4 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying a Home with a Basement Apartment
In the current Toronto real estate climate, with the prices of urban homes starting at close to or over $1 million, many homebuyers may decide to buy a home with a basement apartment to offer some flexibility for their mortgage payments or retrofit the basement into an income apartment after they move in. Whether a basement apartment is legal or not, the retrofit done by the previous home owners can often impact your mortgage loan application if you need the tenant to be in a lease to qualify for your loan.
As a Toronto home buyer, how do you know if the basement apartment of an existing home is legal or illegally retrofitted? If you plan on having rental income to qualify for a home purchase, this article may be a good starting point before you decide to jump into a purchase.
You may sometimes come across on the MLS listings which says "Seller or Agent do not warrant retrofit status of basement", and if there is no mention that the unit is legal, it's probably not . Considering there are tens of thousands of basement apartments currently in the City of Toronto, the legality of basement apartments or converted rental units (i.e. granny flats, in-law suites, accessory apartments, non-retrofit units) are often in question.
Under Toronto zoning by-law and the Ontario Fire Code, basement apartments are permitted in single family homes as long as it meets certain requirements. In order to assist home owners, the City have a kit which will explain "how to create a legal second suite" through Access Toronto at 416-338-0338 or can be obtained at the desk. There is also an alternative site which provide a more detailed explanation of the physical requirements to meet building codes at Carson Dunlop Home Inspection and Consulting Engineers.
For anyone thinking of buying, selling or retrofitting a home with a basement apartment, These are the typical 4 questions you should ask:
1. Does the zoning by-law in your area permit a basement apartment unit?
2. Does the retrofit meet fire code and minimum building code requirements (i.e. minimum ceiling height, fire rated walls, entrance sizes, egress, provision of parking spot etc.) ?
3. Does it meet the basic electrical safety requirement?
4. Has the unit been registered with the City and has a certificate of compliance?
It is prudent to do the necessary research before your home purchase if you plan on retrofitting the basement suite to fetch extra rental income, and what it means to be a landlord in Ontario. A helpful website to reference secondsuites.info to understand the necessary protocol to build legal basement rental accomodation.