How To Make A Basement Apartment Legal?

How To Make A Basement Apartment Legal?
by Jerome Foster - October 15, 2021

A basement apartment can be cozy and can give you a lot of private space that everyone desires. It can be a great way to add value and income to your home. The bad news is, sometimes, the conditions are not in your favor, making it illegal to rent out the basement. 

You may think that making a finished basement into an apartment will increase its value, but in most cases, it won’t because of zoning laws and building codes. The city where your property is located has very specific requirements for creating living spaces in basements. 

If you are trying to make your basement apartment legal for renting, there are a few things that you have to do.

Age of House

The first thing we should mention is that if your home was built after 2009.  This is because homes built after 2009 meet the new energy efficiency standards for heating and cooling, making them more suitable for conversion into apartments.

Square Footage Requirement

This will depend on where exactly your home is located, but it should be somewhere between 70-80 sq ft per occupant (including children). Once you know that number, it is recommended to add 50% onto it if there are any issues with zoning or building codes when applying for permits.


The front of the house cannot be significantly altered to change its appearance from that of a one-unit building. This means no dormers or bump-outs can be added, and no more than two windows are allowed on each floor. And there must be a door leading directly outside from each unit.

Lighting and Ventilation

The next thing is that there must be an egress window. There also needs to be enough light sources throughout the entire unit so people can see clearly without turning on any lights during normal hours of operation. Finally, every habitable room should have at least one electrical outlet within 3 feet of where someone would normally stand while using an electric appliance.

To learn more about different types of apartments, visit Prudential Cal’s blog section.


  • Jerome has worked for an international real estate magazine in the past before joining Prudentialcal. He now spearheads our team of writers and ensures the quality of content we produce weekly.

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