Secondary suite fees will hit the law-abiding, Township council told

Comments from public urge council to target suite owners who are not licensed.

If the Township of Langley proceeds with a planned secondary suite fee, the 1,000 homeowners who have properly registered their suites will be the first to pay as much as $580 a year.

That brought Duncan Harper to Township council chambers on Monday, Feb. 4 to complain the proposal penalizes law-abiding landlords who go though the process of getting the necessary permits to add a suite to a single family home, while builders of illegal secondary suites in Langley “are getting away scot-free.”

“I’ve done everything you ask, and you just want more money,” Harper told the evening public input opportunity.

“I just feel cheated by council.”

When Councillor Bob Long proposed phasing in the fees, Harper said he would prefer to see the Township go after the unlicensed suites.

“I want you to get the people who are the cheaters,” Harper replied.

“There’s way more illegal suites than there are legal suites.”

Another resident, Misty VanPopta, made the same argument, saying council should concentrate on illegal suites first.

A written objection was filed by Doreen McIntyre, who said a better approach might be to encourage homeowners to legalize suites.

A report on the proposed fee by Roberto Cesaretti, manager of permit licence and inspection services, estimates the number of illegal suites has almost doubled in six years.

According to the report, there are currently 10,000 to 12,000 illegal secondary suites in Langley Township, up from 5,000 to 8,000 in 2007.

The report recommends using some of the money raised by the new fees to hire an additional staffer to handle the anticipated increase in applications for suite licences and complaints about illegal suites.

The report proposes levying a fee that would range from $350 to $580 a year, depending on whether a residence is connected Township sewer and water service.

A survey of other Lower Mainland municipalities by Township staff found secondary suite fees range from $500 to $900 a year.

Langley Township charges annual fees on many other types of real estate, as much as $3,000 for a gas station and as little as $92.50 for a home-based business (one that does not change the residential appearance or character of the dwelling in which it is located).

Staff estimate the suite fee would bring in $203,650 (after expenses) this year, rising to $667,400 by 2015.

The proposal was granted preliminary approval by council Jan. 21, but will require a public hearing before a final vote is taken.

A date for the public hearing has yet to be scheduled.

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