In-law Suites....Allowed or Not?

The Capital Regional District (CRD) on Vancouver Island is sometimes simply referred to as Victoria, but when it comes to land use issues it bears to keep in mind that this area is comprised of 13-Individual Municipal Authorities, each with it's own unique set of Land Use Bylaws.


Many home owners within the CRD have secondary suites in their homes, sometimes even detached suites in separate buildings or above garages/barns. For home Buyers, the rules can be bewildering as there is significant variance depending on which local authority area the property is located in. Some municipalities may allow suites, but not within all zoning designations in that municipality, so always verify zoning with the correct local authority.


Here is a summary of each local authority's current policy for secondary accomodation within residential areas:. 



Secondary suites are permitted within single family dwellings in most zones of the city, but are not permitted in small-lot zones. Secondary suites must be built with all required building permits, and are subject to size restrictions and limits on the amount of exterior changes that may occur before and after their construction.

Victoria also just approved a "garden suite" policy. (Garden suites are small, ground-floor units located in the rear yard of a single family dwelling.)

Eligible locations for a garden suite in Victoria include all properties that contain only a single family detached dwelling and are appropriately zoned, within a restricted area. Contact me for a map of the eligible area.

The proposal must meet all requirements of the garden suite policy and should incorporate the design guidelines contained in the policy. Properties that already have secondary suites are not eligible, so you cannot have a suite in the home plus a secondary garden suite. You must choose to have one, but not both.



Secondary suites are permitted in a number of single family zones, including RS-1, RS-2, RS-3 and RS-5. Secondary suites are permitted only within a single family residence and are not permitted in detached or accessory buildings. Maximum size for a secondary suite is approximately 970 square feet, or 40 per cent of the total floor area of the principal residence (whichever is less - a size restriction set by the B.C. Building Code).



The municipality does not permit detached secondary suites. Attached suites must be no larger than 970 sq. ft., or 40 per cent of the primary home's floor area. The suite must be on a property no smaller than 7,000 square feet. All authorized suites must be licensed yearly by March 1st, and the owner must sign a Statutory Declaration confirming owner occupancy of the suited home. The home must have a minimum of three-parking spaces, including one for the suite.



Secondary suites are not permitted.



Secondary suites are allowed in a designated pilot area, south of McKenzie Avenue, in RS single-family use zones only. The suite must be within the house - not in a carriage house or connected by a breezeway - and only one is allowed per house. 

  • The registered owner of the property must occupy either the single family dwelling or the secondary suite as their principle residence ( a signed affidavit is required).
  • An Occupancy Permit must be issued for the Secondary Suite from the Saanich Building Inspections Division, based on the relevant section(s) of the BC Building Code related to Secondary Suites.
  • One (1) additional onsite-parking space for the occupant of the secondary suite must be provided. Tandem parking on the driveway is permitted.
  • Some new upcoming Townhome Units in Saanich will offer Flex-Suites. Contact me for details. 


Allowed in the southeast quadrant of North Saanich, subject to receiving a permit and complying with the building code. The suite must be within the house, and not in an accessory building.



Central Saanich has allowed secondary suites since 2006, on certain lot sizes.

Over the years, the bylaw has changed. Now, suites are allowed throughout the municipality and the owner does not have to live in the home.



Sidney has allowed suites since 1996 in single family homes throughout much of the town. They are only allowed in homes over 4,951 square feet, and they are not permitted on small lot single family homes or in duplexes.

Proposed changes to the suite bylaw, still being considered by council, include allowing suites in townhouses, row houses and apartment buildings.

As well, carriage houses may be allowed in an area of town where the layout includes lanes.



Attached secondary suites are permitted in all rural and single-family residential zones as well as several comprehensive development zones with just a few areas restricted to minimum lot sizes of 5,900 square feet. Suites must be between 430 square feet and 970 square feet, and cannot exceed 40 per cent of the home's entire floor space. Detached secondary suites have no minimum size requirements and cannot be larger than 970 square feet.



The municipality permits attached secondary suites that are no larger than 970 square feet or 40 per cent of the home. Council is considering allowing detached secondary suites no larger than 753 square feet on lots 0.8 hectares in size or larger.



Secondary suites are permitted in the majority of residential and mixed-use zones. Attached suites are limited to 970 square feet, and detached suites, 645 square feet. Neither can exceed 40 per cent of the primary home's floor space.



Attached secondary suites are permitted in most residential zones, but detached suites are retricted to comprehensive zoning in a few specific developments, such as Westhills and Valley View. Detached suites must be built above garages, which provide parking for the unit. Secondary suites must not exceed 970 square feet and must be built on lots no smaller than 5,920 square feet.


Some other factors include building code and electrical code compliance. Further, home insurance considerations are especially important to be aware of if the owner does not reside in the home.


Please keep in mind these Bylaws are fluid in nature and changes can happen at any time and thus this information is current only at the time I write this. Please verify this information at your local municipality, it is provided for information only and cannot be relied upon.


I hope this blog gave you some insights on secondary accomodations in the Victoria area.  If you have specific questions about local vacancy rates, rental rates and financing questions on how mortgage lenders consider rental income from an authorized suite vs. unauthorized suite vs. detached secondary accomodation to help you qualify for financing your home, please contact me at


Thanks for reading! Best Regards, Mikko



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MLS® property information is provided under copyright© by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board and Victoria Real Estate Board. The information is from sources deemed reliable, but should not be relied upon without independent verification.