Unauthorized Accommodation Rental Suite
The topic of buying a Whistler property with unauthorized accommodation is expansive. Unauthorized means that the space was not identified in the original plans which were submitted to the municipality to obtain a permit.
This post is going to focus on unauthorized accommodation in the form of a rental suite. A rental suite within a residential property (house) is common in Whistler. The definition of such a suite might be: “A suite is a separate living area contained within a dwelling unit functioning as a self-contained suite, typically complete with its own kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.” They are colloquially known as in-law suite, mortgage helper, nanny suite, non-conforming suite, and other similar descriptive names.
A suite may have been constructed in accordance with applicable laws including strata bylaws, municipal zoning bylaws, the building code and by obtaining the required permits. However, there are many suites in Whistler which did not undergo such a process. Therefore they are not legal. Unauthorized accommodation is the correct term for these illegal suites.
There is a risk with purchasing residential property with unauthorized accommodation. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) may order that the unauthorized accommodation be removed. It is the Fire Chief who decides this. To the Fire Chief your suite was either legally installed or illegally installed. In my experience, when the Fire Chief gets involved your whole house is suddenly under scrutiny.
Seller’s Disclosure of Unauthorized Accommodation
This is a buyer beware situation. In a perfect world, the seller would disclose everything about the house on the BC Property Condition Disclosure Statement (PDS). However, a seller is not under any obligation to complete a PDS. In addition, the the sellers may have bought the house 20 years ago with unauthorized accommodation and they claim ignorance. This is where you need an experienced, Whistler buyer’s agent.
Sellers are obligated to disclose the existence of unauthorized accommodation. However, their failure to do so may expose the buyer to significant financial exposure following completion of the transaction. The disclosure should be noted on the Property Disclosure Statement (PDS). Some sellers are careless when they complete the PDS. Furthermore, their listing agent may not check through the PDS for red flags prior to listing. In essence, a seller is under no obligation to complete a PDS.
It is typically a term of the contract that the buyer accepts the PDS as is. This signed PDS now forms part of the contract. Even if the buyer has the ability to seek legal recourse against the seller, this is a time consuming process.
It is important to be aware of what you are buying. Whether you buy a property with unauthorized accommodation, or you don’t will depend on your level of risk taking.