal Suite Kelowna

Kelowna renovators with Rafter 4K Contracting have extensive knowledge of what is required to establish a legal suite in Kelowna.

The process of installing a legal secondary suite is tricky and much more involved than just having a kitchen and bathroom installed in the basement

With the demand for both long-term and short-term rental housing in the Okanagan, a Kelowna construction company is receiving numerous inquiries from homeowners looking to have legal suites installed in their homes.

Norm Kneller, co-owner and manager of Kelowna renovation company Rafter 4K Contracting, says legal suites are an excellent way for homeowners to cash in on the demand for rental housing while increasing the value of their homes. Some also see it as a way to help pay off their mortgages, which can be beneficial for first time home buyers. However, the process of installing a legal secondary suite is tricky and much more involved than just having a kitchen and bathroom installed in the basement, Kneller adds.

“Some people think it takes a couple of quick changes. They often don’t understand there are several procedures to follow to meet the zoning requirements for legal suites. It can involve considerably higher expense than what they first envisioned,” he says.

Despite the requirements, Kelowna has seen a steady demand for rental suites as vacancy rates, though rising the past year, have remained in the one-to-three percent margin.

According to a report presented to Kelowna city council in May, Kelowna had an estimated 2,247 legal secondary suites and carriage houses, with upwards of 650 building permits issued for those housing types in 2017 and 2018.

It is also important to note that despite a recent zoning amendment that would have allowed homeowners to rent their secondary suites as short-term or vacation rentals, the practice is currently prohibited.

While a secondary suite must contain the basics —a kitchen, bathroom, and living space— to be attractive to tenants, several requirements must be followed for the suite to be considered legal, Kneller says.

Not only does the suite need to meet zoning requirements to be licensed and insured, but it must also be interconnected to the primary dwelling on the property and not exceed more than 40 percent of the habitable floor space (excluding the garage or carport).

“Building codes and safety are important factors when considering a legal suite in your home. You not only need to incorporate a separate entrance but also need to include an emergency exit, such as an egress window, large enough to provide an escape route. An interconnected, fire-rated, lockable door between the secondary suite and the main home is also required. Also, the house-to-suite walls and ceilings must be constructed with 30-minute fire-rated drywall, and there must be an inter-connecting fire alarm system," Kneller says.

While legal suites are allowed in most residential zones, they are not permitted in townhomes or multi-family complexes. Applicants need to include both a floor and a site plan identifying the required available outdoor space, parking stall, and lighted pathway for the proposed suite.

Other components that need consideration include insulation and sound barriers, as well as heating and hot water supply.

“If the home is on septic, there may be an upgrade necessary,” Kneller says, adding, "All this can lead up to more than the homeowner bargained for, so it helps to find a Kelowna general contractor who is well versed in all the requirements before the work begins.”

In business since 1991, Rafter 4K Contracting has established itself as a project management specialist and home construction company with extensive experience in home renovations in Kelowna. The company’s projects include both exterior and interior renovations, including the installation of legal suites that adhere to building and safety codes.

For more information, please visit http://www.rafter4k.com.

About Rafter 4 K Contracting: With 28 years of general contracting experience, Rafter 4K Contracting is the Kelowna construction company of choice for residential and commercial projects. From home renovations to installing pools in Kelowna to project management for commercial construction, we ensure client satisfaction by delivering projects on time and budget, while remaining focused on quality craftsmanship. Rafter 4K is highly experienced with bathroom renovations, kitchen renovations, legal suite installation, home remodelling, and house additions.

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