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4 years ago
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I want to convert our basement to a separate "apartment" for my adult son, but have questions about cost and codes.

We are going to redo our finished basement into a separate "apartment" for our son, who is going to be moving back home with us for a few years. He will have his own entrance in and out the house through the back door of the basement, though no separate front entrance. We're going to make it so that he has everything he needs down there, kitchen, shower, etc so that he can be completely independent.

But, because it's just our son and not really a 'separate apartment' that we will rent out, do we still have to follow fire codes and construction laws to create it? I haven't looked into too many of them, but have heard something about having extra thick ceilings for so fire can't transfer from one apartment to the main house.

All we really have to do is put in a little kitchen to make it liveable for him, but are we going to face problems from code violations?
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4 years ago
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Hey Ginger -not sure if anyone answered this question yet. I'd recommend you check with two places - your local city township/ordinance or public office(s) - they can point you in the right direction. Only really one concern (maybe 2) if it is your immediate family - for you probably arent likely to rent out after he moves out. For this reason, I would say no at first - but better to check - main reason is for insurance liability. You don't want Jr. forgettting to turn the stove off and buring your house to the ground, then have the insurance company come back to say they won't cover the loss due to "extinuating circumstances" of an unapproved appliance, safety conditions, etc. You may also want to call your insurance company and ask for a rider to your policy as well.
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4 years ago
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Oh my, I didn't even think about the insurance liability of it all. Thank you very much for bringing this to light for me. I will go ahead and check with my insurance company and see whether they will view it as just an additional bedroom or a seperate apartment.

I know we would not rent out the basement unit to another person after my son leaves the nest, but I've been thinking that it might help resale value of my home if it comes with a bonus, entable (income-generating) apartment.

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Alex Frederick
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Hello, I am a contractor. You need to pull permits for any modification to your home that includes a change in electrical, plumbing, or structural changes to the property. you would not need to pull a permit to install hardwood flooring, add a closet, paint or repair drywall. Anything like adding another entrance that would entail changing a load bearing path on the structure would require a permit. Any changes to electrical beyond modifying or changing a fixture requires a permit. Any additions to plumbing require a permit.

The major difference is that most homeowners don't know that they can file for a permit themselves, because they are the property owner. The exception to this is in regards to electrical work. To add a circuit or upgrade a subpanel a master electrician would be required to file for a permit. The cheapest way to legally do your work is to hire a "handyman" which could be a carpenter to do the work who is insured and for you to pull your own permits and have them in place before work starts. Once you are to the point of filing your permits you should hire an electrician to file for the electrical permit and complete the work once everything is ready for them. Whoever you use to do the work make sure you have a firm contract in place and that they have insurance to do the work you are hiring them for. Most general liability policies will cover general carpentry, but not roofing or foundation repair/ modification. The easiest way to do it is to find a MHIC licensed General Contractor who can file for all of the permits and do any work to your residence.

You need to know from the county permit office if you can zone your home as a multi-family unit Residential-2 (R2 RS2) etc. if not then you would be able to quote your property as having an in-law suite. It would be more benificial to the sale price to have it zoned as a multi family but for your purposes now zoning as a 2 unit is not absolutely necessary.

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4 years ago
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hmmm, why can't your "ADULT" son find an apartment and spare you guys the headache of taking care of him all over again?

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thad roberts
thad roberts
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4 years ago
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Ginger,

Considering that your proposed renovation is going to entail new electrical wiring, and new plumbing I'd recommend contacting licensed contractors about doing the work. Get more than one bid to keep everybody on the up and up. Code compliance is important for several reasons. Faulty wiring is unsafe to begin with and should be installed by only qualified, licensed electricians. More importantly if and when you decide to sell this house and it's discovered that renovations have been made that were never inspected by the local inspections office and found not to be up to code then you may well loose the deal when your buyers have a home inspection. Also, if your home is on a private septic system you should contact your local health department since you are essentially talking about "converting" an existing room to another bedroom. Here again, if your system was originally permitted for a 3 bedroom home and you convert it to a 4 bedroom home the inspector is going to identify this as yet another "red flag". Good luck.
T. Roberts

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4 years ago
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dear Ginger,
that's true what thad roberts said
i am a general contractor and I have seen horrible events when people have been doing remodeling/ additions with no permits (here in CA you have to meet high standards and codes 100%) and when i come over to fix somebody's mistakes it is ugly : first of all what ever money you spend on any remodeling/ additions with no permits and time to sell comes in you are loosing all you invested in your property (thinking you were saving) because the city cannot accept it and you cannot advertised whatever you added or have changed to house with no permit,
That said, you have to look at the whole big picture before you consider any remodeling/ additions.
trust me - i am a general contractor.
good luck.
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4 years ago
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"tust you" a general contractor???? what an oxymoron......all GC's are crooks.

