Surrey City Hall. (File photo)

EXCLUSIVE: Surrey collecting fees on more than 2,400 illegal suites, documents reveal

That works out to more than $1 million in fees collected annually

SURREY — A Freedom of Information Request has revealed there are about 2,400 properties with illegal suites registered at Surrey City Hall.

According to city bylaws, only one secondary suite is legal for properties zoned single family.

However, an FOI reveals there are 2,332 properties in Surrey with two registered suites, 57 with three, and six properties with four or more.

The Now-Leader has learned the city is charging a $568 “multiple suite fee” for illegal, yet registered suites. That works out to more than $1 million a year collected from illegal suites.

East Clayton resident Greg Garner is one of 175 landlords who have received an order to remove one of their two suites, a move that has proved controversial.

“In order to register, you have to pay the fee,” noted Garner, who has gone through the process of registering two suites in his home. “And they are framing us 175 as law breakers, yet they allowed 2,500 homes to do this, including six with four or more basement suites.”

See also: East Clayton suite crackdown ‘on hold,’ says Surrey Mayor

See also: HOME SUITE HOME: The faces of Clayton’s illegal suite crackdown

See also: Surrey Council asks staff to work with tenants in illegal Clayton suites

Garner said if the city decided to force all landlords to remove multiple suites, they would be displacing 2,500 families.

“And lose more than $1 million.”

Garner wants to know where that money is going.

Although council has spoken about the need to enforce bylaws, at a recent meeting, Garner says if the city is going to act in one community, it must do it city-wide.

Jas Rehal, bylaws manager for Surrey.

While Surrey’s manager of bylaws Jas Rehal didn’t dispute the figures, he said the fees collected are solely to offset costs for city services.

“The goal there is to get the fees to ensure there is equity across the city for services people in illegal suites draw,” Rehal said. “We have made our position known that the fee does not make the suite legal.”

Rehal said enforcement is based on complaints.

“We don’t go out there just looking to do enforcement for illegal suites, it’s based on complaints,” he added. “Our policy is most definitely complaint based.”

To Garner’s comments about treating every landlord the same, Rehal said a “blanket enforcement approach” doesn’t work.

“In Clayton there, our issue is always trying to resolve complaints. We understand that the suites are directly related to housing so we don’t have a blanket approach,” Rehal said. “With Clayton, we’ve tried to resolve the parking issues but we couldn’t resolve those.”

He said that’s why the enforcement initiative, which is now on hold, began.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner.

Mayor Linda Hepner said Garner “is right” that enforcing the bylaw across the city would displace thousands of families.

“While the clampdown in Clayton is in direct response to parking issues, it leaves all the other multiple suites throughout the city to deal with,” she told the Now-Leader.

Hepner said she hopes to soon have a report from staff on broader housing solutions, “not forgetting that single family is single family, and you can ask for multiple (suites to become legal) by way of zoning process. We may need to map those units and give a deadline for a process activation.”

The mayor said to displace 2,500 families in a constrained market would be “disastrous,” however expecting an appropriate zone for those areas that wish to be multiple is reasonable and an “application should be made.”

In the short term, Hepner said the city must still deal with the Clayton transportation issues and awaits a city report that will outline options.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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