Are basement apartments ‘permitted’?
The Province of Ontario agreed to permit two self-contained dwelling units in most detached, semi detached and row houses.
Are basement apartments ‘legal’?
Not necessarily. While the province permits basement apartments, in order to legalize a second unit, owners must satisfy minimum fire safety standards under the provincial fire code. In other words, existing apartments are permitted today but potentially not legal.
What does this regulation deal with?
There are four issues which these regulations deals with:
- fire separation between dwelling units;
- means of escape;
- fire alarms and detection;
- electrical fire safety.
What happens if the dwelling units do not comply?
Non-compliance could mean a fine up to $25,000.00, or more than one year in prison, or both. If a tenant died or was injured in a fire in a basement apartment that violated the fire code, a civil action could be advanced.
How can I find out if the units comply?
Two different inspections must be carried out to clear a property; one from Ontario Hydro and one from the local fire department. A preliminary inspection will indicate the work needed to upgrade the property followed by the final inspection. If remedial work is significant, a building permit may be need too. Clearance certificates will be issued by Ontario Hydro and the local fire department.
How can I protect myself?
Before signing an offer to purchase a home with two dwelling units , ask if it has been inspected and approved. Request the clearance certificates by delivered on closing. A conditional clause can be added to the Agreement of Purchase and Sale with respect to this issue. If the property hasn’t been inspected and approved, learn the cost to upgrade the unit and factor that into the price. You can expect that mortgage lenders will require these clearance certificates when financing a home with a basement apartment. Ask the right questions at the right time and consult a lawyer prior to signing any offer to purchase a home with a basement apartment.