Garden Suites

It is legal to construct a garden suite with a permit in Saanich. They are permitted on most single family residential (RS-zoned) properties inside the Sewer Service Area. Properties in the Broadmead area have pre-existing covenants on title that do not permit garden suites.

Garden suites are detached, ground-oriented dwellings located in the rear yard of a property with a single family house as its principal use. A garden suite can only contain one dwelling unit.

This new housing form contributes to the amount and diversity of rental housing available in Saanich. Garden suites can be used for family or as rental units, but cannot be strata-titled, sold or used for short-term rentals (e.g. for an Airbnb or Bed and Breakfast). An owner must live on the property with the garden suite in either the single family dwelling or the garden suite.

Basic Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a garden suite, a residential lot must meet the following basic eligibility criteria:

  • The lot must be in an RS zone
  • The lot must be in the Garden Suite Area (Sewer Service Area) [PDF - 1 MB]
  • The lot must be a minimum size of 400 m2
  • The lot must be a minimum width of 12 m
  • The principal building on the lot must be a single family dwelling
  • There cannot be a secondary suite on the property

In addition to these basic requirements, there may be other considerations that could affect the eligibility of your lot for a garden suite such as the lot coverage or a statutory right-of-way. Additionally, some properties, such as those in Broadmead have covenants do not permit the construction of a garden suite.

Pre-Application Process

It is recommended that you review the pre-application questions [PDF - 1 MB] in Guide A and discuss your project with a planner prior to making an application.

For information about your property (e.g. location, zoning, lot size and width) visit SaanichMap.

Application Process

Before you can start building your garden suite, you will need an approved Development Permit and Building Permit. Depending on your site, you may also require an approved Tree Permit.

It is recommended that you review the pre-application questions [PDF - 1 MB] in Guide A and discuss your project with a planner prior to making an application.

Variances

Development Permit (with Variance) allows for variances to zoning requirements (see Schedule H of the Zoning Bylaw [PDF - 13 MB]). If your application does not meet the zoning requirements, you may apply to Council for a variance. Variance applications may not vary the density or use of land. Council is the decision-making authority.

Application form and submission documents

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For your convenience, frequently asked questions about garden suites are organized into five categories. For quick access to specific questions and answers, choose from the categories below.

  1. Pre-Application
  2. Application
  3. Building and Site Design
  4. Servicing
  5. Parking and Access

PRE-APPLICATION

I am considering building a garden suite on my property. What should I do first?

The first step is to determine if your property is eligible for a garden suite.

The second step is to spend some time investigating the pre-application questions [PDF - 1 MB]. It is recommended that you contact Engineering to discuss servicing for your property.

The third step is to create a dimensioned site plan to help you visualize the possibilities for a garden suite on your property. You can do this yourself, or you can contact a licensed builder or building designer to assist you.

How do I find the size of my lot?

SaanichMap is an online mapping tool that allows you to access information about your property such as zoning, and lot size and width. You can also use SaanichMap to find out if your property is inside the Sewer Service Area and/or in the Streamside Development Permit Area.

Can I convert an existing accessory building into a garden suite?

It may be possible to convert an existing accessory building into a garden suite. The process, however, is different from the construction of a new garden suite and may require additional steps to complete the necessary applications.

To determine whether conversion of an existing accessory building is an option, you will need to:

  • Determine if your existing accessory building complies with the zoning and design regulations, and what alterations or variances may be required.
  • Work with a Registered Architect, Licensed Home Building Inspector, Licensed Residential Builder or other professional with experience in home building/design to complete a Building Code Assessment Report [PDF - 241 KB]. This will allow you to determine how your accessory building must be modified to meet the BC Building Code for residential use.

Can I have both a garden suite and a secondary suite?

No. You have the option of either a secondary suite or a garden suite on your property, but not both.

Am I allowed to rent my garden suite as a short-term rental?

Short-term rentals such as AirBnb, and Bed and Breakfasts are not permitted in garden suites. Garden Suites are for long-term rental only.

What is a Title Search and why is it needed?

