Houses are expensive and getting more so every day. What better way to afford the house of your dreams than by having a paying tenant in the basement. But be aware that there are laws covering such basement apartments and it is your responsibility to ensure they are met.

When you buy a house with a finished basement apartment, make sure that a permit was taken out when it was originally built or you may face problems down the line. Ask the current owners outright or check with your city’s building department.  Your real estate agent should be checking these things as well.

Let me tell you a true story:

A client of mine bought a house with a completed basement apartment: kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms and a large living room. He was delighted because it meant his two sons could have their own space.  He wasn’t planning on renting it out.

Nine years later he was on the brink of selling his house to excited buyers looking for an income from a basement apartment.  As they were signing the papers, the buyers’ real estate agent asked if the basement apartment had been permitted.  As the owner did not know (he was not the original owner after all) the agent went to the town to find out.  Unfortunately, it had not been permitted.  The city building department put a notice on the door that the basement had to be permitted before the house could be sold.

$26,000 and a permit later, once the basement had been brought up to safety and construction levels acceptable to the city, the owner was at last able to sell his house.

Be prepared.

When you buy a home, be prepared to ask the right questions. Find out if the basement had been permitted when it was built – whether it is a simple finished basement or a basement apartment.  If it has not, either look for another house or be prepared to make the corrections and permit it yourself.  Permitting an already-built basement is a little more complicated than doing it prior to construction but it is possible and the sensible thing to do for the safety of your family.


Getting a permit is quite a complex process. Measurements, drawings, knowledge of code and voila! The process has begun!  If you don’t feel confident enough or don’t have the time to do this yourself, contact me at Single Source Solutions Inc. and I’ll help you along.