For many home owners, renting out a basement suite is a necessary measure for assistance in paying the mortgage. While some cities recognize suites as a viable solution to a lack of affordable housing, other areas prohibit them. Since each city is different, it is important that home owners check municipal bylaws, building codes, and zoning laws prior to investing time and money into creating a rental space.
If your town allows suites, there will be regulations that you will have to follow. Generally, they are required to have a minimum ceiling height, an outside entrance, a bathroom, and a kitchen. As well, all rental units must meet fire and safety regulations. In some cases, initial code-conforming conversion costs and the possibility of steep penalties for violating fire and safety codes, deter property owners from creating a rental space in their home.
Other things to consider include the cost of additional home insurance, and whether you want to rent out long term, or short term.
If you decide that a basement suite is a reasonable option, you should be aware of the fact that lower level suites are considered to be among the least desirable places to live by tenants. For this reason, it is important that you take measures to make your living space more appealing to renters.
First and foremost, the area must be complete. An unfinished basement will not be attractive to anyone and should not be rented out. Try to compensate for the absence of large windows by adding interesting lighting such as screen lighting or skylights. Make sure that the bathroom and kitchen are well lit. Renters will appreciate an attractive entrance to the unit, perhaps an outdoor sitting area, and a parking spot. Consider additional incentives such as a gas fireplace, new appliances, television, or free internet service.
Even though the majority of homeowners never have any trouble with their tenants, you should still be careful who you rent to. There are enough horror stories out there - realize that while you may be renting to one person, they will likely have friends and family that visit. Try to address problems quickly and trust your instincts when renting out space.
Do your due diligence and educate yourself on the laws and the tenant-landlord acts for your area. Draw up a contract for your tenant to sign, and don't be afraid to charge extra fees for late payment, or damage deposit. In addition to understanding your rights and responsibilities, know what is expected from your tenant.
A good landlord is not a tyrant. Pick and choose your battles and try to be fair. Good communication and a clear, reasonable contract can go a long way in keeping you and your renter happy.
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