The city of Red Deer is reminding the public that a secondary suite (commonly known as a basement suite or upper suite) needs to meet the legal requirements to be considered safe.

A fire almost a year ago that left two people with minor injuries and owners facing hefty fines, prompted Fire Marshal Wes Van Bavel, to once again remind the public to check all boxes when it comes to the safety of people living in a home.  

“The main reason is early detection and safe exiting of the building… in this case, one of the bedrooms didn’t even have a proper window in it.”

Van Bavel said there was a similar but much worse case in Calgary a few years back where three people were in a basement when it caught fire and unfortunately all died from injuries.  

He says that any house that has been approved by the City of Red Deer would have received a certificate or would be on file with the Inspections and Licensing department. Adding that if a renter approaches an owner to see the certificate and they can’t show it, questions should be asked.

“If they can’t produce that certificate they should start questioning whether it’s legal or not,” says Van Bavel adding, “the most important thing is are the smoke alarms here? Is there a proper way out?”

A few of the main things to look out for in your basement home or rental are:

  • Hardwired interconnected smoke alarms
  • Proper fire separations
  • Adequate bedroom windows

The maximum fine for an illegal secondary suite is $100,000 for each offence and could include imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months under the Safety Codes Act.

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