Making a Mother Daughter Apartment Safe and Legal

Posted on May 16, 2012 | in Thoughts | by

When newly single Jess needed to move back in with her mother, she had some ideas to help keep her sense of independence.

“You know, I never imagined I’d be married and divorced, all before I hit thirty,” admits customer Jess Mally, from New Hampshire. “It’s a big blow to the ego to have to move back in with a parent – especially when all your friends are buying houses and having babies.”

But fortunately, Jess’s story has a happy ending.

“When my husband and I decided to get divorced, I thought it was the end of the world. We’d had the fairy tale wedding just two years before, and suddenly it seemed like I was back to square one – just older and more in debt.”

But the more she thinks about it, the more Jess thinks moving back in with Mom might have been a blessing in disguise.

“Dad had passed the summer before, and Mom was pretty sick with Lyme disease, so it was actually great for her to have me move back in.” She admits herself that not having to pay rent or a mortgage was a big help during the divorce proceedings as well: “What I did make, I was able to use to really help Mom with the bills.”

But the real benefit, Jess says, came when she decided she needed a little independence.

“It didn’t take long before I realized I’d go nuts living in my mother’s spare room,” she says. “And she had this big, empty basement apartment downstairs that was just being used for storage. I decided to move in.”

As soon as she did, Jess realized there was a way she could really help her mother out.

“My parent’s home was built in the seventies as a two family dwelling,” she explains, “but nobody had lived in that basement apartment since my brother moved out in the late nineties. It was a mess – dark, dank and not smelling so good.”

“I realized that if I could fix that apartment back up to code, it would add a ton to my mother’s house value – and once I’d got a place of my own, she could even rent it out.”

But fixing up the old apartment wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

“We got a contractor in, and the first thing he told me was that the place wasn’t up to building code. Apparently, the basement apartment was finished before they needed things like egress windows, so in its current condition my mother wouldn’t have been able to rent it out.”

Rather than keep an illegal apartment, Jess decided to invest her own money in getting the place done right.

Egress Windows in the den of the Mother Daughter apartment“We hired the contractor to add basement windows,” she says. “He dug huge holes in our garden, and sunk in these egress windows that let a ton of light in from outside.” In addition to meeting building code, and turning an illegal into a legal apartment, the new windows had a great impact on the look and feel of the basement.

“It didn’t look dark or dank anymore,” Jess tells us. “The basement windows let in a ton of natural light, and when you opened them up it let a lovely breeze through that really kept the place smelling nice.”

For Jess, that meant she could finally get out of her mother’s spare room and get some independence of her own.

“It was great. I had my own doorway, could come and go as I pleased, but I was still close to Mom and wasn’t paying what I would to rent a place myself, even after paying off what it cost to renovate the basement.”

And Jess’s mother/daughter apartment investment quickly paid off.

“Because I finally felt like I was living on my own again,” Jess says, “I started dating – and met Ryan.” After just four months, they decided to move in together. “But don’t feel bad. My mother was able to rent out the basement I’d renovated and that’s really helped her with the bills – she’s in a good spot now, and a portion of that rent goes to paying back what I invested.”

Even better, adding egress windows to the basement has added significant value to the home.

“She’s got a great tenant living downstairs now,” Jess admits, “but Mom is already joking about selling up and moving the Florida now the house is worth more.”

She winks: “Sometimes I’d like her to – just so Ryan and I can come to visit!”

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Hi, I'm Jeff. I will be using this space to share my thoughts and opinions that I have accumulated over many years in the building industry. My hope is to also teach and inspire.

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Jeff Ommundsen
(229) 234-7377
President of Shop Egress Windows, Inc.