When apartment hunting, you will come across a wide variety of apartment types, one of them being a basement apartment. As you might know, a basement is a part of the building that may be fully or partly below the ground level. With the demand for living space on the rise, these spaces are increasingly being adopted as apartments, and while there are many upsides of living in a basement apartment, it is important to keep in mind the downsides as well.
What is a basement apartment? A basement apartment is a rental unit that is situated below the street level beneath another building. The basement apartment, at least half of its height should be above the street level. The ceilings must be at least 7 feet high, and there should be a window in every room. The walls of the unit should also be water and damp proof.
Renting a basement apartment is cheaper than renting an above ground apartment, and they also offer more privacy since they usually come with their own entrance. However, there are some cons to keep in mind as well such as security issues, less natural light, and susceptibility to flooding.
Basement apartments are usually found underneath an apartment building, but it is not uncommon to find one below a house or a business as well. In fact, homeowners are increasingly warming up to the idea of renting out basement apartments as a way to earn an income on the side. Basement apartments should not be confused with garden apartments, which are usually found on the ground floor of an apartment building and have access to a garden.
In order for a basement apartment to be legally rented out, it has to fully comply with strict rules and regulations. Otherwise, they may pose potentially serious risks to occupants. Here are some of the basic requirements that need to be met:
Basic requirements for basement apartment
1. The ceiling should be a minimum height of 7 inches. It should also be continuous, and there shouldn’t be any exposed joists.
2. The interior doors must be at least 1.75 inches thick with a half an inch gap at the bottom in order to improve air movements. An alternative to this is installing return air ducts in the room. The exterior door must be a minimum of 32 inches by 78 inches.
3. In order for a room in the basement apartment to be categorized as a bedroom, it should be at least 70 to 80 square feet in size.
4. A room in a basement apartment should be a minimum of 7 feet in any horizontal direction in order for it to be categorized as a bedroom.
5. There have to be two means of egress out of the bedroom. This is usually a window and a door.
6. The window openings in the bedroom(s) should be a minimum size of 5.7 square feet.
7. The walls of a basement apartment have to be water- and damp- proofed.
8. There should be smoke alarms as well as carbon monoxide detectors installed in the unit, and they should be well-maintained.
9. For a basement apartment to be categorized as having one or more bedrooms, there should be a heating and cooling mechanism in the sleeping areas. A heater qualifies as a heating element, while a window or an air conditioner serves as the cooling mechanism.
10. Basement apartments found underneath two-family homes can only be rented if the building obtains a certificate of occupancy that categorizes it as a multiple dwelling.
11. A basement rental unit should have the necessary electrical and plumbing systems in good condition.
Pros of basement apartments
- They are cheaper than above ground units – Basement apartments tend to be cheaper than their counterparts above the street level. This is because they are considered to be less desirable, which automatically translates to cheaper rent even in a prime neighborhood. In some cases, if you have upstairs neighbors, the landlord might require that you share the gas/electricity bill with them, which could potentially save you money. A basement apartment is a viable option if you want to live in a prime location while paying a reduced amount of rent.
- They offer more privacy to tenants – Basement rental units often come with their own private entrance that is distinct from the main entrance that other occupants of the building use. The entrance is often found on the side of the building, which means you won’t have to worry about constantly bumping into your landlord or neighbors. Furthermore, the windows of these apartments are usually smaller in size, which adds to the privacy element.
- They are often spacious – Since basement apartments are often found under single-family homes, there is a high chance that you will be getting more space than what you will find in a multi-family unit.
- You get to save on cooling costs – Basement apartments generally experience cooler internal temperatures than their above-ground counterparts. This is because hot air tends to rise, leaving the lower levels of a building cooler. As a result, these rental units do not rely on air conditioning as heavily as apartments on higher floors during the summer. Consequently, you get to save on your electric bill during the warmer months of the year.
- You won’t have to deal with flights of stairs – Since basement apartments are found on street level, you will likely have to deal going down only one flight of stairs. This means that moving day is going to be easier for you, and you will also have an easier time carrying items from the car to your apartment.
- Easy to exit in case of an emergency – Considering the likelihood that you have a fewer set of stairs to climb when you live in a basement apartment, you could have an easier time exiting the apartment in case of a fire or any other emergency than someone who lives on the top floor of the building.
- Ideal if you are a night owl – Basement apartments are great if you sleep during the day and work at night. This is because they tend to be darker than above ground apartments, allowing you to sleep easily during the day. Additionally, since you have a private entrance, you don’t have to worry about waking up your neighbors when you come home late.
- Direct access to outdoor amenities – Living in a basement apartment gives you direct access to outdoor spaces without having to walk down a flight of stairs. Depending on the amenities provided, this is convenient if you like to spend time barbequing outside, or if you have a furry friend, letting your dog run around in the yard.
Cons of basement apartments
- They tend to lack natural light – While the smaller than average windows of a basement rental unit allow for more privacy, it also means that you will receive less natural light in the apartment. The fact that basements apartments are usually slightly below the street level also contributes to the reduced natural light. This is because people’s cars, trees, and shade could easily block the sun
- They are prone to insecurity – There is a higher chance of break-ins when you live in a basement apartment since it can be easily accessed from the street. You have to take extra security measures when you live in a basement apartment like ensuring your windows and entrance are secured.
- Basement apartments can be easily flooded – Basement apartments are susceptible to flooding since it is the first place water goes. This is especially true if you live in an area that is prone to frequent downpours, or if the lawn inclines towards your unit. Before you move in, ensure that you look for signs of dampness or flooding.
- They can be too cold during the winter – While basement apartments are conveniently cool during hot summer months, they can be especially cold during the winter due to loss of heat. This means that you will have to rely on your heating system more heavily during this period.
- They tend to be noisier – Basement rental units often lack soundproofing, which means noise from the street and from your neighbors can easily be heard, inevitably disturbing the peace and quiet in your apartment.
- The ceilings are often lower – Ceilings of basement apartments tend to be lower than those of above street level apartments. This makes them feel cramped, so if you are claustrophobic, you are better off avoiding basement apartments.
- Tend to retain more moisture – Since basement apartments are mostly below the ground, they are highly likely to retain moisture. This automatically results in mold and dampness, which may result in unsightly patches on the wall and generally affect the aesthetics of your apartment. To prevent the buildup of moisture, invest in a dehumidifier.
- Easily attacked by pests – As previously mentioned, basement apartments tend to be dark and cool, consequently attracting rodents and bugs. To prevent these pests from accessing your apartment, ensure that you seal up cracks and entrances and keep your apartment dry.
Basement apartments can make for great living spaces especially if you want to save some money on rent. Furthermore, they are often spacious and offer more privacy than above street level units. Nevertheless, there are some downsides to keep in mind as well, so ensure take all the factors into considerations before you move in. It is also important to ensure that the basement apartment adheres to all the rules and regulations put in place for your own safety.