How to Convert Your Basement into a Rental Unit (Or Legalize an Existing Basement Rental)

For many property owners and prospective buyers in New York, converting a basement into a rental unit means extra income and increased property values. But, how do you know if you can convert your basement?

Make Sure Your Existing or Prospective Property Has a Basement, NOT a Cellar

The first and easiest step you need to take towards owning a property with basement rental-unit potential is to make sure your property actually has a basement.

In New York, if the space beneath your property falls below curb level by more than 50 percent and has windows that cannot be crawled out of, you have a cellar – not a basement. Cellars, by zoning law, cannot be converted into rentable space.

How Can I Tell if My Current Basement Can be Converted?

Already own a property with a basement but have no idea if it’s convertible? A permit expeditor can help. Expediters can conduct a zoning analysis first to see if local laws and codes allow for rental units.

Once it’s determined if you’re zoned for a rental unit, expeditors also advise if code calls for new sprinkler systems and draft architectural plans for the entire conversion. And when it comes time for construction, they are also your one-stop source for hiring quality, licensed contractors and plumbers.

How to Legalize an Existing Basement Rental Unit

All to often, buyers are dazzled by a brand new basement conversion and purchase properties with rental units that are not up to code.

Beware especially of older homes with new basement renovations.

Many times contractors move support columns, water heaters, and boiler systems without filing for permits or while ignoring building code completely.

How to avoid this? Hire a permit expediter BEFORE you buy to research any property you are interested in. But, if you’ve already purchased a property with an illegal basement an expediting service can help you legalize it by quickly closing out old open job orders and removing violations with the New York City Department of Buildings.