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4 years ago
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You see all kinds of things that are advertised as permitted and unpermitted - it doesn't make a lot of sense to me - i just moved to Oakland and where I came from, you house was your house and if you did not change the footprint, you could do whatever you wanted to do since it was YOURS. we bought a house with some unpermitted space and fixed it up even more for our daughter who is saving money while working. All the work we did was by licensed contractor. If we ever sell, we would just advertise it as a five bedroom single family home which is how we bought it.

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4 years ago
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I'm sorry to butt in, but I am in the process of buying a home and was reading Jose's answer. Should I be concerned about the quality of the work done on the additions/renovations in the home if those additions are not listed on the home's MLS description? I could be way off on even worrying about this, but it caught my eye when you said you cannot advertise whatever you have added or changed to the house with no permit. Thanks so much!

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3 years ago
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you can do additions without a contractor if you have sufficient knowledge and skills. the amount of work will depend on how finished is your basement currently. if it has electrical /heating/ cooling etc already and only need final finishing, the job will be simple enough. if it needs all that, then you probably need contractors to do them or should know to do them in a way to pass an inspection by county inspector. if your son is going to live there, his living quarter or bedroom SHOULD have an egress window to pass the code. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-egress-window-code.htm you should make a general plan about what you want done down there and go to your county's building inspector's office. http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/cphd/planning/zoning/CPHDPlanningZoningBldgPermits.aspx they will either give you permit or direct you as to what you need to do further. get reliable contractors if you are employing contractors. ask to see their previous works if you can, and never pay them in whole in advance. all the best with your endeavor

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Alex Frederick
Alex Frederick
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4 years ago
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I like Jose's comment Trust me- Im a general contractor. lol If you want some help in regards to issues to this please contact me I am on facebook and I am local to DC. I'm in Annapolis. Also DC has some unique laws in place so far as multi family units and basement apartments. I have been working in the DC metro area for over 10 years and am familiar with their zoning laws as well as typical home structures.
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Hi Alex, I'm searching for a house, SFH or TH, about $160k or less, that could be updated simply but completely by a GC. I wonder if you have any suggestions where I might look for a place within a 25-35 minute commute from the intersection of 50 and 495 (Annandale/Merrifield). I use redfin, zillow and homesdatabase on a regular basis.

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1 year ago
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HI, I am in NY. would you happen to be familiar with the zoning laws here?

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Hello all. I am a loan officer with a Mortgage Bank and you are bound to run into issues on a loan when you go to sell the property if you don't set this up properly. If it is set up along the lines of a mother-in-law quarters you will probably be OK. However, if you sent this up like a rental you could run into issues. A rental set-up would include a separate or independent access to the 'unit'. If you know an appraiser, talk to them and see what does and does not fall into this category. Be very careful or you could pay a very high price when it comes time to sell.
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6 months ago
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So if you have a 2 family house with an illegal basement. Can you make the basement part of one of the upper units to make it part of one side like apartment A would now have a lower level added and rent it for more money?? As long as I fix the entrance and make it part of only apt A?

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4 years ago
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we have been shopping for stilt waterfront and have run into a number of places with finished lower levels. some were advertised with these apartments and one in particular was so nice and they told us we would be allowed to assume insurance through the company they used but this lower level could not be insured. this prompted us to inquire to our insurance agency of how that would be handled if a fire developed in this uninsured level and caused destruction in an insured level. the response was that any damage caused by anything not approved by the county would not be covered. that said, while you may have insurance on your insured level you may pay all those premiums it will mean nothing if your illegal finished area is the source of the damage. to scary for us. in this economy and after all the hits insurance companies have taken i'm sure they would not make any exceptions. our advice is make sure you get your permits in order before doing a thing.

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Don't say thing cause it will cost you many dollars.Find a contractor who can do it on
"the side". Say -if questioned- you did all the work.

When kid finally grows up and leaves you now have a rental.

Do it right, kitchen, bathroom and entrance. You will be glad you did.

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Sorry, what I mean is that, do we really need to spend the extra money to make it up to legal codes for a rental unit, or are we exempt because it's just our son and not REALLY a separate unit?

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3 years ago
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Hi there. this is Narcis and if u ar steel interested in doing that just give me a call and we can set up an appoiment and we can talk about the obtiones that u have.
847-912-5166

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