Safety first: Basement suite regulations

By in Culture

Many University of Saskatchewan students who don’t live at home, instead rent out a basement suite, either individually or with roommates. Either way, this is a great option for students who need to save a little cash, as it can be a cheaper alternative to buying or renting an entire house or apartment.

Although a lot of students live in basement suites, they may not be aware of the safety regulations that should be followed. A lack of awareness can leave students living in a suite that does not meet the appropriate safety regulations, which could potentially lead to serious consequences — unfortunately, it’s common that these regulations aren’t met.

Chris Maierhoffer, a current U of S master’s of business administration student, and business partner Braden Mueller started the company All Cuts Concrete Cutting and Coring this past year. Combining Maierhoffer’s background in engineering and Mueller’s in geology, their company specializes in the installation of windows in basements, leaving them familiar with the regulations forbasementsuiterental basement suites, as they must be knowledgeable of and adhere to them in their own work.

Maierhoffer sat down with the Sheaf to discuss basement suite regulations, to help students ensure they are living in a safe and legal basement suite.

“Several years before starting the business, we strengthened our understanding of the regulations while going through the process of building a legal basement suite in [Mueller’s] basement,” Maierhoffer said, in an email to the Sheaf.

Administered by the municipality in which the home is built — in our case, the city of Saskatoon — the bylaws are similar to those required by the National Building Code of Canada.

These regulations are to ensure that the tenants are living in a safe environment, particularly in the case of emergencies. Maierhoffer provided some examples of regulations which should be met.

“This includes having the correct fire rating on doors, hardwire fire detectors, separate ventilation [than the rest of the house] and proper sized windows for emergency exit. Additionally, there are some payout requirements, such as size and head room,” Maierhoffer said.

One of the most commonly unmet regulations is the size of windows in basement suites, which typically is due to the cost of installation. It can be difficult to install the correct size of window because of limitations outside of the home, such as the window opening up onto a driveway or pathway.

“In situations like this, we have engineered several cost effective solutions that homeowners can utilize. Additionally, we have developed specialized equipment to perform the installation so it is less cost prohibitive for homeowners,” Maierhoffer said.

Often, non-complying basement suites are a result of the associated high costs, with either the initial building of the home, or of upgrading the basement to a legal suite.

“The City of Saskatoon has realized this and modified the rules for basement suites built prior to 1999, which have slightly less restrictions than those built after, in order to make it less cost prohibitive to legalize an existing suite,” Maierhoffer said.

Maierhoffer encourages students to check in with landlords to ensure that the suite is legal and to become aware of any deficiencies that may exist.

If a suite has not met the regulations it must adhere to, it can be reported to the City of Saskatoon.

“They will typically perform an inspection of the home and require that the suite be brought up to code before being rented out again,” Maierhoffer said.

This information is important for students when finding their next place to live.

“When a student is comparing a potential suite to rent, not only will the legal suite be safer than a non-conforming suite in the event of an emergency, but the living conditions will likely be better in a suite that has been legalized,” Maierhoffer said.

As there is an increasing vacancy rate in Saskatoon, students are in the fortunate position of having more options for basement suites, with an increased likelihood of finding a legal and safe place to live.

“The City of Saskatoon’s website lists in detail the requirements of a legal basement suite. It’s good information for any student currently renting or looking to rent a basement,” Maierhoffer said.

Bridget Morrison / Culture Editor

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor