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Remodel or Build an ADU?

Building an ADU

Building an ADU

In the last few months, I have been toying with the idea of remodeling my house to add some additional square footage. After doing some research, I am now considering adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) – also referred to as an in-law unit or granny flat. New state rules went into effect in January 2017 making it easier for CA homeowners to add ADUs to their properties in order to address the housing shortage. Below is a summary of things to know about ADUs from a recent article I read by Curbed LA:

  1. If you have the space, you can build an ADU. It has to be at least 10 ft. from the main house & 5 ft. from any property lines. And you do not need to provide parking if your property is located within a half mile of a major public transit stop.
  2. ADUs can be established in existing structures (including pool houses or underused garages) or a portion of the existing property can be converted to an ADU, as long as it has its own entrance, kitchen, & bathroom.Before you start building, you will need to show project plans to your local dept. of building and safety, and once it is completed, a certificate of occupancy must be obtained before anyone can move in. City Lab UCLA developed a 20-page guidebook on Building an ADU in the City of LA, which includes the updated state regulations. To avoid some of the headache of building your own ADU, prefabricated units could be a solution. Local companies include Cover and PLÚS HÚS.
  3. ADUs cannot be larger than 1,200 sq. ft. If attached to the main house, the limit is 1,200 sq. ft. or half the size of the existing residence – whichever is smaller.
  4. RVs cannot be permitted as an ADU, however, the city of LA is working on a potential new ADU standard to include RVs as a new category.
  5. If you plan to live in the ADU and rent out your house, keep in mind that b/c an ADU adds a unit to your property, the single-family categorization no longer applies, which triggers rent control on the main residence (if it was constructed before 1978).

Some of the rules (like the size, distance to property lines, and the ability to list it on Airbnb) could vary from city to city (Santa Monica, Glendale, Pasadena, and Long Beach have city-specific guidelines that have already been approved), so be sure to check with your city before starting to build an ADU. If you are just looking to add extra room, you may not need all the required permits to build an ADU. But if you’re going to go through the trouble of adding a structure, it might be worth it to get the necessary permits. You never know what could happen in the future…it could be used as a potential source of rental income, or you could win points with your spouse when you can provide a place for your in-laws to live.