A Title Search is a record issued by the Land Title Office setting out the particulars of a title to land, generated from information contained in the land title register at a specific point in time. The Title Search lists the property owner(s), the legal description of the parcel, and any charges, liens, and interests registered against the Title.

You need to provide a Title Search to show ownership and to identify any encumbrances. Copies of any encumbrances (e.g. covenants, statutory rights of way, easements) are needed so that staff can determine how they might impact your proposal for a garden suite.

How do I get a Title Search?

You can get a Title Search online from the Land Title and Survey Authority of BC.

Remember that the Title Search must be current within 30 days of your application date. In addition, all registered owners on the property title must be listed on the application form and provide their signature.

APPLICATION

What permits do I need to build a garden suite?

You will need a Development Permit and a Building Permit. You may also need a Tree Permit, if trees will be impacted by your development.

How long will the permit process take?

If you submit a complete application it will take approximately 1.5 to 3.5 months to receive a Development Permit. A Building Permit will take approximately six weeks to obtain.

BUILDING AND SITE DESIGN

Who can help me prepare my plans for a Development Permit for a Garden Suite?

We recommend you work with a building designer or licensed builder to prepare your plans. If you’re looking for someone to work with, you could try: 

  • Asking your friends or family for recommendations;
  • Searching online for local building designers and/or licensed builders; and/or
  • Reviewing applications posted to Saanich’s Active Applications page to find the names of local companies.

Can I subdivide a garden suite from my lot?

No. A key objective of the garden suite program is to provide permanent rental housing on existing RS-zoned lots. Subdivision of a garden suite from a lot with a single family dwelling is not permitted.

My property does not fit the standard layout. Am I allowed to site a garden suite in the front or side yard?

Garden suites are permitted in the rear yard. If your application does not meet the zoning requirement for siting, you can apply for a Development Permit with Variance. Council would be the decision-making authority.

SERVICING

Will I need to upgrade my plumbing when I construct my garden suite?

To meet the BC Building Code, at minimum you will require a 3/4 inch (19 mm) water service for your single family dwelling and garden suite. You will need to work with a professional plumber or mechanical engineer to determine if a 3/4 inch (19 mm) water service is adequate for the number of plumbing fixtures (existing and proposed) on your property.

Am I required to connect the garden suite to the municipal stormwater service?

Yes, a connection to the municipal stormwater service is required. A garden suite is a single family dwelling and it must be built to the standards of a single family dwelling under the BC Building Code. Among other things, the garden suite must be built on a foundation, it must have a drainage system, and it must be connected to the municipal services, including stormwater.

If there is not storm sewer connection to the property line, the owner must establish a connection and ensure that it connects to the new garden suite.

Alternative stormwater management systems (e.g. rain barrels, drain rock) are permitted, in addition to a connection to the storm sewer.

Will I have to connect my principal dwelling to the municipal stormwater service if it is not connected currently?

If you are applying for a Development Permit for a garden suite, you are not required to connect the principal dwelling to the storm service.

PARKING AND ACCESS

Can I have a second driveway for the garden suite?

On corner lots, yes, you are permitted to provide a second driveway to the lot from the adjacent residential street (see Figure 24 of the Garden Suite Design Guidelines). You are not permitted to add a second driveway on lots that are NOT on a corner. In addition, the maximum combined driveway width is 7 m for both the principal dwelling and garden suite. Refer to the Driveway Access Bylaw for permitted driveway locations.

What are my options for the layout of parking spaces on my property?

As shown in Figure 23 of the Garden Site Design Guidelines, you may use a tandem parking configuration for the two parking spaces that are for the principal dwelling. The third parking space for the garden suite may NOT be a tandem configuration and it cannot be located in the garage of the principal dwelling.

Am I required to provide EV charging for the garden suite parking space?

This is now a regulation in Zoning Bylaw, 2003. You are required to provide one energized outlet capable of providing Level 2 charging for the parking space for the garden suite. You do not need to provide an EV charger, but you must provide electrical servicing to the parking space so that a charger could be installed in the future.

For more information about EV infrastructure requirements, visit the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure webpage and/or review the Technical Bulletin.