Photo by Curtis Adams

Why is there a need to go for legal basements? This is a common question for contractors and homeowners alike. While there’s not much emphasis on the difference between legal and non-legal basements, what sets the former apart?

In mainstream media, basements are commonly perceived as rundown and abandoned spaces where unnecessary things are typically set aside and stored. However, modern reality differs. Basements now go beyond storage rooms.

Basements have several purposes, from maintenance rooms to garages and even extra space for hangouts. Hence, it’s no wonder why most households invest in it or specifically purchase houses with basement spaces. However, turning them into something more than storage spaces require more than simple construction. The room must first meet some legal requirements for basements to become spaces fit for accommodations and residential areas.

Legalizing Basement Spaces

Legal basements are like any other basements, only that they meet specified building code requirements set by the area it’s located. Different cities traditionally mandate laws on what identifies as a legal basement to protect its tenants. This is why it’s crucial that if homeowners plan on getting contractors to work on their spaces, they should choose companies that are experts in different areas.

Aside from the essential requirement that the space is below street level or underneath the building’s structure, various measures still exist to follow. For instance, the Ontario Building Code requirement should be followed in Ontario. If the building is older than five years, these are the measures:

  • The space must be at least 145 square feet.
  • Its ceiling height must be at least 1.95 meters.
  • The windows must be 5% of the living room area or 2.5% of the bedroom area.
  • The basement must have access to hot or cold water. Likewise, it must have a sink or laundry.
  • It must also provide heating, cooling, and electrical access approved by a safety authority.
  • There must be at least 30 minutes of fire separation between the main unit.
  • There must also be another means of escape besides the main entry.

If the room meets all of these requirements, it’s considered a legal basement space.

But if an available basement space doesn’t meet these requisites, does it mean it’s considered illegal and shouldn’t be used? The answer is no. An “illegal” basement space can still be used for living spaces, but since regulations weren’t followed, there might be possible risks and dangers present in the basement space.

Why Go Legal?

Legal basement spaces are optional, especially for households not publicly renting their units. However, there are still numerous benefits legal basement spaces offer.

It’s Safer

Basements are constructed below ground level and with an entire house on top of it. If a section of the house or the ground collapses, severe damage can occur to basements that didn’t follow requirements and haven’t been legalized. Laws are created for reasons, one of which is for people’s protection. These requirements have been accurately measured to suit these demands, and if opposed or resisted, could result in significant consequences.

No Legal Issues

City officials mandate these requirements. Hence, if these are unfollowed, homeowners may face problems with authority. Additionally, its observation is crucial for future renovations. While the basement’s illegality can be concealed, if homeowners decide to improve their homes, the entire property, including the basement, gets reviewed.

Authorities would check on documentation and legal basement drawings before allowing renovations to move forward. In the worst-case scenario, homeowners may even face legal action if renovations proceed without authorities’ approval.

Easily Find Tenants

The primary reason it’s suggested to legalize basements is for tenants’ protection. Nobody wants to risk themselves in spaces that aren’t proven safe and secure, regardless of the aesthetic appeal. Aside from inviting more interested tenants, legal basements will also lead to larger rental payments. Knowing that the basement complies with requirements and documentation, tenants feel safer to cash out and invest in the space.

Of course, this benefit only applies to homeowners renting their spaces out. While this doesn’t automatically resonate with everyone, who knows? An opportunity for additional income is always an excellent investment.

Increase Property Value

Any additional functional space in the house can increase its value. However, a home with a legal basement can be of more value than one with an illegal space. Compliance with all requirements and basement renovations may be costly but look at the benefits to reap in the future. Legalizing basement spaces will help avoid any consequences in the structure and with authorities.

Thinking of Going Legal?

Various companies offer services that help homeowners achieve their legal basement spaces. Homeowners can get their basement drawings to match the requirements from Phinesse Construction Group. They’re a company specializing in legal basement renovations in Ontario and related areas, which means they are familiar with the specifications to meet in these areas. Their team has years of experience ensuring clients’ safety and, most importantly, satisfaction with their work.

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