Basement apartments; a good way for a person to either potentially help pay off their mortgage or help with their bills, or a good ‘starter’ apartment for those who don’t mind living under the ground. While this can turn into a win-win scenario for both parties, it can also turn into a massive, wet mess. After all the rain we’ve been getting (and are about to get) we thought we’d talk about both sides of the ‘basement apartment’ coin. If you’re a homeowner with a basement you don’t use, you’ve got a lot to think about before you convert it into an apartment.
Ever notice that when you’re purchasing a home, you very rarely see a legal basement apartment included in the description? This is due to the fact that the real estate agents can’t guarantee that the basement apartment fully complies with all the codes, regulations and by-laws set in place to keep the basement apartment safe for its inhabitants to live in. You can get a full list of said requirements from your province or state’s list of requirements, which can be found within an inspector’s office or online. For now we’re going to cover the most common issue: damp, leaky or flooding basement apartments.
As a Landlord…
Relatively damp basements can be fixed with dehumidifiers, but even the best dehumidifier on the market can’t fix leaks and flooding, both of which pose a large threat not just to your tenant and their property, but to you as well. We’ve covered some of the potential health risks in another blog; but to summarize it wet or damp environments can attract dangerous molds and mildews which can affect your and your tenants health. The wet environment can also cause structural damage which places everyone’s well-being at risk. Another risk involved with wet basement apartments comes with the legalities of it; such as if the basement floods and the tenant or courts can prove it’s due to a fault on your end, you’d wind up paying for their property damage as you’re liable. The basement is legally your property, and thus the issue of flooding is your responsibility.
That being said, there are actions you can take as a landlord to minimize and/or eliminate these risks. You can waterproof your basement, or repair the leaks and cracks that may have popped up in your foundation/basement over time due to aging and weather. We here at Ashworth offer these services and would be more than happy to take a look at any potential problem to keep you and your tenants warm, dry, healthy and safe.
As a Tenant….
As a prospective tenant, the first step is to really look at the apartment when you go to a showing. Notice the feeling in the air – is it damp? Look on the walls and floor to see if you can spot any signs of previous floods; usually indicated through stains on the walls/floors. Ask if there’s a sump pump, and if there is, ask to see it and check for repair issues (see our Sump Pump blog). Cracks and improperly installed or old windows and/or doors could also spell out trouble as they have a potential to let in unwanted moisture.
If you’re currently living in a basement apartment, and you start noticing these things after you’ve signed your lease, you can talk to your landlord regarding these issues. We suggest typing out a document and printing two copies. Sign and date both, keep one for yourself and give the other to your landlord. This way you can prove you’ve discussed the issue should something happen and you need to bring legalities into the situation. Hopefully you can avoid that particular situation, however, and simply convince the landlord to have their basement looked at and properly waterproofed or repaired.
If the basement is simply damp, a dehumidifier should cut most, if not all, of the humidity out of the picture. Basement apartments, by nature, will be damp (particularly around the wet seasons) due to the fact that they’re located below ground level. As water is drawn downwards by gravity, there will always be the risk of even slight amounts of moisture getting into your little home, so it’s nothing worth losing your head over. It’s not healthy for you, however, as moisture breeds mold and mildew which can cause health complications for yourself or any of your family members who may be residing in the basement apartment with you. A healthy amount of caution is recommended, as is diligence if you start noticing moisture on/in things that are normally dry (ie clothing, carpets, furniture).
With some of the more prominent issues regarding wet/damp/leaky or even flooding basements covered, we’ll leave you to see what applies to you. If you have any further concerns or questions, or if you need someone to double check the current waterproofing situation of your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We here at Ashworth Drainage want only the best for our clients, and are willing to work with both parties to make sure that the living conditions are safe and healthy for everyone involved. For now, we wish you dry basements and good health!