I got a question from a regular reader the other day, and if you read my previous
post rant about why I hate basement apartments this exact issue was reason number 1. Many basement apartments are not legal.
I have been following your blog for a few years now, and even recommended you to many other landlords I know, it’s a great resource, so thanks!
I have a question for you on basement apartments in Oshawa. When this situation came up, I thought you would be a good person to ask, as I believe you live or work in the Oshawa area, I think?
I have been renting out a basement apartment for about 10 years now in a previous house and now 2 years in my current house, without issue. These are not legal duplexes, just a basement apartment with seperate entrance, it’s own kitchen, bath etc. I just recently got a call from a city of Oshawa bylaw officer wanting to speak to me as there is a complaint about a basement apartment in my house. I am guesing one of the neighbours complained. I was surpised about this since I have rented this for 2 years now, and the previous owner did the same for about 3-5 years. I have not spoken to the bylaw officer yet, as I am still researching the issue, and am unsure on my stance and what I should say.
I am wondering if you have any advice on what I should do in this situation? Will they fine me? Is there anyway I can continue to rent or are they going to force my tenants out? Can I claim to be renting to friends and that it is not really a separate apartment? Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks very much,
Seriously Worried Landlord
I do work in the Oshawa area but I have never had the pleasure of making a basement apartment legal yet in the Oshawa area. I do actually have one to make legal in Oshawa as we speak. In that case the height of the ceiling is too low in one area. We have to break out the floor in one section of the floor.
There is no easy answer…
Now That They Know You Exist…
Whenever you are dealing with government officials such as fire inspectors and bylaw enforcement officers you have found your new best friend. They have a lot of power to make your life miserable or not. So you want to be extra nice to them, find out what they want and do it as soon as possible so they will go away.
Believe it or not the officer themselves may well be your best source of information about what is required to get your basement legal if it’s even financially possible to do so. Just thank your lucky stars that basement apartments are legal in Oshawa. In Brampton and Mississauga unless your basement apartment is grandfathered in by the now defunct Ontario law your basement apartment is illegal.
The most expensive issue you can face is the height requirements for basement apartments. In that case you’ll have to crack up the existing floor and dig down, possibly underpin the foundation and then pour a new floor. It’s big money.
Fire Code Issues
You’ll need fire rated doors, 5/8″ drywall on the ceiling everywhere, and so much more…again it depends on the layout of your apartment and what the fire inspector wants.
There must be a window in every bedroom and windows large enough to get out of the apartment in case of fire. I’m not sure exactly how big exactly.
Unstated City Rules
Some cities like the city of Toronto are not going to give you a hard time as long as you’re fairly legal. They are not out to get you. In other cities that really don’t like basement apartments, they are really hard to get along with. The rules are much more strictly enforced. Oshawa is probably about 75% hard to get along with. I say this because they have made it difficult for students around the school and licensing all those apartments. I also read this article about the proposed changes to the zoning requirements for Oshawa basement apartments Plus the one I’m managing has been closed down.
Your problem now is that the powers that be know that you exist. From now on there’s only one direction and that’s to
bend over comply with all their requirements. The fines for offenders can be up to $50,000. Usually they will not fine you, they’ll just make you remove the kitchen and disconnect the stove.
Other times they’ll just come by and inspect and nothing happens. That’s what happened when my idiot tenant called the city on me. I also told the genius that the city had declared the apartment illegal because of her report and she would have to move out. She moved. You have to love a good bluff.
The major problem you are dealing with is that the rules are different in every city and the building and fire codes are very complicated and difficult to interpret. You’ll want to start your search for information here on the Oshawa web site. Then give the bylaw officer a call. I don’t really think that making up stories will work on them. I’d rather think they’d find it irritating, they just have a job to do.
It might be fine for all we know and you’re worried for nothing. Regardless you’ll want to tackle this issue as soon as possible.
Any other landlords been through this complex, confusing and convoluted issue and have advice for this landlord?