Accessory dwelling units

27 Replies

I bought a house that has an unpermitted accessory dwelling unit in Loma Linda CA. The unit us very well done and I'm wondering if it's possible to get It permitted or if it's even worth the trouble.

I know ADUs are allowed in this area but we need a permit to build one. Since this one is already built, I'm scared that if i start down this path to getting it permitted, the local authorities are gonna bite me.

Anyone have any suggestions?

@Charles Lee around here a home inspector for a small unit like that might cost $300-$400. You might consider hiring one to point out any flaws and remedy those before inviting the building dept in... I always warn my clients away from un-permitted properties. But since you already own it I would make it as "permit ready" as I could and just start renting it out. Right now you are earning zero dollars per month on it. Worse case scenario is that you get caught and shut down and you are again earning zero dollars per month... Make sure your insurance company knows of its existence. 

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It depends on how it was built. An unpermitted unit can certainly get permitted but without knowing all the details, it is very difficult to say. I would advise having an architect and structural engineer look it over and see if the foundation, mechanicals and plumbing were properly built. I would also have them check set backs and sewer to make sure all is proper for permitting.

New Law Allows Three Housing Units on Every Parcel in California Statement from California YIMBY President & CEO Brian Hanlon

Sacramento, CA – Today California YIMBY released the following statement celebrating the historic passage of a package of bills that could triple housing supply in the state:

“The passage of AB 68, along with SB 13 and AB 881, fundamentally shifts the landscape for building new homes in our state,” said Brian Hanlon, co-founder and President of California YIMBY. “When the Governor signs these bills into law, almost every residential property in the state will be allowed to build three units of housing — including in areas zoned for single family homes.”

Under AB 68, homeowners who apply to build accessory dwelling units, or "granny flats," can also apply to build a second, "junior" ADU on their property — the functional equivalent of statewide triplex zoning. While the new rules don't allow the subdivision of properties for sale, they could unleash a "golden age" of ADU construction across the state, leading to a significant increase in housing supply.

AB 881 and SB 13 provide additional incentives for ADU creation by streamlining permit processes, reducing fees, and removing rules that inhibited the construction of ADUs by requiring homeowners to live on-site.

“California YIMBY is honored to have sponsored AB 68 and AB 881, landmark bills that will likely lead to tens of thousands of new homes across our state,” Hanlon said. “And SB 13, which we strongly supported, is a vital and complementary piece of legislation that, combined with the others, represent a win-win for homeowners, renters, and cities everywhere that are struggling to accommodate more homes.

“We’re proud to have supported the legislative leadership of Asm. Phil Ting (San Francisco – AB 68), Asm. Richard Bloom (Santa Monica – AB 881), and Sen. Bob Wieckowski (Fremont – SB 13) to address the root cause of the housing crisis: There aren’t enough homes. Today is a huge step forward on making sure California is affordable for everyone.”

Speaking only from the perspective of having converted several existing garages to ADU's in the City of Los Angeles.... Depending on how it was completed, you may run into several issues that may make it not worth legalizing. Was it a converted garage or a brand new structure? As stated above you will need an architect and structural engineer most likely, and setbacks could be a huge issue for several reasons, including getting approval from the utilities (DWP in Los Angeles). You may have to remove walls and expose foundations to show what has and has not been upgraded or built. I would avoid...

@Paul Skikne Hi Paul, have you had an recent success with ADU conversions with existing garages in LA? We pursued this in 2018 and were denied by DWP due to existing power lines that run parallel to our property line and directly about the garage. I'm in south central off 92nd and van ness and curious if the new changes would be more favorable for our conversion.

I am not familiar with the new changes, however I have had good success with converting existing garages to ADU's, but I will only try do it if I have at least 5 feet setback from power lines to make sure I get DWP approval. I have converted several this past year with no DWP issues.

Originally posted by @Derek Smith :

@Paul Skikne Hi Paul, have you had an recent success with ADU conversions with existing garages in LA? We pursued this in 2018 and were denied by DWP due to existing power lines that run parallel to our property line and directly about the garage. I'm in south central off 92nd and van ness and curious if the new changes would be more favorable for our conversion.

