Importance of Property`s Legal Use where Actual Use has been Different for a VERY Long Time?


New Forum Member
REIN Member

I find in some cities many properties are being used in a non-legal way (i.e. a legal duplex used as 4-unit converted dwelling).
HOWEVER, many of them have been used as such for a VERY long time (20 years, 30 years or more!).

For example, I recently viewed a property with 4 units that has been used as such in the PAST 30 years BUT is only a legal DUPLEX.

My question is do experienced investors see a non-legal use as a BIG issue and therefore avoid purchasing such properties or is it actually considered MINIMAL RISK where the property has been used as such for a VERY long time, say 30 years?

Obviously, in theory the city can come after you and demand that you close the "non legal units". the question is how realistic/risky do you consider it to be?



Inspired Forum Member
Before you purchase it, you could go to the city and ask if they would change it to get it legalized as a four-plex. My Mom has been sucessful at this in the city of Edmonton.
The main thing if you plan on purchasing something like this, is to make sure it`s SAFE to live in. You could be investigated by Capital Health and be asked to do renovations that adhere to their regulations in order to make it legal. With a little investigation you may be able to turn it into a legal suite without much problem. On the other had there may need to be significant renovations that need to take place in order for it to be legalized. Knowing that going in will minimize your risk and also help you get some negotiating power in this buyers market.


New Forum Member
REIN Member
Thanks Rebecca, Good point.

Should I contact Planning Department at the city and ask if they would change it to get it legalized as a four-plex as you suggested or should I speak with someone from another department?

I`m asking as I already spoke with 2 planners there and based on their response they simply have no idea if I should get it legalized.. perhaps to cover themselves they prefer saying they don`t know and not take any "risk"..

Any advice how to find out would be highly appreciated.

Thanks again,