Some people call them “in-law suites”; some call them “mortgage helpers”, but by any name having a finished basement to rent can make all the difference between affording a house or just a condo in the Vancouver market. But what should you be looking for when a house with a rentable basement is what you want?

First thing to pay attention to is the zoning of the house. You will find often that houses with basement suites are only zoned for single family residential. Buying one of these properties without paying special attention to the zoning bylaw can result in you not being able to legally rent the space. While you may still find tenants willing to rent, your recourses should the rental go sideways could be limited. As well, if you are reported to the city, you could be forced to cease the rental.

Once you find a property with a legal basement suite, you want to check to see if the space is already rented to tenants and if so, what the terms of the current lease are. Remember, you cannot just evict a tenant you do not like. Tenants have many rights and as a new landlord you must continue to adhere to them. Before submitting an offer on the house read the lease, check all the background information of the tenants.

Finally, and probably most important, find a house in an area that is close to transit and amenities. It is very hard to place a tenant in a property that is off the beaten path.

– Ryan DeLuca is a realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, and host of The Real Estate Minute on Novus TV;

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