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Illegal Basement Apartments

The tragic death of a Brampton family prompted me to convey our opinion on fire safety and illegal basement apartments.

Adrian Trott

A recent tragic house fire in Brampton that left two adults and five young children dead brings to light the importance of fire safety and properly finishing and maintaining rental properties.

We will NOT represent a tenant or landlord in the rental of an illegal basement apartment.

On the morning of March 28th, I read the terrible story of a family left dead in the early morning hours as a result of a house fire in Brampton. The article went on to talk about two adults and three children who died, as well as mentioning that a third adult was in the hospital and another two adults escaped unharmed.  The sheer number of people in the house prompted me to assume it was a rental property, likely one with a separate basement apartment; this was later confirmed in another article I read.

The purpose of this blog is to convey the profound importance of avoiding illegal basement apartments as well as to bring the awareness of general fire safety knowledge.  The vast majority of basement rentals are not permitted, nor registered with the local municipality.

If you’re a Landlord, the liability of serious injury or death clearly makes renting out an illegal basement apartment a foolish decision. KT has always avoided illegal basement apartments, but in light of recent events, we’re implementing a firm company policy stating that we will not represent parties involved in those transactions and we will also strongly advise against it.

Here are some of the risks of renting out an illegal basement apartment

  • Serious injury or death related or unrelated to the inadequate finishes and features of the space
  • An unhealthy living environment due to things such as mould as a result of improper ventilation;
  • Forced eviction if caught by local municipalities, i.e. A disgruntled neighbour complains about the number of occupants next door or the noisy car in the driveway
    • Forced evictions will result in multiple fines being given to the property owner;
    • Tenants pursuing legal action for increased living and moving expenses;
    • Landlords have to retrofit the apartment to comply with the current building and fire code;
    • Or, the space being deemed not to qualify as a rental at all

From hundreds of dollars in fines to millions of dollars in lawsuits, it’s just not worth it.

If you’re a Landlord or considering becoming one, familiarize yourself with local by-laws on basement apartments.  If you’re considering buying a property that already has one, you can request proof from the owners as part of the offer. Also, double-check with the municipality if permits were taken out and closed, and the property is registered as a rental.

Another thing that’s good to note; as a Landlord in Ontario, you are required to test the smoke and CO detectors annually.  This blog topic probably wouldn’t have come to mind if this simple task was performed at the property in Brampton.  My thoughts go out to the family’s loved ones.

More thoughts on the topic here:

Brampton House Fire

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