Sunday, March 25, 2007

Basement Apartment requirements and considerations

Basic requirement for legal basement apartment in Toronto

There is no single government authority, which provides written certification that any given basement apartment is legal. Smart real estate agents never list a house as having a legal basement apartment since they do not want to guarantee that the basement apartment complies fully with all the applicable fire codes, building codes, Electrical Safety Authority regulations and zoning and housing standards by-laws.

The Ontario Building Code which prescribes minimum requirements for the construction of buildings is a code that applies only when the house was built. The building code changes over the time but for the most part, it does not apply retroactively.

The fire code which prescribes construction and safety issues as they relate to how the building is required to perform should it catch fire, can apply retroactively.

Here are few basic requirements for a legal basement apartment in Toronto :

(1) The detached or semi detached house must be at least 5 years old.

(2) The front of the house cannot be significantly altered to change its appearance from that of a one unit building.

(3) Basement unit must be smaller than the other units.

(4) Minimum ceiling height is 6'5". Ceiling must be continuous. Suspended (T-bar type) ceilings and exposed joists are not acceptable. Furnace room ceiling must be dry walled or plastered too.

(5) Doors must be solid wood or metal and minimum thickness is 1.75". Exterior door must be at least 32"x78". The smallest dimension of the window is 18" and the opening must be at least 600sq in. Windows must be within 3' of ground, and if there is window well it must extend 3' from the house wall to allow room to crawl out.

(6) Bathrooms have to have either a window or fan

(7) In most areas an additional parking space is required for new apartments.

(8) New apartments require building permits before construction begins.

(9) The property owner is responsible to make sure that smoke alarms are installed and maintained.
Carbon Monoxide alarms are required under many Municipal By-laws. They are to be provided in each dwelling unit in a building containing a fuel fired appliance or an attached garage. Even if they are not required by legislation they make good sense with to-day's design methods providing for air-tight construction of dwelling units.
Smoke alarms must be installed in each dwelling unit on every floor including those containing a bedroom or sleeping area. The alarm must be audible in bedrooms when the bedroom doors are closed. The smoke alarm may be battery operated or connected to an electrical circuit with no disconnect switch between the over current device and the smoke alarm. Interconnected smoke alarms may be required if:
· 15 min. Fire Resistance Rating is used between dwelling units
· one dwelling unit must exit through another dwelling unit
If required, interconnected smoke alarms must be installed in every storey above and below grade in each dwelling unit, and in every shared means of escape where applicable. These alarms must be audible in bedrooms when the intervening doors are closed.

(10) An electrical inspection by Electrical Safety Authority and all the deficiencies identified during the inspection must be addressed. Owners should retain the letter of compliance received from the Electrical Safety Authority for future reference purposes. This letter must be made available to the Chief Fire Official upon request.
(11) A continuous separation with a 30 min. Fire Resistance Rating is required between dwelling units and between dwelling units and other areas. This may be provided by existing membrane of lath and plaster or gypsum board.
Openings in Fire Separation shall be protected with rated doors installed in hollow metal or solid wood frames and equipped with self closing devices
Lesser degrees of Fire Resistance Rating may be acceptable with the provision of interconnected Smoke Alarms or Sprinkler Protection. The containment features are intended to provide protection for the occupants living in a dwelling unit from a fire occurring in another portion of the building, outside of their control.

(12) A single means of egress - provision for the escape of persons from each dwelling unit in the event of fire - may be acceptable if the following conditions are met:
· It is properly separated with a 30 min. Fire Resistance Rating
· The flame spread rating of means of escape does not exceed 150 (wood paneling is unacceptable)
· The means of escape does not involve entering another dwelling unit or other occupancy and leads directly to the outside at ground level.
Two means of escape are required if one means of escape is through another dwelling unit. An existing means of egress may be acceptable if the building is sprinklered.
By Nalliah Thayabharan
Registered Home Inspector. Member of OAHI & CAHPI-Ontario
ASHI certified Inspector.
Expert Building Inspections Ltd
905 940 0811

You may wish to read more about basement apartments in Mississauga

For more information please contact A. Mark Argentino

A. Mark Argentino, Broker, P.Eng.,
Specializing in Residential & Investment Real Estate
RE/MAX Realty Specialists Inc., Brokerage
2691 Credit Valley Road, Suite 101, Mississauga, Ontario L5M 7A1

BUS. 905-828-3434
FAX. 905-828-2829

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