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Unregistered secondary suites see escalating fees in Pitt Meadows

Homeowners with illegal secondary suites in Pitt Meadows who have yet to fess up to city hall will soon be facing penalties.

As of May 1, only 56 suites were registered with the city, with staff tracking an additional 90 that are unregistered.

To bring the rest into compliance, the city will gradually increase fees for those suites not registered and licensed.

The fee for 2014 is $1,026.90 and will be collected as part of this year’s property taxes, due by July 2.

If owners fail to register, they will see their water, sewer and garbage fees double and continue to increase by five per cent every year for a maximum of five years.

Licensed suites get a bargain as those homeowners pay $288.40.

The city will also only collect one garbage can from homes with a secondary suite, unless a valid garbage tag is purchased from the city.

The 2011 census found around 900 secondary suites in Pitt Meadows, but manager of development service Anne Berry said the city has not confirmed that count.

“We have not begun to actively search for unregistered suites beyond the 90 that we are currently aware of,” she added.

The city believes it will take some time for homeowners to register their suites as the bylaw authorizing escalating fees has only been in place since 2013.

“It’s a slow process of educating the public,” said Mayor Deb Walters.

Unlike other cities, Pitt Meadows won’t actively hunt for violators by searching classified advertisements or spying on homeowners.

The bylaw will be enforced by complaint.

“If someone sees their neighbour putting out more garbage or has four cars parked in front of their home on a regular basis, then we might follow up with it,” Walters added.

She noted that besides not paying their share of utilities, unregistered suites mean homes with two families are not contributing to school taxes.

“You might have two families living in one home, but only one is paying school taxes. And here we have a school district that’s struggling [with funding],” said Walters.

“It is about fairness. I think it’s only right that everyone pays their share.”

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