How to Make a Legal Basement Apartment

Articles & Interest

Bill Meek of W. C. Meek Design & Construction 

In the GTA everyone is trying to make any extra income they can to help pay for the rising housing costs. The addition of a legal basement apartment is a great way of doing that. But what many homeowners don’t know is that there are regulations that must be met so that a basement apartment is legal. The reason that there are regulations is for the safety of the tenant and of the homeowner. On September 25, the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing released a guide to help outline the process of adding a second unit in your home.

First, you need to confirm if your local municipal bylaws allow basement apartments in your area. You may be surprised to find out that your neighbourhood may not allow basement apartments. To find out contact your local bylaw office. 

If you are allowed to have a basement apartment you need to ensure that the space meets the fire code, building code, and electrical safety. While your basement is only a small part of your house, ensuring the safety of everyone is the most important part of being a landlord. 

The fire code is meant to stop the spreading of fire and smoke, this is done by construction techniques and special materials. Also included in the fire code are the requirements for smoke detectors and minimum requirements for emergency exits. 

The building code states that the ceiling height must be at least 1.95m (6 feet 5 inches) and the width of the entrance doors are to be at least 0.81m (32 inches). Other aspects of the building code include minimum window sizes, room sizes, sound proofing, emergency exits, and ventilation/exhaust requirements. To properly construct a unit there may be significant costs.

Lastly, the electrical wiring, outlets, and switches must be inspected and approved by the Electrical Safety Authority. They will ensure that there isn’t an electrical circuit that is overloaded and the proper GFI outlets are installed. Electrical issues are among the top reasons for a fire in a home.

Once you have all of the above completed you will need to register your apartment with your municipality. This last step is what will make your basement apartment fully legal and let you start to rent it out. 

A legal basement apartment will add value to your home and allow you to earn some extra income. Also consider bonus features to help make your unit more valuable like in-suite laundry, access to the backyard, more natural lighting, etc. But most important, remember to do it right and work with professional contractors along the way. Taking short-cuts will cost you more money and time in the long run. 

If this column has generated any thoughts or questions regarding a past or future renovation please send your questions to

Bill Meek is the owner of W. C. Meek Design & Construction. Learn more at