Basement Apartments: A Suite Deal?
Thinking about adding ‘landlord’ to your resume?
Converting unused basement space into a basement apartment or rental suite can not only increase the value of a home overall, but it can also put a bit of extra money in homeowners’ pockets. Having a rental suite can be an excellent way to pay off a mortgage. But how much money and time is necessary to put into renovations beforehand? Is it worth it?
Consider This: The Planning Process
Before you get started, a few things to consider:
- Do the by-laws in your area allow for a rental space?
- Is there a separate entrance? The cost to add one can be substantial
- Are you prepared to be a landlord? Renting out space in your home is more than just money in your pocket. Make sure you’re prepared to do the work and to share some of your living space.
What is a Basement Apartment?
A secondary suite, or rental unit, is a private, self-contained unit within an existing dwelling. The majority are created through internal renovations.
Are basement apartments legal?
Operating a legal basement apartment involves five main issues:
- fire code,
- building code,
- electrical safety requirements and,
Here’s what’s involved:
Basement Apartment Bylaws
City of Ottawa By-law No. 2005-367 states that secondary dwelling units are permitted in all areas of the City, with the exception of the former Village of Rockliffe Park. The By-law states:
- The full basement area may be used as a rental space
- A maximum of one unit is permitted in a detached building, one in each half of a semi-detached building, and only one for a duplex building
Basement Apartment Fire Code
Adding a rental suite in your basement would place you under the two unit residential occupancy in the Ottawa Fire Retrofit code, which looks at five areas of safety:
- Containment: contains fires within units and from other areas
- Means of escape: generally two exits are required per floor
- Alarms: there must be a minimum of one smoke alarm per floor
- Suppression: one fire extinguisher is required per floor
- Electrical safety: two unit buildings are subject to inspection by the Electrical Safety Authority
Basement Apartment Building Code
Once you’ve decided on building a basement apartment or suite, you will have to apply for a building permit. The new unit must be on the same lot as the principal dwelling unit and must not change the streetscape character along the road where it is located.
Basement Apartment – Electrical Safety
Two unit buildings are subject to inspection by the Electrical Safety Authority.
Registering your basement apartment
Once you’ve complied with all of the above conditions, you’ll need to register the unit as a legal dwelling with the City. Make sure to also inform your home insurance company.
Think you’re ready for a basement apartment?
Before making the final move to including a basement apartment in your home, make sure to consider your privacy, do thorough research into proper rent and tax repercussions, and – once complete – always sign a proper written lease. While basement apartments can certainly increase the value of your property, they can also result in an increase to your property tax! Be sure to do your homework and follow the steps outlined here.
Need an appraisal before or after adding a basement apartment? Why not ask Carty Gwilym for a home appraisal quote today?