The new laws do not address easements and any DWP power line easements would still be in effect (based on my readings of the new bills). If your existing garage is not at least 5 feet from the property line (the utility easement), then it was not built legally and could never become legal without knocking down the portion inside of the utility easement. This can certainly be done but is the cost worth it? That would take some research on your part to determine.

@Will Barnard and @Paul Skikne what was your all-in $/sf to add an ADU onto the property...for either converting existing structure or adding new structure? I have several properties I'd like to do this at, including some multi-family. My gut says it makes financial sense in SoCal and other areas where land costs are high, but I also have some properties in smaller towns in NorCal where the land is cheaper. When the cost of construction is higher than the cost of purchasing an existing property, especially if all or most of the cost can't be financed at the same terms, I'm guessing the extra cash flow won't amount to much more of a return...

@Account Closed I only convert existing garages to ADU's. Cost range depending on several different conditions of existing structure approx 30-50K. Condition of existing garage, where it sits on the lot and lot line, footings, exterior stucco, existing openings etc. all contribute...

Originally posted by @Todd Smith:

@Will Barnard and @Paul Skikne what was your all-in $/sf to add an ADU onto the property...for either converting existing structure or adding new structure? I have several properties I'd like to do this at, including some multi-family. My gut says it makes financial sense in SoCal and other areas where land costs are high, but I also have some properties in smaller towns in NorCal where the land is cheaper. When the cost of construction is higher than the cost of purchasing an existing property, especially if all or most of the cost can't be financed at the same terms, I'm guessing the extra cash flow won't amount to much more of a return...

 That is a fluctuating range as finishes, location of sewer and utility connections, size, location, access, etc all play a role in costs. Paul mentioned $30k-$50k for a garage conversion. That is pretty inexpensive and I would imagine it is a cost of him doing it himself (or subbing out each trade) and would likely be construction only and not permit costs and arch/structural design fees.

$250Sf - $450sf is a typical range of costs here in So Cal.

To your other point, where the costs to build are more than the cost of existing, it does not make sense but in many areas here in So Cal, the cost to build has been much less than the cost to buy existing (quite the opposite from 10 years ago!) so in those locations, building an ADU or converting garages to ADU units is a great opportunity for creating cash flow that you otherwise could not buy outright from the start.

@Will Barnard Thanks for the info. I had a call with Peter Erdelyi yesterday, an architect that advertises ADU's. It sounds like the most interesting opportunity is multifamily - adding one unit within and possibly one more detached unit if the lot is large enough. The big upside seems to be if the building needs to be retrofitted for earthquake, you can convert the carport or garage to an ADU with a lot of costs that would have to be spent regardless because of the retrofit.

He also mentioned something about relaxed parking requirements in the front setbacks of properties. While I know the new CA law mandates municipalities allow reducing the parking at the building if converting a garage / carport to an ADU, I also have to think from a practical perspective, someone may not pay as much if there isn't a parking space (or less parking spaces). But he mentioned converting a portion of the front yard setback (or really any setback for that matter) into a new parking space. I haven't confirmed that, and it may be specific to City of LA, but it seems like an interesting.

I looked at some of the houses on your website.  Nice work.

Originally posted by @Todd Smith:

@Will Barnard Thanks for the info. I had a call with Peter Erdelyi yesterday, an architect that advertises ADU's. It sounds like the most interesting opportunity is multifamily - adding one unit within and possibly one more detached unit if the lot is large enough. The big upside seems to be if the building needs to be retrofitted for earthquake, you can convert the carport or garage to an ADU with a lot of costs that would have to be spent regardless because of the retrofit.

He also mentioned something about relaxed parking requirements in the front setbacks of properties. While I know the new CA law mandates municipalities allow reducing the parking at the building if converting a garage / carport to an ADU, I also have to think from a practical perspective, someone may not pay as much if there isn't a parking space (or less parking spaces). But he mentioned converting a portion of the front yard setback (or really any setback for that matter) into a new parking space. I haven't confirmed that, and it may be specific to City of LA, but it seems like an interesting.

