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The Risks of Illegal Basement Apartments Ontario

Housing shortages and high inflation rates are making it more difficult for renters to find affordable accommodations. This combination is also driving the number of illegal basement apartments in Ontario up.

While basement suites are a beneficial and more affordable option for renters as well as an easy way to make extra money for homeowners, the lower level suite must meet bylaw codes and regulations to be considered a legal rental. If the basement unit doesn’t meet municipal codes and regulations, it’s not considered a legal living unit. Illegal suites can put tenants health and safety at risk and cause financial and legal problems for the homeowner or landlord.

What is an Illegal Basement Apartment?

An illegal basement apartment in Ontario is a basement suite that doesn’t meet the required zoning bylaws, fire, electrical, and building codes, have the proper municipality permits or meet the legal standards of a rental unit that is set by the municipality.

In order to rent a unit out, homeowners get a permit to construct or update a living suite and have inspections on their property done before and after construction to ensure the space complies with all building codes and municipal zoning requirements. Homers planning to build a basement apartment should contact the Toronto Building department or department in your municipality to find out about the zoning requirements.

What is Needed for a Basement Apartment to be Legal?

To pass Ontario Building Codes, a basement suite must have a proper entranceway and sufficient natural and artificial lighting so it can be illuminated at all times. The area must be clear of all hazardous materials, obstructions, and conditions. The area must have a good ventilation system that meets regulation standards. All appliances, fixtures and other features must be in good working order.

The primary dwelling must be a detached or semi-detached home that is at least five years old or older. The basement apartment must also be smaller than the primary residence and self-contained with its own kitchen and bathroom. The basement suite ceilings must be 1.95 metres or 6 feet high.

In accordance with Ontario Fire Code, the basement apartment must have an exit, fire alarms or detectors and sprinklers, extinguishers or other fire suppression systems. Depending on the type of heating or fuel in the home, carbon monoxide detectors may also be required.

To meet all Ontario Electrical Code regulations the basement suite electrical system must be properly installed using industry standard electrical wiring, GFCI outlets, grounded plugs and regulation fixtures.

Homeowners must have all the proper permits in place before upgrading their basement. The area must pass inspection before and after the units are renovated before the place can be rented out.

So what happens if you rent an illegal apartment in Ontario? Landlords who rent their basements out with the proper inspections to ensure the living unit meets regulatory codes can face hefty fines. They may not be covered by their insurance if something happens to their home.

Landlords can also face legal action from their tenants if the basement suite rented isn’t legal.

What is the Fine for Renting an Illegal Basement?

Homeowners renting out an illegal basement apartment can face fines between $25,000 to $50,000. They can also be ordered to evict their tenants and upgrade their unit so it meets code regulations or remove the units and features all together.

Large corporate property developers with illegal basement suites for rent can face even heftier fines of $500,000 and $1,500,000 for subsequent offences.

Under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, landlords who fail to meet Fire Code standards could face fines between $50,0000 to $100,000 for subsequent offenses.

What to Look for In a Basement Apartment

If you are looking for a basement apartment, have a checklist ready to ensure the unit meets all industry regulations. Ask to see the permits and make sure you are covered by insurance.



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