Meeting with Abbotsford reveals tips for REALTORS® on accessing timely information

In a Government Relations (GR) membership survey conducted early this year, Fraser Valley REALTORS® cited a series of challenges they encounter especially when trying to obtain property information from local governments.

In an ongoing effort to help members work with municipalities more effectively, the Board’s Government Relations (GR) Committee invited senior staff from the City of Abbotsford to attend one of their meetings for a friendly briefing on Tuesday, September 27. The volunteers met Darren Braun (Director, Planning Services), Bill Flitton (Director, Legislative Services/City Clerk), Tammy Ketola (Information & Privacy Coordinator) and Magda Laljee (Manager, Bylaw Services).

Some key areas worth noting:  Abbotsford adopted a new Official Community Plan (OCP) in June which establishes a new vision for the city and will require updates to the City’s Zoning Bylaw.  Describing the new OCP as “suite‐friendly,” the City will be allowing the removal of old restrictive covenants so that an estimated 80 per cent of Abbotsford homes will be eligible for suites, up from the current 50 per cent.  Suites will generally be allowed with the following conditions: no cul‐de‐sac bulbs, no bare land stratas, a 12 metre minimum frontage and no arterial street frontage.

However, the City cautions Realtors to not advertise suites in their property listings unless the suites have been registered with the City. There are four ways members can check if a suite has been registered:

  1. Do an online Property Information Search. Go to > Business & Development > Building Permits > Property Information Search.
  2. Contact Bylaw Services at 604-864-5512 or email
  3. Contact Building Permits & Licences at 604-864-5525 or
  4. Look for indicators in the City mapping system. Go to > expand the development layer and click on Secondary suites sublayer or the coach house sub-layer and all the registered suites and coach houses will be displayed across the city on a parcel by parcel basis.

City staff acknowledged that obtaining access to historical property information is tempered by the requirements of provincial privacy legislation and therefore the process may not be as swift and open as many would like.  However, listing agents, armed with either written consent from the property owner or a listing contract, can help the City by asking about the property when they accept the listing to give the City more time to fulfill their request. Buyer agents can also use many of the online methods to access information for their clients.

REALTORS® can access information on assessments, development information and property tax and utility reports directly on the City’s website via the online Property Information Search.  If you require information on building permits, the City has a live feed on their website which shows building permit wait times, the types of plans being reviewed by City staff, and the number of pending applications.

If you are looking for more information on a property (e. g. whether the property was identified as a drug operation), you can file a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. By law, the City has up to 30 days to respond to these requests, however City staff will usually respond in writing within a week.

Obtaining information on drug production at a property can be difficult because municipalities don’t have information on all properties with a drug history and the police and fire departments keep their own records and may not notify the city on their investigations. The city also does not have information on medicinal grow‐ops, unless a complaint has been filed on the property.  However, anyone can perform a search on a specific property by looking for the address on the City’s website in the Council minutes. If an address shows up next to a note about “Section 57,” members need to talk to the Building department to get more details on the property. Abbotsford will not charge if they don’t have any information on a property in their files, following a search.

Hopefully these tips on accessing information help members who work in Abbotsford. City staff indicated they are more than happy to visit Abbotsford brokerages to address specific topics.

The Board’s GR committee volunteers will be following up with staff at the City of Abbotsford to keep the lines of communication open and look for opportunities to streamline processes and services which are relevant to REALTORS®.