In-law suites and why they may be a good fit

Red hot housing and rental markets mean people are getting creative with their living situations. There are different ways people are buying or renting homes, whether it’s pooling resources with friends and family or house hacking.

There’s also another way: the rise of the in-law suite or “granny flat,” a smaller, often temporary unit that shares the property with the original home, although usually through a separate entrance.

Yes, your grandmother might be very spry and may not need to share space, but the idea of these second suites is making a comeback and there are several benefits to considering them.

They let you stay in the neighbourhood

As Canada’s population ages, more seniors want to stay in the homes and neighbourhoods where they feel secure and comfortable. With an in-law suite, a younger family (related or otherwise) can move into the main dwelling while the senior downsizes into the suite. Seniors get the support they may need and the independence they crave, while the younger family provides any help needed as part of their leasing agreement.

Note: Before renting out your space, remember that your REALTOR® can help answer any questions you have and help draft a lease agreement.

They solve the downsizing problem

Maybe you’re not ready to sell the family home but you don’t want to rattle around in it by yourself. Downsizing to a smaller residence lets you do both. You get to stay on your property and keep the home.

They can provide additional income

Renting the larger family home can provide income for homeowners that can be used towards travel, hobbies or healthcare. Also, because you downsized, your monthly housing bills will be lower, which is always a plus.

They help increase rental availability

Many of Canada’s biggest cities have a dismal vacancy rate, with Toronto and Vancouver topping that list. In-law suites could potentially help open up more space for renters as seniors downsize to smaller spaces on the same property.

They have a smaller footprint

A recent article in Citylab found that in-law suites make for better neighbourhoods. That’s because they use less gas, electricity and hydro due to their smaller size, and are often found in walkable/bikeable neighbourhoods, meaning they have a smaller impact on the environment.

Building an in-law suite

If you want to build an in-law suite, or create one in an existing basement, here’s what you need to know:

• Check your municipal laws

Are you allowed to build onto your home? This is a construction project, so you will need to get permission and permits. Some cities don’t allow for these types of builds in areas designated for detached family dwellings.

Are you creating an in-law suite in your basement? Then you need to know about municipal codes that include providing proper egress windows in case of an emergency.

• Construction costs

A smaller space can mean lower costs, but before you build or renovate, decide on the size and style of the new space. Other costs to consider include permit fees, property taxes, and connections to hydro, water and gas.

• Living agreements

Make sure everything is covered legally. This includes the lease agreement and any clauses that look after the common spaces like the lawn and garden, and especially about your health and well-being. Talk to your lawyer and ensure you benefit from building and moving into a second suite. You want to remain friends with your neighbours while you share the same space, even if they’re family.

The article above is for information purposes and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel