When you hear the word basement, it conjures up images of a dark, dank space to store Christmas decorations and other household goods. While an English basement meets the definition of substandard lighting and underground locale, it remains a plausible room rental option for many tenants on the east coast, where basements are more prevalent.
What is an English Basement?
English basements are below-ground or ground-level basements commonly found affixed to a townhouses or brownstones. They are common in older cities like Washington D.C., New York and London, specifically in historic districts. What separates English basements from traditional, attached basements is that English basements have their own external entry door, meaning that they retain the functionality for use as a stand-alone apartment or office space. Some English basements are accessible from the interior of the attached property as well, making them flexible spaces.
In real estate, the owner of the attached brownstone or townhouse maintains the ownership rights to an English basement. When renting the space out, the owner assumes the responsibilities required of property owners in that area --- abiding by the rules and regulations specific to real estate laws for that state. However, owners also have the option to sell the English basement to the resident or business as part of a real estate transaction, because the basement has its own external access point.
Despite being on ground level or below ground level with poor exterior lighting from windows and doors, English basements have become a popular rental option for young professionals, according to a November 2005 article in "The Washington Post." English basements are typically in historic downtown districts, making them convenient for up-and-coming professionals who want to be close to work but pay significantly less rent than their counterparts opting for high-rise apartments.
Before renting out an English basement as a space, the owner of the affixed property should be aware and up to date on all tenant rights and property owner responsibilities for the area. Renting out any property comes with risks to both the tenant and property owner, in addition to legal repercussions regarding evictions, maintenance requirements or either party not abiding by the terms of the lease. Owners should seek counsel from a local real estate professional or attorney before renting out an English basement to a tenant or business.
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