More than a year after a crackdown against illegal secondary suites was approved, Langley Township staff have located 450 of the estimated 10,000 currently being rented by owners without proper municipal approval.
That amounts to less than five per cent since the new regulations were approved in March of 2013, but a report to council says the number of complaints being filed is rising and predicts “900 to 1,000” suites, or about 10 per cent, will be identified by the end of the year.
The written report by Roberto Cesaretti, the Township manager of permit, licence and inspections services, says staff have been looking through newspaper and online rental ads for unauthorized suites, as well as following up on complaints made by phone or using the online “Report an Unauthorized Secondary Suite” form on the Township website.
Anonymous tips are allowed, both by phone and online.
When a secondary suite is discovered in a house where no building permit was issued for one, Township building inspection staff are hand-delivering notices to the owner warning they could be fined as much as $500 a ticket (with multiple tickets possible) for failing to obtain a licence.
Cesaretti says “significant” resources are being devoted to the campaign against the illicit suites, including re-assigning one current staff member to administer the program full-time.
Council has approved funding to add one person to handle the secondary suite work, but the job hasn’t been filled yet, Cesaretti says.
Of the 450 suites identified so far, the report says 150 are being brought into compliance with the regulations that require registration.
The crackdown was announced at the same time council approved an annual secondary suite licence fee on homeowners with authorized suites.
It requires the 1,100 homeowners who have properly registered their suites to pay as much as $580 a year.
Critics have called the new fee a cash grab by the municipality that penalizes the law-abiding.
Defenders say the new fees will generate enough revenue to cover the cost of stepped-up enforcement against law-breakers.