The Down-Low on Basement Apartments in Ontario 

Monday, March 21, 2016

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Navigating the legality of basement apartments is no easy task for the average tenant. Perhaps this is best illustrated in an article named, basement apartments are a minefield for the uninformed. The title of this piece perfectly captures the problem for uneducated tenants residing in illegal basement apartments; who often aren’t familiar with what constitutes as a ‘legal’ basement apartment, which creates a major safety risk for them.


While a provincial law was introduced in 2012 to regulate basement dwellings, there a significant amount of illegal basement units that still exist in Ontario. It’s estimated that in Brampton alone there is a total of 30,000 illegal basement apartments. Many cities across Ontario have either implemented bylaws for basement units or are in the process of doing so; however, many communities struggle with enforcement or the legalization framework, Brampton being a prime example.


Even those cities that do successfully implement bylaws don’t guarantee success, as Mississauga saw first-hand. Mississauga introduced a bylaw in January of 2014, but several months later in October, only a total of 14 second-unit licenses were granted (that number has since increased).


The biggest problem here is not enforcement, but rather tenant safety. Before renting a basement unit, there are a few things that tenants should know. provides a very detailed list of the basic requirements of legal basement units. Some of the key points that tenants must be aware of include:


  • Minimum ceiling height is 6’11”, which can be reduced to 6’5” underneath beams and ducts. At least 75% of the basement area must be 6’11” or higher.
  • Basement bathrooms must have either a window or fan.
  • The kitchen must be equipped with a refrigerator and stove.
  • Both smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are required and must be provided by the property owner.
  • There must be at least two points of exit, in case of a fire or emergency.
  • Bedrooms in a basement apartment must have a window with the smallest dimension being 18”, the opening must be 600 square inches and must be within 3’ of the ground, to allow for room to crawl out in case of emergency.
  • Doors must be solid wood or metal with a minimum thickness of 1.75” and the basement entry door must be at least 32” x 78”.
  • At least one bedroom shall be an area not less than 105 square feet.


For a full list of requirements and city-specific regulations, click here.

We highly encourage students to make wise and safe decisions regarding their rental accommodation, especially when it comes to basement apartments.


SEE ALSO: First Time Renters - 10 Things Nobody Tells You

The Team