Sign of the times-basement apartments

” So how’s your son Billy?”

“He’s doing fine, but having a tough time finding work so he’s moving back in with us.”

In addition to the light-starved, often damp conditions of a basement, the  financial pressures of this economy make this scenario increasingly common.  The resurgence of the basement living space is becoming one of the most common projects in our office.  What often happens, is that a home-owner updates their basement to include a bedroom and often a bathroom, perhaps a separate entrance to ease the independant schedules of a returning family member, work-at-home-situation or perhaps a new renter to help supplement the household income.

Many homeowners fail to understand the many regulations that relate to the occupancy of a typical basement or get proper permits. This can lead to severe civil penalties and the need to legalize the undocumented work.

There are building code regulations pertaining to minimum ceiling heights, amounts of light and ventilation, and means of egress etc.  Additionally, regulations  in certain municipalities forbid basement bedrooms or apartments.  The reason for many of the regulations is that often when a family member moves out, maybe a pantry or kitchen is added and the vacant bedroom/playroom then has the potential to become an illegal apartment and rented-suddenly there are more cars in the driveway, more kids in the school system and when unemployment is still high in certain towns- the effect is dramatic.


From the municipal vantage-point, the process of legalization is essentially the same as if the condition never existed.  The actual  existing conditions to be legalized are viewed as a  “proposed” project, then reviewed and compared against today’s codes and regulations.  You can get lucky and be approved if everything is up to “code”…then again you can open up a littany of issues, especially if it was not built to “code”.  The building inspector or plan examiner has the authority to make you remove the construction or modify it to their satisfaction (which is sometimes beyond code-worthy)

So before you go down this road, please call us at 914 674 2950 and we’ll help you explore the options.