- Getting Started
Secondary Suites - are separate dwelling units that are completely contained within a home. They are often referred to as in-law suites or basement apartments.
Your ability to develop your property is dependent on the Land Use By laws specific to the region you live in. Halifax is divided into several zones, please refer to the Interactive Property Information map to identify which bylaw zone governs your property. From the map you can directly access the bylaws for your zone.
Once you're aware of the development limitations of your property, you can begin to plan your project.
- Things to Know
On September 1, 2020 Halifax Regional Council approved all land use By-laws to allow secondary suites.
The new rules mean you or your neighbor can get permission to install a secondary suite by obtaining the correct permits. The following information outlines the new rules for Secondary Suites:
Maximum Floor Area: 80m2
Designated Secondary Suite Parking Required: No
Size, Setbacks, Height: The same zoning requirements as for main dwellings
For additional support applying for a building permit for a secondary suite, refer to the Secondary Suite How-to Guide.
Common related permits:
You will need a building permit for the suite and even if there is existing water and sewer connection, you will also need a water permit.
Depending on the scope of project you may also need a lot grading permit and possibly a ROWD permit.
A Secondary Suite Building Permit expires 2 years from date of issue.
- Common Questions
1. Am I permitted to have more than one secondary suite?
No – You may have either one secondary suite or one backyard suite.
2. Who can live in a Secondary Suite?
Anyone. Secondary suites can be used as accommodation for aging parents, adult children or can be used as a rental unit for the general public.
3. Can I have a secondary suite accessory to an apartment building?
No. A secondary suite is only considered accessory to low density residential uses - single unit dwellings, two unit dwellings or townhouse dwellings.
4. Does the Building Code have specific requirements for a secondary suite vs a two unit dwelling?
Yes. View the Building Code requirements for a secondary suite.
5. Can the secondary suite share the same civic number as the main dwelling?
No – A secondary suite will be assigned a new civic number separate from the main dwelling at the building permit application stage.
- Documents Required
Supporting documents are always required as part of making a permit application. We consider a secondary suite a residential addition or renovation, requiring the following documents:
Consists of a Floor Plan that shall show the interior layout of each floor including:
footing, foundation and wall locations
rooms labelled with proposed uses with full dimensions
location of plumbing and electrical fixtures, drains, heating and ventilation appliances all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
size, space and span of all framing members, including decks, steps and stairs
total area by floor, and the total area of the proposed building A Roof Plan that shall include:
Layout showing of roof structure, roof slopes, hips/valleys/peaks and ventilation outlets
detailed information about beams and columns supporting loads A Cross Section that shall be through an exterior wall from the footing to the roof and show:
footing and foundation wall size, and exterior grade above basement floor
all floor, roof, and wall assemblies Construction Details and Notes such as all sources of heating, ventilation or other mechanical systems shall be included.
Must include lot dimensions and the footprint of the building, and any projections such as decks, roof overhangs and doorsteps. Also indicate the proposed building’s distance from all property boundaries, the location and dimensions of the driveway, existing buildings and setbacks to existing buildings.
Include watercourse buffer and coastal area information (calculated in accordance with the applicable land use by law), when required.
When the building is within the municipal service boundary include:
Wastewater, Storm-water and Water Service Laterals Fire Department connection locations Hydrant locations
Dimensions of all sides of the structure and include finished grade, overall height to the highest point of the roof and the slope of the roof.
Exterior finishes, window and door type, sizes and locations, including the height of window sills above floor level.
Total area of each exposed building face, the area of window, door and hood openings, and required limiting distance if known.
Location and dimension of exterior decks, stairs, guards and handrails.
On-Site Sewage Disposal System Notification Letter/Certification of Installation - Confirmation from Nova Scotia Environment that a qualified person has designed an On-Site Sewage Disposal System for the property. [NEW BUILD ONLY]
Documents usually required outside of Municipal Services:
NS Transportation Infrastructure (NSTI) Renewal Approval - For Provincially-owned roads, approval from Nova Scotia Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal is required prior to work on the roadway or within the highway right-of-way, including installing a driveway or erecting a structure within 100 metres of any highway.
Automated workflows have been built to expedite the application process when customers use the document naming convention.
If these Document names are not used during the application phase, the applicant will be required to manually assign the correct document type to each document so the system will know what document has been submitted.
- Inspections Required
We consider a secondary suite a residential addition or renovation, requiring the following inspections:
Building Code Inspections
Every permit holder is responsible for requesting inspections at specific stages of construction. Required building inspections are included in the permit cost. Once a permit has been issued, required inspections for the project can be viewed by signing into their Customer Portal account.
These inspections review construction for compliance with requirements set out in the Nova Scotia Building Code Regulations, Halifax Regional Municipality By-law B-201 Respecting the Building Code and other relevant Codes and Standards.
Although required inspections may vary by the scope of work of the Addition project, Building Code inspections may include:
Footing Inspection: conducted when the footings are placed and the forms have been removed.
Prior to Backfill Inspection: conducted after foundation is installed and dampproofed with drain tile in place and with min 6” of stone.
Underground Plumbing Inspection: conducted to review plumbing under the concrete slab and any exterior storm or sewer services.
Below Grade Insulation Inspection: conducted to review that insulation is installed beneath the concrete slab as per the Code.
Rough-in Plumbing Inspection: conducted when plumbing has been installed, but before insulation is placed in the walls. This is often conducted during the same site visit as the Framing Inspection.
Framing Inspection: conducted when all of the mechanical, plumbing, and electrical is installed. The building must be weather tight.
Prior to Drywall Inspection: conducted when all insulation and vapor barrier is completed.
Final Plumbing Inspection: review of completed plumbing system. Required plumbing fixtures are to be installed and the building's hot water and heating system must be operational. This inspection is often conducted at the same site visit as the Final Building Inspection
Final Building Inspection: review of the structure and systems as a whole. A house must not be occupied prior requesting this inspection and issuance of an Occupancy Permit to ensure all health and life safety issues have been addressed.
Secondary Suite fees are based on construction value.
For full details of permit fee calculation and a complete list of fee rates, please see the Permit Fees page.
Full payment for the permit must be made at the time of application submission.
Payment can be made online during the application process. Online permit applications must be paid for online using either Visa, MasterCard, Visa Debit, MasterCard Debit or Amex. Only one method of payment type is accepted via our online payment system.
If you prefer not to pay online you can visit our Customer Service desk by appointment only at the address below at:
Bayers Road Centre
7071 Bayers Road, 2nd Floor Tower, Halifax, NS B3L 4P3
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday *Currently by appointment only due to Covid-19 protection protocols.
- Apply online
To install a Secondary Suite, you are going to apply for a BUILDING PERMIT.
For additional support applying for a building permit for a secondary suite, refer to the Secondary Suite How-to Guide
Our new online system allows you to apply for permits 24/7 through your personal customer portal account.
To apply for permits online:
1. You need to register for a customer portal account
2. If you are a contractor, you will need to create your contractor profile.
3. Ensure you have all of the information required before you apply for your permit. Refer to the Before You Begin Checklist.
4. Learn how to Navigate the Customer Portal.
5. For additional support, refer to our quick guide on how to Apply for a Permit Online.
Visit the applying for a permit page to view a library of support documents, videos and common questions to help you best use the customer portal.