City cracks down on secondary suites

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

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

In December 2011, staff sent letters to the owners of 189 properties with known in-law and secondary suites, encouraging them to register.

As of March, 116 properties have taken action to avoid increased water, sewer and garbage collection fees.

To bring the rest into compliance, city staff have recommend gradually increasing fees and charges for utilities.

The city will also be updating its bylaw to permit suites in homes that are not occupied by the owner. However, those properties will have to identify a “property manager” or point person for the city to contact should problems with the suite arise.

City director of operations Kim Grout said unregistered suites will see charges increase in 2014.

“The only way to avoid this is to register,” said Grout.

Council has asked staff to contact the 108 “known” unregistered suites and encourage them to register by pointing out the benefits of registration, which includes reduced fees (only 40 per cent of utilities).

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.

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

In terms of enforcement, Grout noted the city has thus far chosen to take a “reactive” approach, which involves responding to public complaints and addressing major safety concerns.

Since the reactive approach and coaxing has failed to get home owners to register their suites, the city is moving ahead with a crackdown.

“I support the increase in fees,” said Coun. Janis Elkerton during a meeting April 16.

“The rest of the single-family residences are subsidisng these secondary suites. I don’t think it’s fair. We’ve tried the carrot and now we are going to use the stick.”

The 2011 Census reports that there are 650 secondary suites in Pitt Meadows.