Basement Apartments 101: Everything You Need to Know About These Nifty Spaces

Toronto has become such a desired city to live in over the years. With lots of excursions, nightlife, exotic food and a transit system that runs throughout the whole city, it’s growth will continue on an upward trajectory. There is something about living in Toronto, however, that we cannot sugarcoat – it is expensive! The average cost of a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto as of 2019 sits at $2,260 a month. To put that into perspective, the cost for a 1 bedroom apartment in the city 10 years ago was just above $900 a month. With the growth of the city, comes the growth of cost. 


For those who want to live in the city but don’t have the funds to pay over $2,000 on rent/lease payments on their own, there are other options that will be cheaper. Some opt to live slightly outside of the city in places such as Mississauga, Scarborough, and Etobicoke. For those who want to live in the heart of the city, however, basement apartments are a great way to cut the monthly cost of rent/lease while still having the city at your doorstep.  


If you own a house, renting out the basement is a great way to generate income and with the popularity of the city’s market, finding a tenant should be a breeze! Before renting out your basement, however, it’s important to make sure it is in good condition and meets the legal requirements necessary to deem it a livable space. Landlord property management in Toronto can help you assess your basement, make it a livable space, and help you find a tenant!


With that being said, what do you have to do in order to turn your basement into a legal living space?


Windows are a must


Windows are a great way to add a bit of light to any room. In basement apartments, especially, where natural light isn’t prevalent, windows can help bring some of that sunlight in. They are also legally required in any basement apartment, but not because they can bring in the sun. In the event of a fire, leak, flood, or any other emergency situation, the tenant(s) in the basement must be able to get out of the apartment safely and have their own means of exiting should they be unable to go upstairs. The window(s) must be large enough for an adult to fit through should they need to evacuate. One window can suffice, however, it’s up to you as a landlord to decide how many you would like. For the tenant, the more the better!


Alarms have to be installed


Working fire and carbon monoxide alarms are necessary and legally required for basement apartments. Some are under the assumption that alarms installed in other areas of the house will suffice, however, that is not the case. Should carbon monoxide or fire arise from the basement, it’s important to have alarms that can detect it as soon as possible. Luckily, these are easy to install and relatively inexpensive. Prior to renting out your basement unit, it’s important to ensure all alarms are in working order – it’s not enough to just install them. Upon your tenant(s) moving in, be sure to give them instructions on how to change the battery and control the alarms.


Do a bathroom and kitchen checklist


Basement apartments can be rented out as bachelors or units with bedrooms. The number of rooms isn’t grounds for the ability to rent out as long as the size of the basement apartment doesn’t exceed the size of the main dwelling units and the front end of the house isn’t significantly altered to accommodate more space. A bathroom and kitchen, however, are required rooms. 


The bathroom must have either a window or a fan. This is to allow proper ventilation throughout the room. As bathrooms tend to get dense, especially after one takes a shower, it’s important to ensure air can be filtered throughout. This not only protects the tenants(s), but the structural integrity of the dwelling as well. 


The kitchen area is a bit foggy when it comes to basement apartments and can vary. While some basement apartments come complete with a full kitchen, others may lack an oven or full-size fridge. But what exactly is legally necessary? As long as your basement apartment has a refrigerator, a working stove (oven is not required), and cupboards having no less than 4 cubic ft x total number of occupants, the kitchen is 100% legal. This doesn’t mean, however, that doing just the bare minimum will get you tenants. Having a full kitchen will increase the likelihood of finding tenants and can justify a slightly higher cost. 




While parking isn’t necessary to include, it’s important to understand the parking laws in the area where your basement rental resides. If you provide driveway parking, it cannot exceed the allotted amount allowed in a driveway. Vehicles may NOT be parked on lawns or walkways, even if they are on your property. If you offer street parking, it must abide by city laws. Some areas of the city don’t allow for street parking between certain hours especially in the winter months when snow plows are heavily present. Whatever means of parking you offer, ensure you brief your tenant(s) on where they can park, what areas are restricted, how many vehicles they can park, times when parking is unavailable, and parking for guests should they require it. 


Like any apartment, it’s important to make a basement a livable space beyond just what is legally required. Ensuring the space is clean from excess garbage, excess utility connections, gives the tenant(s) a sense of privacy, and gives them a comfortable place to reside will allow them to feel more at home and is grounds for happy, long-term tenants.

Looking to turn the basement of your rental property into a livable space? Contact us today and we will help you throughout the whole process!

About author:

Comments are closed here.