Langley Township softens blow of secondary suite fee

People who have already obtained a license for secondary suites will get a break on fees for a three-year period.

Having a secondary suite in the Township of Langley will now cost money, but council is trying to soften the blow by giving home owners a break for the first few years.

At the April 8 afternoon meeting, council unanimously passed a bylaw that will see existing owners of secondary suites have the license fee of $350 cut in half for a period of three years. This cut in fees only applies to property owners who have obtained proper building permits prior to March 4. If permits pertaining to secondary suite were obtained after March 4, they won’t qualify for the discount, said the Township. The tax break also is void if the property changes hands.

For home owners to take advantage of this fee reduction they need an application for their secondary suite license by Dec. 31, the Township will wave the 30 per cent utility and water increase until July 2, 2014. Those with family members living in suites would be exempt from utility fees, and only pay an annual fee of $175.

This phase-in of the new costs is a result of frustration expressed by legal suite owners, who feel they are being penalized for being honest, while owners of illegal suites get away scot-free.

Council will also consider allowing enforcement officers to incur overtime to proactively look for illegal suites through MLS listings and possible neighbourhood canvassing.

“It’s good [councillor] Kim Richter got us to take a second look at this,” said Councillor Bob Long about phasing the new tax in.

Township homeowners will have to pay as much as $580 a year under the new secondary suite bylaw if they don’t register their suite by the December deadline.

The critics said the 1,000 homeowners who have properly registered their suites will be the first to pay, not the estimated 10,000 to 12,000 owners of illegal secondary suites in the Township.

Township staff estimate the suite fee could bring in over $200,000 (after expenses) this year, rising to nearly $700,000 by 2015.