A crackdown on illegal secondary suites has hundreds of Surrey homeowners and tenants scrambling.

Nearly 200 homeowners living in the Clayton Heights neighbourhood have been put on notice by the city, told all renters must vacate by the end of January. If tenants are still living in the illegal suites, owners can face fines of $500 a day.

The suites being targeted are being decommissioned, built in basements or other parts of homes in an area zoned only for laneway house rentals. The suites had previously been registered with the city and rented anyway, provided homeowners paid a small fee, but the city is now putting an end to the process.

Homeowners have been told their tenants must leave, and any barriers dividing suites from main homes must be removed.

The move is Surrey's solution to years of complaints over a lack of street parking.

"7,600 complaints in three years," said Jaspreet Rehal, the city's manager of public safety operations.

"We're averaging 2,500 calls a year… for parking specifically."

The Clayton area is one of the fastest growing neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland's fastest growing city.

While the secondary suites are technically illegal, many feel the city's actions are too heavy-handed.

"They don't understand, in the middle of a housing crisis, that they're evicting 300-plus families," homeowner James Abu Ulba said.

"Where I park on the street comes second to somebody having a roof over their head."

And renter Heidi Thomas, who lives in an illegal suite with her two children and her partner, said they'd likely be unable to afford a legal suite in a city with rising rents and low vacancy.

"I would have to leave Surrey because it's too expensive. We'd be looking at Abbotsford, Mission," she said.

More than 1,300 people have signed a petition to stop the displacement of residents. Published by a group calling itself Clayton Homeowners for Equitable Community Planning, the petition calls the city's actions "inhumane," and states that it won't actually alleviate parking issues in the area.

The group said the city should instead implement a public parking program, clearly outline parking zones, add additional parking in some areas, and tax those with multiple suites to help pay for the project.

They also ask city council to consider changing the bylaws to allow multiple rental suites in Surrey homes.

But Rehal said the rental suite crackdown is the best solution to address the issues in the neighbourhood.

"The safety issues, the congestion… There's no other options but to remove these suites," he said.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Sarah MacDonald