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Law prohibits the creation of basement living areas

Every once in a while, along with an increase in the number of requests for charitable donations, this time of year we receive ads telling us it is time to start thinking about improving our living spaces by upgrading our kitchen, bathroom or basement in time for the holidays.

Read the fine print in ads and contracts, and be careful when they say something about turning your basement into a "money-maker." I do not think they are hinting they could set you up in a counterfeiting outfit, but could, if you let them, build a "rentable apartment" in your basement.

The small print, if it is there, may say, "if legal." Usually, it is not. Recently, I was amazed to find out how many restrictions there are. It apparently depends on what your certificate of occupancy permits. Any other additions could cause problems. I suppose the best advice would be to have an architect draw up the plans you want and then have the plans reviewed by the city Department of Buildings.

Basements are for storage and not meant to be converted into living spaces, although limited comforts, such as a wicker couch, a portable toilet and other portable furniture would probably not get you into trouble. Permanent partitions and appliances needing plumbing, electricity or gas are items that should be checked for approval before installation.

You are not supposed to cook in basements. Of course, many people, either ignorant of the law or unable to overcome temptation, have invested heavily in improving their basements. Warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, a basement atmosphere could lure many — if only basements were places for legally extended periods of time.

There are always lots of things for which we should be thankful. For some time, reading through some of the home improvement ads, I was tempted. Now, however, I'm satisfied to have the original cement floor and walls. I guess we all have a lot to learn about our homes and real estate.

Not too long ago, real estate prices, even in suburban areas, were sky high. Now, however, with the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we have been forced to realize that many of the people who were supposed to be protecting investors and us have let us down and stuck us with huge debt.

Although I hear people blaming banks, there is enough blame to go around, including those who wanted more people to have homes (even if they could not afford them) who therefore sometimes threatened banks with charges of "red lining" if they resisted giving mortgages to that latter group.

Many years ago, as a young working woman with a good salary, I contemplated applying for a mortgage so I could buy my own house. My interview with the bank in the area of my choice was short but not sweet.

Although the interviewer had no problem with my finances, he refused my request because, as he said, "You are marriageable and at a child-bearing age." He looked into the future and thought he saw my earning capacity decrease. As a business-woman, I could see his point — even though since then, women's rights would probably have changed his decision.

We must all make decisions every day. On Sept. 9, the new World Almanac hit the newsstands. Its weather prediction for the next several decades is that we will be entering a period of global cooling. Now, with its fine record of past weather predictions, do we believe hot or cold? I guess we will have to wait and see.

Maybe the hot and cold air will meet in the middle ard give us pleasant, tepid air. One trouble with that would be that our Merrick Boulevard weeds would still grow. One unique solution I heard about on the radio was to have goats devour them. It sounds practical, but I suspect there is a law making that illegal.

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