"Dangerous Basement Sleeping Rooms"

By Albert J. Dennis
Housing Inspector Coordinator
City of Aurora, Illinois

The tragic smoke-inhalation deaths of a twenty-eight year old Kendall County man and his two young sons in April 2007 remind us of the dangers of sleeping in unlawful basement or cellar rooms. If the only way out is obstructed, the occupants die.

Most basements in older homes in Aurora do not meet the requirements for habitable space. Here is why based on the International Property Maintenance Code and Building Code used in Aurora and most surrounding communities:
  • Windows are below grade and too small to get out in an emergency. Often they are high above the basement floor making easy access out difficult in an emergency. If the stairway is blocked, the occupants are trapped. Approved escape windows and doors must be easily openable from the inside without the use of key, tool or extreme force.
  • Many basements to not meet minimum ceiling height requirements for habitable space. A clear ceiling height of seven (7) feet is required.
Having a loved-one trapped to die of smoke-inhalation or flame is a horrible prospect.