During the renovation process for my #NewSpaceOn12thPlace, I decided to convert the somewhat poorly finished and oddly configured basement into a modern rental unit!
Meeting Egress Requirements
My first challenge was meeting the egress requirement. An individual dwelling must have at least two methods of egress to the outside. This can be two doors, or a door and a proper window. My 12th Place basement had one door to the backyard already, but the two existing windows were too small; a person could not fit through them to escape during a fire (and a firefighter couldn’t squeeze through it). A legal egress window at a minimum must be 20 inches wide, 24 inches tall and the sill must be no more than 44 inches from the floor. As you can see from the photo, this meant one window had to be expanded. Given that a legal bedroom must also have an egress I decided to expand the bedroom window. The original window sat right above the ground so we had to excavate the earth around the new window and install a window well. The new window did more than check the egress box; it also doubled the natural light in the basement!
Readjusting the Laundry Set
The second challenge was the laundry set. The original laundry set was in the basement and venting out of the only window in the living area. See photo below (and disregard the mold created by the leaking hot water heater). Our end goal is to build out a new laundry closet on the upper bedroom level and have a second set for the tenant in the basement, but the new laundry closet is not in the current plans. We are reserving that for the next renovations that include adding a master bathroom (!!). For now, we definitely wanted to convey the rental unit with a washer/dryer so we decided to move the basement laundry set to a location that would give the tenant access and us access from upstairs. We kept the same appliances because they were still kicking and slid them under the staircase. We walled off a closet sized area that incorporated the staircase to the main level and effectively created a shared laundry room.
Creating A True Kitchen
Configuring the kitchen was the next challenge. The previous owner had an extra fridge and oven in the basement, but no water supply, so it was not technically a true kitchen. Also, the wall that the appliances were on was sitting 3 feet off of the brick exterior wall. There was so much wasted space!! We moved the wall back to the exterior wall and ran water lines and a drain behind it to hook up the new sink. The new “strip of kitchen” was installed with all new appliances and a very affordable cabinet/counter modular set from IKEA.
Finding a Tenant!
With the basement renovation complete we were ready to find a tenant… and get the proper license! All housing rental units must acquire a basic business license from DCRA in order to be legal. The process includes loads of paperwork with multiple DC office’s, a fee (of course), and a city inspection. The license lasts for two years and simply takes a payment to DCRA to renew for another two years. Getting this license is a must as a DC landlord. DC is very tenant friendly so making sure you are getting started on the right foot is important. (Don’t worry there’s a company that you can hire to manage that entire process, RentJiffy.com.)
Are you curious if your basement could be making you money as a rental unit? Contact us today and we’ll help you determine the best course of action.