Secondary Suites

Secondary suites and backyard suites can be a desirable residential development for both property owners and tenants. However, having a suite developed is not the right fit for all homeowners. This page outlines the requirements when planning a secondary or backyard suite within Medicine Hat.

example of secondary suite
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
Backyard suite

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

Registered secondary suite label
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Find or verify legal and inspected secondary suites within Medicine Hat with our interactive map.

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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
  • 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 section 6.2.4, or contact us.
  • A maximum of one secondary suite or backyard suite is allowed on a site.

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


Secondary Suites

  • Secondary suites must be located within a Single Detached House (i.e., are not allowed on a site which contains a Duplex).
  • It 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.
  • It must contain its own living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities.
  • It must not contain more than two bedrooms.
  • It 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 Single Detached House through a condominium conversion or subdivision.

Backyard Suites

  • It must be located in a backyard.
  • The site must have access to an alley 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.
  • A backyard suite is not allowed on a site which contains a duplex.
  • It must contain its own living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities.
  • It must not contain more than two bedrooms.
  • It must not cover more than 15% of the total site (maximum site coverage.)
  • It must have exterior finishing materials that are consistent with the Single Detached House.
  • A maximum of one secondary suite or backyard suite is allowed on a site.
  • 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 about development permits, 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 about building permits, 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 about trade permits, visit:

Trade Permits


Owner consent

If you are not the property owner, then you must get the owner's consent in order to submit an application for a secondary suite or backyard suite.

Owner consent

How to apply

Online

Apply online

Please review these ePermit user guides before applying online:

In person

  1. Determine which application(s) you need. You can then download checklists and forms (below) to complete them, or come in person to Planning & Development Services at City Hall and we will assist you.
  2. Have drawings ready, if required (ex: Site plan, elevation plan, floor plan, floor joist and roof truss drawings)
  3. Have utility locate slips: These show the location of underground and overhead utilities, such as gas and cable lines. See Line Locates below.
  4. Bring all these required documents (USB drive preferred) and apply in person at Planning & Development Services.

Depending on your project, below are forms you may need when applying in person:

Secondary Suites:

Backyard Suites:

See other forms in the Document Library

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.

You must provide utility locate slips with a development application. 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 Safety Codes Officer, most projects require rough-in and final inspections, depending on the complexity of the project.

Book Online

Please review this ePermit user guide before booking an inspection online.

Inspection Request (alternate)


Book by phone

Phone 403-529-8208 (automated inspection request line) 

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.

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 an inspection at no charge, 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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