Long gone are the days when basements were only used as storage rooms or abandoned spaces. Today, homeowners are renovating and transforming their basements into fabulous spaces. Some turn their basements into a home theatre, while others turn them into an extra bedroom or kitchen. The options are virtually endless. It all depends on how big the space is, how bold your vision is and how much money you have. A popular trend is that of transforming basements into secondary suites that can be rented out to tenants.
A secondary suite can be rented out to tenants or used as an in-law suite for guests. Even so, most homeowners choose to rent out their basement apartments to generate extra income that can be used to meet other needs. All in all, it is essential to note that not all basement apartments meet the requirements of a legal basement suite. Whether you want to rent out your basement or rent a basement apartment, it is important to understand what makes a legal basement suite.
What is a Legal Basement Suite?
In simple terms, a legal secondary suite is an apartment situated within a home that is registered with the city municipality. There are so many financial benefits that come with having a secondary suite in the home. However, before you can start generating income with a basement apartment, there are a couple of legal guidelines your basement has to comply with so as to make it a legal secondary suite. Tenants will be familiar with this fact too. If you plan on renting out your basement in Canada, there are a few things you will have to consider.
How to Make a Basement Apartment Legal
To start with, if you plan on remodelling your basement to transform it into a basement apartment, you need to get a permit. Your new basement apartment will also be required to comply with a couple of zoning and safety codes. The good news is the right contractor will help you understand the legal requirements and help you apply for all relevant permits before you get started. The contractor will also ensure that all housing standards by-laws are met. This is the key to making your basement apartment legal.
Legal Secondary Suite Requirements
While the legal requirements for a secondary suite may vary depending on where you live, there are specific requirements that you need to meet. Here are the main ones.
- Your house has to be at least 12 months old.
- During the renovation, only minimal changes should be made to the appearance of your house’s exterior.
- The secondary suite that you create has to be smaller than the main dwelling unit.
- The ceiling of a basement apartment has to be soundproofed and at 6’5”.
- The bathroom should have a fan installed.
- The doors that are installed in the basement should be no less than 1.75 inches thick. They should be made of metal or solid wood. There must be a ½ inch gap at the bottom to make sure there is adequate air movement.
- The egress window in the sleeping area should be openable from the inside and without relying on tools.
- The exterior door has to be at least 32 inches’ x 78 inches in size.
- The windows should be no less than 18 inches with an opening of not less than 600 square inches.
- The kitchen of the legal secondary suite should have a stove and refrigerator. These have to be in good working condition.
- The kitchen cupboards should have a capacity of not less than four cubic feet multiplied by the basement apartment’s total occupancy.
- The kitchen stove should be equipped with an exhaust hood fan. The exhaust must be directed to a vent to the outside of the house.
- The basement apartment must have carbon monoxide and smoke alarms installed and properly maintained.
While the list may seem long, it is not exhaustive. The best way for you to ensure that your basement apartment is legal is to work with an experienced basement renovation contractor. The basement renovation contractor is familiar with the legal requirements in your area and will ensure that all of them are met. The contractor can also help with a basement inspection to ensure everything is in order before you rent out your basement apartment.
What Makes Having a Legal Secondary Suite Important?
Creating a legal basement apartment is crucial because it guarantees the overall safety of the occupants in the whole building. You also need to keep in mind that the requirements for a basement apartment vary from one city to the next. With that in mind, you must check the specific laws in your area before you start working on your remodelling project. The benefits of having a legal secondary suite are, without a doubt, worth it.
Here are the key reasons why you should have or rent a legal secondary suite:
- A legal secondary suite reduces fire risks as well as other health hazards.
- Prevents unsafe utility connections like plumbing, HVAC and electricity
- It helps you avoid faulty or incomplete basement remodelling and renovation jobs.
- It saves you money on potential utility overload problems and helps you avoid getting into legal trouble.
- A legal secondary suite is more attractive to tenants because they know it is safe, and there is no risk of being evacuated prematurely due to legal issues.
Although it is important to familiarize yourself with the city’s legal basement requirements, it is the responsibility of a contractor to make sure all the requirements are met. That is why when you are ready to build a legal secondary suite; you must always hire the best contractor in the business. Complying with municipal standards is the best decision for both you and your tenant, and your contractor will ensure nothing is left out. You will also end up with more refined renovation ideas when working with an experienced basement renovation contractor.