I am asked by both clients and Lethbridge real estate professionals on a weekly basis for information and advice regarding basement suites. This is a very serious issue here in the Lethbridge Alberta real estate market as our basement suite marketplace is prime for investors who are looking for maximum return on their real estate investment, and also for home buyers who wish to supplement their income and help make their mortgage payment with a little revenue out of a secondary suite in their property.
So, as a matter of interest and public benefit, here is the original text of the Alberta Fire Code which governs these suites. It is pretty important to read it and understand it before buying or selling a property with a suite in it. It is also very important the all real estate professionals familiarize themselves with the code prior to listing, marketing, or showing such properties as they may accidentally walk into some liability due to being uninformed. I did write a similar post on these suites which you may be able to dig up with a little effort, or you could just give me a call directly if you need some assistance.
So here it is. It is pretty dry reading and unless you have the personality of a lawyer or a rock (sorry rocks), your likely going to be speed reading and skipping lines before you get one third of the way through it. Enjoy.
Requirements of the Alberta Fire Code 2006 Section 2.16 Secondary Suites:
1. 126.96.36.199. Height of Rooms and Spaces
1)Unless acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction, the height of rooms or spaces in
a secondary suite over the required minimum area in accordance with Table 188.8.131.52. of
Division B of the Alberta Building Code 2006 shall be not less than 1.95 m.
2. 16.2.2. Bedroom Windows
1)Except as permitted in Sentence 184.108.40.206.(1) of Division B of the Alberta Building Code
2006, each bedroom within a secondary suite shall have at least one outside window that
meets the requirements of Articles 220.127.116.11. and 18.104.22.168. of Division B of the Alberta
Building Code 2006.
3. 16.2.3. Exit Stairs
1) Exit stairs shall have a clear width of not less than 860 mm.
4. 16.2.4. Landings
1) Landings for stairs shall be at least as wide as the stairs and not less than 900 mm in
5. 16.2.5. Handrails and Guards
1) Handrails and guards shall conform to the requirements of Subsections 9.8.7. and
9.8.8. of Division B of the Alberta Building Code 2006.
6. 16.2.6. Public and Exit Corridor Width
1) The clear width of every public corridor and exit corridor shall be not less than
7. 16.2.7. Unenclosed Exterior Stair or Ramp
1) Where an unenclosed exterior exit stair or ramp provides the only means of egress
from a secondary suite and is exposed to the hazards of fire from unprotected openings in
the exterior wall of another dwelling unit, the openings shall be protected in conformance
with Articles 22.214.171.124. and 126.96.36.199. of Division B of the Alberta Building Code 2006.
8. 16.2.8. Exit Doors
1) Every exit door or door that provides access to exit from a secondary suite shall be
a) not less than 1 980 mm high,
b) not less than 810 mm wide, and
c) permitted to swing inward.
9. 6.2.9. Means of Egress
1) Except as permitted in Sentence (2), each dwelling unit shall be provided with at least
one exit that leads directly to the outside.
2) Dwelling units may share a common exit meeting the requirements of
10. 16.2.10. Protection of Exits
1) Every exit, other than an exit doorway, shall be separated from adjacent floor areas by
not less than one layer of 12.7 mm thick gypsum wallboard or equivalent material on
each side of the walls. (See Appendix A.)
11. 16.2.11. Dwelling Unit Separations
1) Dwelling units shall be separated from each other by not less than one layer of
12.7 mm thick gypsum wallboard or equivalent material on the ceiling and on each side
of the walls. (See A-188.8.131.52.(1) in Appendix A.)
12. 16.2.12. Protection of Public Corridors
1) A public corridor shall be separated from the remainder of the building by not less than
one layer of 12.7 mm thick gypsum wallboard or equivalent material on each side of the
walls. (See A-184.108.40.206. (1) in Appendix A.)
13. 16.2.13. Furnace Room Separations
1) A furnace room shall be separated from the remainder of the building by not less than
one layer of 12.7 mm thick gypsum wallboard or equivalent material on the ceiling and
on each side of the walls. (See A-220.127.116.11. (1) in Appendix A.)
2) A door shall be provided to each furnace room.-
14. 16.2.14. Heating and Ventilation Systems
1) For an existing secondary suite, a single heating and ventilation system may be used to
serve both the secondary suite and main dwelling unit.
15. 16.2.15. Smoke Alarms
1) Smoke alarms conforming to CAN/ULC-S531, “Smoke Alarms,” installed in
accordance with Subsection 9.10.19. of Division B of the Alberta Building Code 2006
shall be provided in each dwelling unit.
2) Smoke alarms shall be installed by permanent connections to an electrical circuit and
wired so that activation of one smoke alarm will cause all alarms within both dwelling
units to sound.
3) Smoke alarms shall be installed in areas that are common to both dwelling units and
connected in conformance with Sentence (2).
16. 16.2.16. Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Smoke Alarms
1) Smoke alarms required by this Section shall be inspected, tested and maintained in
conformance with the manufacturer's instructions.