Secondary Suites

Secondary suites and backyard suites

An auxiliary residential suite can be a bonus for both property owners and tenants. However, creating a suite is not the right fit for all homeowners. This page outlines the requirements when planning a secondary or backyard suite in Medicine Hat.

example of secondary suite
What is a secondary suite?

A second dwelling located within a single detached house. It is a self-contained dwelling unit with separate living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. Also sometimes called a basement suite.

example of backyard suite
What is a backyard suite?

A dwelling located in the rear yard of a site where there is also a principal dwelling. It is a self-contained unit with separate living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. Also called granny suite, laneway home, garden suite or carriage house.

Registered secondary suite label
Search secondary suite registry

Use our interactive map to find or verify legal and inspected secondary suites within Medicine Hat.

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Rules and regulations

According to the City's Land Use Bylaw, a secondary suite or a backyard suite is considered a discretionary use. The land use districts (zones) for which secondary or backyard suites will be considered are:

  • Low Density Residential District
  • Medium Density Residential District
  • Mixed Use District
  • Downtown Mixed Use District
  • Future Urban Development District

For more about the land use regulations for your property, visit: 

Zoning

  • Requirements vary for minimum lot width and minimum lot area, depending on the land use district and other circumstances. For details, see the Land Use Bylaw, or contact us.
The Alberta Building Code regulates the construction and safety of structures. Construction details of secondary and backyard suites are assessed and approved based on these provincial regulations.

Construction regulations


Key points about Secondary Suites

  • A secondary suite may or may not be permitted, depending on the current zoning (land use district) and the principal dwelling on the site. Contact a Planning Officer and we can provide guidance on your intended project.
  • Must have an entrance to the exterior that is separate from the entrance for the principal dwelling, or it may share an entrance to a common interior landing with the principal dwelling.
  • Must contain its own living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities.
  • Must not contain more than two bedrooms.
  • Must have its own separate (independent) heating and ventilation system which complies with the Alberta Building Code.
  • The secondary suite and the primary dwelling must have electrically hardwired smoke alarms in each bedroom and all common areas, which must be interconnected.
  • A secondary suite must not be subject to separation from the principal dwelling through a condominium conversion or subdivision.

Key points about Backyard Suites

  • A backyard suite may or may not be permitted, depending on current zoning (land use district) and the principal dwelling on the site. Contact a Planning Officer and we can provide guidance on your intended project.
  • The site must have access to an alley (rear lane) and there must be off-street parking allotted to the backyard suite that is accessed from the alley.
  • A backyard suite must not be more than 85 m2 (915 sq. ft.) in gross floor area, excluding the floor area of a deck or stairway.
  • Maximum building height of a backyard suite is 2 storeys.
  • Must contain its own living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities.
  • Must not contain more than two bedrooms.
  • Must have exterior finishing materials that are consistent with the principal dwelling.
  • A backyard suite must not be subject to separation from the principal dwelling through a condominium conversion or subdivision.

Constructing a backyard suite involves the same regulations as building a new house. You must first obtain a development permit. Then, you may apply for a building permit and all trade permits (electrical, plumbing, gas, mechanical).

To learn more about house construction requirements, visit:

New house construction

What permits do I need?

Development permit

A development permit is always required for any proposed secondary or backyard suite. To learn more, visit:

Development Permits

A development permit must be approved before applying for building and trade permits.


Building permit

A building permit is always required for any proposed secondary or backyard suite. To learn more, visit:

Building Permits


Trade permits

Trade permits are required for any plumbing, electrical, gas, and HVAC (mechanical) work needed in the construction of secondary or backyard suites. To ensure the safety of the suite, trade permits are only issued to licensed and certified contractors, and homeowner trade permits are not available. To learn more, visit:

Trade Permits

How to apply

Online

To apply online for a secondary suite or backyard suite, click below:

Apply online

New to ePermit?
See user guide

Need assistance?

  • We can help you with our online application. Contact us by email or phone 403-529-8374.
  • Or visit us in person (Mon-Fri 8:30 am-4:30 pm):
    Planning and Development Services
    2nd floor, City Hall
    580 1st Street SE, Medicine Hat
  • Whether you apply online or in person, additional documents will be needed such as site plan, elevation plans, floor plans and utility line information. If you have questions about the specific documents needed for your application, we can provide guidance.

Payment methods

Online or phone
  • Visa or Mastercard

 

In-person
  • Debit
  • Cash
  • Cheque
  • Visa or Mastercard
Mail
  • Cheque


Fees and charges

How long will it take to approve permits?

Development permits: Timelines vary based on application type and the impact to the community.

Building permits: Typically approved within 10 business days, provided that an approved development permit has been released and all other requirements have been met.

Line locates

When planning a backyard suite, it is important to know where utilities are located on your property. Locates are free of charge but require at least three days notice.

To obtain line locates, visit:

Line locates

Inspections

Inspections are required for all construction work, including building, electrical, plumbing, gas and mechanical (HVAC). At the discretion of the City Safety Codes Officer, most projects require rough-in and final inspections, depending on the complexity of the project.

Book online

To book an inspection online, use one of the following options (do not apply with both):

Web form  OR  ePermit

Please review this user guide before booking with ePermit.

Register your existing secondary suite

The City's secondary suite registry provides an online tool to find or verify which secondary suites conform to safety and legislative standards. Suites are inspected by a Fire or Building Safety Codes Officer to confirm that they are compliant. The registry is updated regularly as new secondary suites are inspected and approved.

Inspection is free of charge
If you are an owner of an existing secondary suite, it is strongly recommended that you book an inspection so your suite can be included in the registry. Fire Services will do a free inspection, and provide a report that identifies any issues that need to be corrected. Upon passing final inspection, you will get an approval letter and a registry sticker with a unique registry number. The sticker can be posted at the entrance of the registered suite.

 

To book your inspection for the registry, contact:

Fire Services

 

View secondary suite registry online tool:

View map


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