A Kamloops councillor is raising alarms over impending changes to secondary suite enforcement rules.
In an updated policy, which is expected to go to council in July, the city is planning to decrease the number of complaints required that could lead to landlords having to decommission or legalize an illegal suite from two to one, with discretion from staff.
The old rules, as set out in the Rooming House and Illegal Secondary Suite Enforcement Policy, required two separate written complaints to come from within 150 metres of the property within a year.
The new rules propose the one complaint from within the “neighbourhood.”
“We’re making it easier to shut them [illegal suites] down,” Coun. Denis Walsh said.
BC Assessment has identified about 3,000 residential suites in the city, with only a fraction of them legal.
Last week, council gave the green light to zoning and business licensing amendments that will allow suites in more areas of the city and charge business license fees to landlords who do not live in the home being rented.
The city has said it will not proactively enforce the many illegal suites already in existence but will address them on a complaint basis.
As a result, Walsh said he is concerned the city could wind up negatively impacting its rental housing stock, noting changes to secondary suite rules are intended to do the opposite.
“The last thing we want to do is reduce the housing options,” Walsh said.
City community planning manager Jason Locke said the previous policy is outdated, having last been tweaked in the 1990s, and new rules will streamline the process for the city to address potential life safety issues related to illegal suites.
“Put yourself in the shoes of the city,” Locke said. “Do you want to wait for two complaints or do you want to take action right away?”
Locke doesn’t expect more or fewer complaints to be made as a result, noting the city will continue to vet the complaints it receives.
The city first contacts the complainant and tries to get the problem worked out among the parties.
If that fails, the city takes action.
Potential issues for landlords required to legalize or decommission suites include costs and updates to the building code.
While Locke said he understands potential concerns from landlords, he said the city’s primary priority is safety.
“We also have to think about the folks that are renting these places, as well,” he said.
The city will also be conducting an awareness campaign and creating a suite registry to encourage legal suites.