Renting a Basement Apartment: All You Need to Know

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Article Contents
Picture of By <span>Matthew Roberts</span>
By Matthew Roberts

Updated on May 30, 2024

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Picture of By <span>Matthew Roberts</span>
By Matthew Roberts

Updated May 30, 2024

Visit author page

3 minute read

Article Contents

Renting a basement apartment can be a daunting experience. Whether you’re a first-time renter, downsizing, or seeking an affordable living space, basement rentals offer unique advantages and challenges. An important aspect to consider is tenant insurance, which can protect your belongings and liability in your new living space. It’s a wise investment to safeguard against unexpected events like theft, damage, or accidents within the apartment. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about renting a basement apartment, from legal considerations to practical tips, ensuring you make an informed decision.

Renting a Basement Apartment in Ontario

Nearly 1 out of 6 ground-oriented homes in Toronto have a secondary unit. This is the highest ratio in Ontario, totalling an estimated 75,000 secondary units. Basement apartments are the most common type of secondary unit. A basement apartment is a separate living space located partially or entirely below ground level. These units come in various forms, such as daylight basements with full-sized windows, garden apartments partially above ground, and traditional basements with significant below-ground living space. Each type offers a distinct living experience influenced by natural light, layout, and access to outdoor spaces.

Is Your Basement Apartment Legal?

Before signing a lease, ensuring the apartment complies with local laws and building codes is crucial. In Ontario, for instance, legal basement apartments must adhere to specific standards regarding exits, window sizes, ceiling heights, and fire safety regulations. It’s essential to ask your landlord for proof of legality, such as a Fire Certificate or Building Permit Completion. This ensures your safety and protects your rights as a tenant. However, if you grow increasingly concerned about your comfort or safety while living in a basement apartment, don’t be afraid to break the lease early.

Tenant Rights and Responsibilities in Ontario

As a tenant in Ontario in a basement apartment, it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities. These include privacy, maintenance requests, and adherence to lease terms. You’re also responsible for respecting noise levels, maintaining the property, and fulfilling your lease obligations. Clear communication with your landlord is essential for a successful tenancy.

Questions to Ask When Renting a Basement Apartment

When considering a basement rental, there are several key questions you should ask:

  • Safety and Security Features: Inquire about locks, fire escape routes, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure your safety and security.
  • Health Hazards: Check for issues like dampness, mould, or radon gas, which are more common in basement settings, to ensure a healthy living environment.
  • Shared Spaces: Understand the arrangements for parking, laundry, and yard access, as these can significantly impact your living experience.
  • Utilities and Expenses: Clarify if utilities are included in the rent and how they are divided to avoid any surprises in your budget.

The Pros and Cons of Basement Rentals


  • Affordability: Often cheaper than other rental options, especially in high-rent areas, basement apartments can be a budget-friendly choice.
  • Space: Offering more square footage than standard apartments, they provide ample room for living and storage.
  • Location: These units allow you to live in desirable neighbourhoods at a lower cost, making them an attractive option for many.


  • Limited Natural Light: Being partially underground, these units may have less natural light, affecting the ambiance and your mood.
  • Noise and Privacy: Living below another household can lead to noise issues and reduced privacy, which are essential considerations for your comfort.
  • Moisture and Air Quality: Basements can be prone to dampness, leading to potential mould and air quality issues, which could be dangerous for your health.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Basement Apartments

Renting a Basement Apartment: Tips for a Comfortable Stay

To make the most of your basement apartment living experience, consider the following tips:

  • Ventilation: Ensure good air circulation to prevent dampness and mould, common in basement settings.
  • Lighting: Use lamps and light fixtures to brighten the space, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.
  • Furnishings: Choose moisture-resistant furniture and decor to avoid damage and maintain a healthy living environment.
  • Insurance: Consider getting tenant insurance to protect your belongings and liability, providing peace of mind.
Tips for a Comfortable Stay at a Basement Apartment

Understanding Tenant Insurance for Basement Apartment Rentals in Ontario

When renting a basement apartment in Ontario, where renters insurance costs between $300 and $360 annually, budgeting for tenant insurance is essential. This insurance, often required by landlords, protects your belongings and covers liabilities and living expenses in case of accidents or disasters—heightened risks in basement dwellings.

Unlike home insurance, which covers the building and is the landlord’s responsibility, tenant insurance focuses on the renter’s items and personal risks. It’s easy to apply online, with policies typically auto-renewing annually. Given basement-specific risks like moisture damage or security issues, regularly updating and reviewing your policy is crucial for comprehensive protection. If you need help looking for affordable tenant insurance rates in Ontario, MyChoice is a great place to start.

The Bottom Line

Renting a basement apartment can be a smart choice for many, offering affordability and unique living experiences. You can find a basement rental that suits your needs and lifestyle by being well-informed about the legalities, asking the right questions, and understanding the pros and cons.

Remember, communication with your landlord is key. Ensure you clearly understand your lease agreement and the expectations set forth. With the right approach, renting a basement apartment can be a rewarding experience.

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