If you’re thinking of renting a basement apartment but have questions before committing to the lease, we’ve got you covered. Discover some of the variations of basement apartments, the advantages and disadvantages of this type of unit and some tips for living in the basement.
What it means to live in a basement
A basement apartment is rental accommodation that is partially or underground, usually at the lowest level of a house or apartment building.
Here are a few different types or names of basement apartments that you may see during your search:
- Apartment in the basement with natural light: This type of basement apartment has at least one full-size window or sliding door, which lets in more sunlight and offers the possibility of having fresh air inside the space. . Daylight basements, also known as “English basements”, are only partially underground.
- Garden apartment: This is another form of half-above, half-basement apartment. There is usually an entrance on the ground floor which comes out of the “garden” or the small courtyard at the rear of the building. The apartment itself is located between the first floor and the basement and is usually slightly higher than an apartment below street level. However, it’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all definition for a garden level apartment, and you might see a few different versions that are not the same.
- Cellar apartment: This type of apartment is at least 50% below street level.
- Apartment in the basement: This type of apartment is at least 50% above street level.
Advantages and disadvantages of living in the basement
People who need darkness to sleep or those who like privacy, basement living might be a good option for you. Here are some of the advantages of basement apartments:
- They are often less expensive than most other types of apartments
- It may be easier to approve some renovations that might otherwise be rejected if you lived in an above ground unit.
- They are darker during sleep hours, which can be ideal for those who need dark to rest
- They may have more space than other units, such as those in a multi-family home
- They may offer more privacy than units with larger windows
Keep in mind, however, that there could be a few potential downsides to living in a basement that you should be aware of:
- Darker space can lead to increased anxiety, especially in people prone to claustrophobia
- They are more likely to be flooded than in above ground units
- They may be more prone to pests like insects, spiders, mice or rats
- They can be noisier than other units, especially if they are near the building entrance, a shared laundry room, or utilities like the water heater and other systems.
- You may experience more severe temperature changes during hot and cool seasons
Before moving in: Basement apartments and safety standards
When renting out any type of property, there are some factors you should consider before signing a lease, such as living conditions, accessibility, and safety. For basement apartments in particular, you will need to take into account and confirm certain elements when viewing the space:
- Is it damp or does it smell musty?
With less sun exposure than other units and with a higher risk of humidity, basements can experience excess humidity and develop mold, which can lead to problems like asthma and allergies. .
Be sure to check the apartment well for signs of mold or moisture, and air ventilation.
- Are you prone to vitamin D deficiency or do you have mental health issues made worse by long periods of darkness?
Since basements often don’t have access to sunlight, tenants can suffer from vitamin D deficiencies if they spend too much time indoors and not enough outdoors. Not getting enough sun can also impact or worsen mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
Consider how well you deal with lack of sun exposure.
- When was the apartment last tested for radon?
Radon is a gas that is produced when radioactive material in rocks and soil breaks down. Because basement apartments are underground and surrounded by rocks and dirt, there is a higher risk of radon exposure in lower level units. Long-term exposure to radon can lead to harmful and life-threatening respiratory conditions, including lung cancer and symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain, frequent bronchitis, and continuous coughing. Anyone can test for radon, but you can also have your landlord or property manager test the unit as well.
- Where are the emergency exits? Is the unit accessible?
This is important – if the unit does not have adequate emergency exits or accessibility, during a fire or other emergency requiring evacuation, tenants may be at a higher risk of injury or of death due to the inability to leave on time. Make sure your basement apartment is accessible and meets local fire codes and city regulations.
How to tell if your basement apartment is up to code
Here are some tips for checking a basement property and making sure it meets safety standards:
- Review your city’s laws and regulations on requirements such as windows, electrical, fire safety, water systems, ceiling heights, and other factors that can impact a sub unit. -ground
- Find out about your city’s regulations regarding basement units, which may be available if your city has more than one of these apartments.
- Learn about inspections of sump pumps, plumbing, electrical units and other systems near the basement apartment
- Check the size of the windows to see if an adult can exit safely, which can make or break fire safety
Tips for basement living
If you’ve found the perfect spot and are ready to sign the lease, here are some of our tips for basement living:
- Invest in an air purifier, dehumidifier and other air purification tools for your home
- Paint an accent wall or use bright colors in the furnishings
- Decorate with space-saving furniture
- Buy quality lighting, including lamps, recessed lights and bright but efficient bulbs
- Get programmed light that mimics sunrise and sunset
- Ask your landlord for renovations like larger windows to improve security and lighting