What Are The Requirements For A Legal Basement Apartment In Canada?

legal basement apartment requirements

Do you have a sizable basement in your home? Has it been finished – complete with furnishings, appliances, and washrooms? 

If your basement apartment has its own separate entrance, furnishings, and a washroom, you’re in luck!  You have an opportunity to become a landlord and earn some significant extra income. 

According to a recent Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) study, over 15% of houses in Toronto have basement units. They also found that most city policies make it easier to create basement apartments than second-floor or laneway homes. 

But what are the requirements for a legal basement apartment in Canada? In our article below, we’ll walk you step by step through the process of setting up a legal basement apartment in Canada.

What are the first steps to legally renting out your basement apartment?

Without adhering to these basic legal requirements, a basement apartment can present a risk, not just to its occupants, but to the community at large. In order to ensure your second unit is ready for a tenant, it must comply with the following:

        • Fire codes
        • Building codes
        • Electrical Safety Authority Regulations
        • Zoning and housing standards by-laws

Also, all utility connections and building renovations must be legal and safe. You also want to consider such factors as the excess garbage your home will be producing. 

There are also other factors you may not have considered. For example, is there enough space on your driveway for your tenant to park his/her car? If not, is parking on the street overnight legal in your neighbourhood?

The 13 Basic Requirements for a Legal Basement Apartment

 Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to go in-depth. Below, you’ll find all thirteen of the basic requirements you’ll need to cover to rent out a basement apartment legally in Canada. Remember, some of your province’s specific requirements may be different. So check with your municipality before conducting any work on your home.

1. To legalize a basement apartment in a detached or semi-detached house, the property must be at least five years old.

2. The front of the house cannot be significantly altered in order to change its appearance from being a one-unit building.

3. The basement apartment must be smaller than the main dwelling unit above it.

4. The minimum ceiling height must 6’5″. The ceiling must also be continuous. Suspended (T-bar type) ceilings and exposed joists are not acceptable. As well, furnace room ceilings must be either dry-walled or plastered.

5. All doors in the basement dwelling must be solid wood or metal. They must each have a minimum thickness of 1.75″. Interior doors must have a half-inch gap at the bottoms to provide air movement within the basement apartment. Exceptions can only be made if return air ducts are installed in the room. Exterior doors must be at least 32″ x 78″. The smallest dimension of windows is 18″ and their opening must be at least 600 square inches. As well, all windows must be within three feet of the ground. If there is a window well, it must extend three feet from the house wall to allow room to crawl out.

6. All bathrooms must have either windows or fans.

7. The kitchen must be equipped with a refrigerator and a well-functioning stove. The cupboards must have a capacity of no less than four cubic feet multiplied by the total number of persons occupying the unit.

8. All new basement apartments require building permits before construction can start. You may be required to have an additional parking space on the premises for your tenant, depending on your area. However, if the upper unit has a parking space, it is mandatory for the basement apartment to have a parking spot as well.

9. The owner of the property is responsible for ensuring the installment of all smoke alarms. They must be installed in each dwelling unit on every floor including those with bedrooms or sleeping areas. The alarms must be audible in bedrooms when the bedroom doors are closed. The property owner is also required to install carbon monoxide detectors. They must be provided and maintained in each dwelling unit if the building contains a fuel-fired appliance or an attached garage.

10. An electrical inspection must be conducted. Any and all deficiencies that are identified during the inspection must be addressed. Once the inspection is completed, the property owner must retain the letter of compliance. That way, it can be made available to a chief fire official if requested.

11. A continuous fire separation with a minimum Fire Resistance Rating of 30 is required between dwelling units and between dwelling units and other areas. A lower Fire Resistance Rating may be acceptable with the provision of interconnected smoke alarms or sprinkler protection.

12. A single means of escape is required in the event of a fire. Two means of escape are required if the one means of escape is through another dwelling unit.

13. A source of soundproofing is needed between the dwelling units. The minimum sound transmission class rating is STC 50.

Need Some Help Renting Out Your Basement Apartment? Singlekey can Help

Sound like a lot of work? While some of the codes and rules may take a little longer than others to implement, the benefits can be huge. In June of 2021, the average rent for a 1-bedroom basement apartment in Canada was $1216. That extra income can have a big impact on your monthly budget! 

If you’re looking for some help to begin legally renting your basement apartment, contact us. We have the experience and resources to help you get your apartment ready and find the right tenant.