I don't know if this will help (probably not) but I'll tell you a story
about a similar "garden apartment" that I lived in. The floor was below
ground level, putting the windows just a few inches off of the ground
I would see an occasional ant in the kitchen, but nothing serious...until
one night. One corner of the kitchen was made up of 2 windows. My kitchen
table was in that corner. One night I walked into the dark kitchen and it
looked like the kitchen table was moving. I flipped on the light and saw
that there were literally hundreds of ants almost completely covering the
top of the table. I spent some time sweeping them into the garbage can with
a sponge. I was pretty grossed out.
I found that the curtains were touching the window sill and the table was
up against the curtains. They were using the curtains as kind of a bridge
from the sill to the table. When the sun came up I went outside to see if I
could see what was going on, but it was not apparent where they were coming
in. The maintenance guys sprayed the exterior and the problem went back to
the occasional ant sighting.
Oh yeah, for the rest of the time I lived in the apartment I kept the
kitchen table a couple of inches away from the curtains.
I found them in the rotten, damp plywood counter top I replaced a couple
of years ago. Don't know how they got there. We live in the dry Central
Bet there is rot in the walls and counter top.
Especially for a basement apartment, probably badly built with water leaks
and condensation on basement walls behind the cabinets resulting in rotting
wood and who knows what. If she freaks out at the sight of bugs, probably
she should have not rented such a poor place. As long as the conditions
remain, the bugs will increase and the smell of mildew will permeate the
entire apartment. Complain to landlord long and loud, be the squeaky wheel
to get attention, but be prepared for a real mess and all the bugs to
He didn't say she lives in a basement apartment. He said the
"floor is below the outside soil grade by two or three feet".
See here for something similar.
Note the location of the first floor windows. Those are not
considered "basement apartments".
----Android NewsGroup Reader----
"Sorta basmenty" is not the same thing.
I speak from experience, having lived in both a basement apartment (which
sucked) and a first floor garden apartment as shown in my link, although
the buildings only had 4 apartments in each. Trust me, a basement apartment
feels like a basement apartment, a first floor garden apartment does not.
My made up word was basementy. Can't see any reason to drop an "e".
I was trying to point out that some people are going to think basement,
others, maybe the landlord, are going to deny it.
Clearly a case of gray. Not black and not white.
Thr's a vry good rason to drop th e: It was a typo.
I agree. As I just replied in Don's post, I'm going to call the town and
the complex I used to live in to see what they say about the lower level
apartments in a garden apartment building. I'll be surprised if either one
refers to them as basement apartments, since I believe that the town has
very strict rules about basement apartments and possibly even a specific
definition. There may be some "conflict" between the definition of
"basement" and what they call the lower level apartments in a building
where technically the first floor is a basement. I'm curious. I'll let you
know what I find out.
Most basements are not totally underground, sometimes only 2, 3 or 4 feet in
the ground depending on conditions in the area and building design. In my
area 2 to 3 feet is still considered a basement apartment.
Having lived in both a basement apartment (which sucked) and a first floor
garden apartment...and currently having a "not totally underground"
basement, I respectfully refrain from referring to a first floor garden
apartment as a "basement apartment". It is not in the "basement" of the
Trust me, a basement apartment feels like a basement apartment, a first
floor garden apartment does not.
If you do a Google image search on 'basement apartment' you will see a lot
of common features: fewer windows than "non-basement" apartments, smaller
and higher windows, soffits covering ductwork, and very often a staircase
right in the apartment. Not every basement apartment fits that description,
but most do. Most are in spaces that were once basements and then converted
The first floor garden apartments typically have full size windows at
normal height inside the apartment, windows in every room (depending on the
layout), no staircase inside the apartment, etc. The building I lived in
only had four apartments (2 up, 2 down) so every apartment was a corner
apartment with full size windows on 3 of the 4 walls including a picture
window in the living room, and 2 corners made up of a full size window on
both walls. You are not going to find that kind of window layout in a
You are wrong according to the NYC DOB. If the floor level is below the
soil level by even the slightest amount, it is called a basement. If the
ceiling level is below the soil level then it is called a cellar.
And it applies even if only one of the sides the floor is below the soil
level. In my case, on the ground level floor, the floor and soil are level
in the back. In the front the floor is one foot below the soil. The DOB
calls it a basement. I am listed as having a cellar, a basement, and three
I don't get anything on that link. But you can't expect someone marketing
an apartment to use the word basement. It has negative connotations. I'd go
with what the buildings department uses.
Don. www.donwiss.com (e-mail link at home page bottom).
I'll go with your definition of a basement, and since this was an apartment
complex, I guess that technically the first floor apartments in that
picture could be called basement apartments, but I'm not yet convinced. I
may make a few phone calls tomorrow - both to the town and to the complex I
used to live in - out of curiously.
