Charlie Kons…, Other/Just Looking in Portland, OR

Requirements for converting a basement into a studio apartment in Portland, OR.

Asked by Charlie Konsor, Portland, OR Sun Jan 13, 2013

I'm looking to buy a house which has a rather sizable (about 50' long, 20' wide, and 7' high) unfinished basement. It's pretty dry and has a door that leads to a stairs that go directly outside (a little 4 step stair case up to ground level). My question is what general requirements would I have to meet to be able to legally (and safely) rent it out as a studio apartment.

If it's a studio, will the door way to the outside qualify as a safe exit in case of fire?

It seems pretty dry and there's already old 70's paneling on the wall and electrical outlets (I'm 90% sure of that...I'll have to double check).

Of course I'd need to add in a bathroom and kitchen area. Are there any special (or especially costly) requirements concerning these?

Are there any other very important requirements I'm missing which might throw a wrench in the whole thing?

Any advice or knowledge you can offer would be very helpful.

Help the community by answering this question:


I've done 2 of these conversions. This is not an easy or cheap task. A permit is required. The bedroom needs an escape window. If you put in a stove, you will need new fire walls. Your zoning may not allow it. Don't buy the house based on being able to rent out the basement. And...having a renter living in YOUR house, is not ideal.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 13, 2013
Thanks Wayne.
Would an escape window be required even if I have a door that opens directly into the studio apartment? The bedroom wouldn't be separate from the living space so the bedroom/apartment would have a door leading directly outside.
But yeah, the more I look into it, the more I wonder if it'd be a worth while investment. I'll have to make sure everything is planned out well and all costs are accounted for if I decide to go ahead with it.
Flag Sun Jan 13, 2013
Here is a link to get you started, but I agree, having conversations with the City of Portland and a Licensed, Bonded Contractor are key to fully understanding the risk/reward of this project.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 13, 2013
You did not mention windows and ones that open for a bedroom and are they about 3 feet off the floor? You might have a problem if the furnace is between the exterior door and sleeping room. Get the rules from city of Portland building dept. Tom inglesby, broker, remax equity group
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Jan 13, 2013
Thanks Tom.
There are 3 windows in the space I'd convert. The furnace, washer/dryer, etc. are all on the other half of the basement so not between the door and sleeping room. The door would literally open onto the studio space and the bed could go where ever, but there'd be no walls (except for the bathroom of course). I'll see if I can't locate the rules.
Flag Sun Jan 13, 2013
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