CASE STUDY: Illegal Suite: Affordable Housing or Death Trap?


Our team was recently called out to document a long list of complaints and serious issues at a secondary rental suite in Richmond. A woman and her two daughters had rented one of two suites in a single detached home. Unfortunately, she had rented this property without a professional Inspection first and she had been completely unaware of the many lurking problems, until it was too late.

Firstly, there was not a proper fire separation so if any part of the house caught fire, this suite would have been ablaze within minutes. We also noticed that the plumbing was a hack-job and whenever the other suite did dishes or took a shower, sewer water and foul vapours would back up into the laundry drain standpipe and spill right into her home.  The stench of sewer gas was awful (also – it is noxious to breathe and explosive); then suddenly we noted a lit pilot light flickering at the nearby gas fireplace.

Another issue was the complete lack of privacy. The walls of the suite were paper thin, so every comment and even embarrassing bathroom sounds were clearly audible. Plus, the kitchen cupboard shelving had no backing, so you could actually see right into the next living space (inside their kitchen cupboards).

Well, it’s a good thing that she called us when she did because living in these conditions is not only appalling and unhealthy, it’s illegal.


We advised the woman to move out as soon as possible and we assured her that we would back her up if the landlord tried to enforce the lease. Our detailed written Report should suffice, however.

The Richmond Review has recently reported that an ongoing city investigation has revealed a growing problem with illegal suites around the city of Richmond. A total of 63 properties have been red-flagged so far.

With our current housing crunch it’s become apparent that many renters are desperately in need of affordable housing. However, potential landlords need to understand that it’s not OK to take advantage of these people by becoming a slumlord! All secondary suites must be inspected by the city and be found in full compliance with B.C. Building Codes to be legal.

If you are Richmond landlord wondering if your suite is in compliance please contact
Richmond Building Approvals: Phone: 604-276-4285 Email:

“If are a Renter that needs a Suite checked out
Call Duxbury & Associates!
We will provide professional advice
and ensure your safety and security.”

Duxbury & Associates – Building Inspection and Consulting Ltd.

Ph: 604 524-2502

About Glenn Duxbury

Duxbury & Associates Building Inspection and Consulting Ltd. has received the 2004 Douglas College Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the ‘Consulting’ category for persistence and pursuit of excellent service delivery to clients by providing very thorough and professional Inspection Reports and dedication to those involved in buying / selling / building / renovating and maintaining uncompromised customer focus.