Planning to Turn Your Basement into an Apartment or Income Suite? Read This!

Plenty of people are converting their basements into an apartment or income suite to be a source of extra income to help pay for mortgage and many other things. Other people simply have too much space and don’t want to waste an income opportunity. However, before you pool your resources and start construction or renovation, keep in mind that there are so many things to consider before transforming your basement into a basement apartment.

Questions You Must Ask Yourself

  • Do you really need to do this?
  • Do you know where to get funds to push through with this project?
  • Will converting your basement into an apartment be legal?
  • Will your plan for the basement apartment comply with the retrofit guidelines from the fire code?

If the answers to the questions above are all favourable, then you are on your way to having a basement apartment that can increase the overall value of your home and give you extra income. Note that doing anything illegal such as failing to comply with local fire codes and zoning laws mean that you will have to pay thousands of dollars in fine once reported to authorities such as your Town’s Building or Fire Department.

Things to Check

In the event that you will be buying a home with basement apartment that needs fixing, keep in mind that just because it is there does not necessarily mean that it is legal. You will have to check with your local Fire Department or with the city municipal standards department to find out if your baseline apartment is registered as a second unit. If this isn’t the case, then you will have to research how to secure a permit for it to be legal and comply with the fire code.

Also note that your area may or may not permit the building or conversion of a basement apartment. An example would be that basement apartments that were rented out prior to the 31st of October 1995 are considered legal although the local zoning code does not permit it.

Toronto Basement Apartment Considerations

In 2000, the City of Toronto has permitted having second suites on all semi-detached and detached homes in the city as long as they meet the following conditions:

  • The house and any additions should be at minimum 5 years old
  • The second suite must have its own bathroom and kitchen, a self-contained unit
  • The second suite cannot have a floor area that is larger than the rest of the house
  • The home with the second suite on most cases, must have a minimum of two parking spaces
  • Existing second suites should comply with the property standards, zoning standards and Fire Code in Ontario

All homes that do not meet the above must apply to the City for permission and note that other areas such as Vaughan, Mississauga, and Brampton, still do not permit second suites unless built or rented prior to November 1, 1995.

The four basic requirements of the Fire Code must also be upheld as well. They are as follows:

  • The main home and the second suite must have adequate fire separation
  • The basement apartment must have its own separate fire exit
  • Smoke alarms must be installed
  • The Electrical Safety Authority must conduct an electrical inspection to ensure that all occupants of the home and basement apartment will have access to sufficient electricity

More technicalities have to be observed but the above are the main requirements.

Should you still wish to build a basement apartment and need extra cash to fund such a renovation, or need some funds to ensure an existing suite is made legally compliant, a second mortgage or a home equity loan would surely help. Contact us to know more!