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Township considers charging suite licence fee

Langley Township is considering charging a licence fee to every single family home that has a rental suite.

On Oct. 22, council voted unanimously to authorize staff to draw up a bylaw amendment to implement an annual licence fee for secondary suites.

The fee is likely to be approximately $400 a year. The range among municipalities is $500 to $900, with the fee added to property taxes.

In 2007, when council first considered amendments to allow legal rental suites in a single family home, there were between 5,000 and 8,000 illegal suites in the Township.

Since then, only 1,000 permits have been issued. The number of suites that have been built without permits is estimated to be between 10,000 and 12,000.

A report to council noted that illegal suites “most likely do not meet the minimum health and safety standards set out in current bylaws, codes and standards.”

Furthermore, among them are many houses where there are two or more suites, which contravenes the Building Code.

There are landlords who have converted their houses to rental suites but don’t live there themselves. This violates municipal laws.

The change does not require a public hearing as it is a licensing issue. However, the public will have an opportunity for input as part of next year’s budget discussions.

One change which council may consider is charging a utility fee, based on the notion that single family houses which do not have secondary suites are subsidizing those which do, and yet pay the same.

These utilities include garbage and recycling collections, water and sewer.

Councillor Kim Richter wondered if, using the money from the annual fee, the Township could hire staff to identify illegal suites and bring them into compliance. This could include reviewing Craigslist, and real estate listings that advertising nanny suites.

Councillor Grant Ward added that if a homeowner has an illegal suite and does not declare it to his house insurer, it could invalidate coverage in the event of a claim.

The Township has proposed the changes largely in response to a Langley Tomorrow survey in which a majority of respondents agreed that owners of homes with secondary suites should pay an annual fee. Fifty-six per cent agreed that charging homeowners a fee for water and sewer was reasonable.

The council report also noted that residents complain to the municipality that secondary suites generate more parking and traffic problems.

But, the report noted, the real reason for parking chaos in residential streets is that areas intended for parking cars, i.e.. garages, are being used for storage.

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