While I rarely cite Wikipedia as a reference, this link defines a basement
apartment they way I think most people do.
This definition says "an apartment below the ground floor of a building"
In addition, many web dictionaries define the "ground floor" as:
1: the floor of a building most nearly on a level with the ground
So let's consider the apartment I used to live in. Similar to the building
pictured in the link, to enter the building you had to go up a 1 step to
the stoop, then 1 more into the building itself. Once in the building, I
would go down 3 (4?) steps to my apartment. To go to the upper apartments
it was at least 4, maybe even 5 steps.
I know what the building code says about what a basement is, but in these
types of apartment buildings the lower apartment is closer to level with
the ground then the upper apartments. Therefore, I would consider the lower
apartments as "ground floor apartments" as opposed to "basement
I also think - but admittedly don't know yet - that many towns have
different requirements for apartments in the basement of a building than
they do for the lower apartments in a garden apartment complex, even if
technically that portion of the building is considered a basement by code.
My gut feel at this point is that those would not be considered "basement
apartments" even by the municipality. I'll report back what I find out.
Well, certainly no one calls these apartments basement apartments. I'm just
citing the building code.
Here the real estate people do use the term English basement for a floor
that is mostly above ground. Where I have two or three steps down to get to
the bottom level, an English basement would be about six steps down.
Which a building here has mostly depends on when it was built. The ones
before 1900, like mine, were two or three steps down. On the ground floor
there would have been the kitchen, a butler's pantry, and a family dining
room. Some in a back extension had a servant's sitting room and a servant's
lavatory. On the parlor level (up the stoop) there was a formal dining room
with a dumb waiter in a closet. The other closet in the dining room may
have had a sink.
After about 1900 they went to only a dining room on the parlor level. The
kitchen was in the back. The English basement has the furnace and water
heater in the back, and those houses do not also have a cellar.
The only requirement I know about here is a bedroom must have a window. If
it is below ground some sort of skylight may suffice. When they convert
large floor plate office buildings to apartments they sometimes end up with
inside rooms. They get called an office.
Don. www.donwiss.com (e-mail link at home page bottom).
I called three places today: the XYZ apartment complex where I used to
live, the building department of the town where the complex is located and
the Fire Marshall's office in the same town.
Even though it was the last call that I made, I'll tell you what the nice
lady at the apartment complex said first, since it is what we all expected
she'd say: They do not refer to them as "basement apartments". They refer
to them as "garden level" apartments. She added that even if they were
technically basement apartments by some code definition, they are not what
she thinks of when she thinks of basement apartments. She thinks of
basement apartments the same way I do: an apartment under a structure such
as a house or a store, in which you actually feel like you are in the
basement of a building. All in all she was very friendly.
The first call I made was to the town. What's interesting is that town's
definition of a basement is slightly different than my town's and
apparently NYC's. My town (and NYC) uses the "floor below grade, 50% of the
space above grade is a basement, 50% below grade is a cellar" definition.
The town I called lists the definitions on their web site as:
Basement: floor below grade
Cellar: Same as basement
When I discussed the definitions with the gentleman from the building
department and asked if they had a definition for a "basement apartment",
the answer was "No, we don't, that's a question for the Fire Marshall's
office." When I asked if he considered the lower apartments at the XYZ
complex to be basement apartments, he said that personally he didn't but it
really was up to the Fire Marshall. All in all he was very friendly.
I then called the Fire Marshall's office in that same town. All in all the
guy i spoke with wasn't very friendly. He basically said that they "follow
the NYS definition of a basement and a cellar and that both town's
definitions should be the same because all towns in our county follow the
NYS codes and unless you have a specific reason for wanting to know if the
apartments at the XYZ complex are considered basement apartments why are
you wasting my time?" Well, it didn't go exactly like that, but it was
close. I thanked him very much for his time and very nicely wished him a
good day. After all, I really was wasting his time, so there was no sense
in going any farther.
Bottom line, I can't seem to find a definition of a "basement apartment" on
any town's website, but admittedly I didn't spend hours looking. I did see
some mention of "accessory apartments", but these appear to be any
apartment that is part of an owner occupied dwelling, with just the one
apartment added, regardless of whether it was in the basement, cellar,
garage or an addition on the house.
So for now, I'm going to stubbornly continue to *not* refer to "garden
level" apartments as "basement apartments" even if technically they are in
the basement of the building. Since I once lived in a *real* basement
apartment, under a house, with tiny windows and all of the dankness a
basement apartment brings to mind, I have a hard time considering the
garden level apartment I lived in to fit the same definition. I may be
wrong, but I'm OK with that.
Yeah, I lived in a "garden level" apartment just like you've described. The
link i post was the best picture I could find on short notice. Either way,
if the floor of the apartment is below grade, it's technically in the
"basement", according to most town codes.
However, I don't necessarily call them "basement apartments", but that's
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.