I looked at some of the houses on your website.  Nice work.

One thing about adding both the ADU and JADU in CA, is that if you are adding a JADU the jurisdiction can mandate owner occupancy. Even if you are going planning on living there, you also have to take into consideration any potential resale difficulties. You would have a 3 unit property that could only be sold to house hackers. You would be eliminating all non-house hacking purchasers.

I recently had a property that we considered for purchase that was ideally set up for a JADU (there had been a addition that already had a separate entrance, BR, and Ba). We were not going to initially put in the JADU. We were going to put in a detached ADU (new construction). If the rules changed on owner occupancy related to the JADU, then we would have leveraged the fairly easy JADU addition. We were not planning on living on the RE, but even if we were I am unsure if it would have convinced us that the JADU would be worth it. Best to have good exit plans.

Good luck

Originally posted by @Dan Heuschele :
Originally posted by @Todd Smith:

@Will Barnard Thanks for the info. I had a call with Peter Erdelyi yesterday, an architect that advertises ADU's. It sounds like the most interesting opportunity is multifamily - adding one unit within and possibly one more detached unit if the lot is large enough. The big upside seems to be if the building needs to be retrofitted for earthquake, you can convert the carport or garage to an ADU with a lot of costs that would have to be spent regardless because of the retrofit.

He also mentioned something about relaxed parking requirements in the front setbacks of properties. While I know the new CA law mandates municipalities allow reducing the parking at the building if converting a garage / carport to an ADU, I also have to think from a practical perspective, someone may not pay as much if there isn't a parking space (or less parking spaces). But he mentioned converting a portion of the front yard setback (or really any setback for that matter) into a new parking space. I haven't confirmed that, and it may be specific to City of LA, but it seems like an interesting.

I looked at some of the houses on your website.  Nice work.

One thing about adding both the ADU and JADU in CA, is that if you are adding a JADU the jurisdiction can mandate owner occupancy. Even if you are going planning on living there, you also have to take into consideration any potential resale difficulties. You would have a 3 unit property that could only be sold to house hackers. You would be eliminating all non-house hacking purchasers.

I recently had a property that we considered for purchase that was ideally set up for a JADU (there had been a addition that already had a separate entrance, BR, and Ba). We were not going to initially put in the JADU. We were going to put in a detached ADU (new construction). If the rules changed on owner occupancy related to the JADU, then we would have leveraged the fairly easy JADU addition. We were not planning on living on the RE, but even if we were I am unsure if it would have convinced us that the JADU would be worth it. Best to have good exit plans.

Good luck

I believe the new CA legislation effective 1/1/2020 knocked out the ability for any municipality to require owner occupancy for ADU's or JADU's.

Originally posted by @Todd Smith:
Originally posted by @Dan Heuschele:
Originally posted by @Todd Smith:

@Will Barnard Thanks for the info. I had a call with Peter Erdelyi yesterday, an architect that advertises ADU's. It sounds like the most interesting opportunity is multifamily - adding one unit within and possibly one more detached unit if the lot is large enough. The big upside seems to be if the building needs to be retrofitted for earthquake, you can convert the carport or garage to an ADU with a lot of costs that would have to be spent regardless because of the retrofit.

He also mentioned something about relaxed parking requirements in the front setbacks of properties. While I know the new CA law mandates municipalities allow reducing the parking at the building if converting a garage / carport to an ADU, I also have to think from a practical perspective, someone may not pay as much if there isn't a parking space (or less parking spaces). But he mentioned converting a portion of the front yard setback (or really any setback for that matter) into a new parking space. I haven't confirmed that, and it may be specific to City of LA, but it seems like an interesting.

I looked at some of the houses on your website.  Nice work.

One thing about adding both the ADU and JADU in CA, is that if you are adding a JADU the jurisdiction can mandate owner occupancy. Even if you are going planning on living there, you also have to take into consideration any potential resale difficulties. You would have a 3 unit property that could only be sold to house hackers. You would be eliminating all non-house hacking purchasers.

I recently had a property that we considered for purchase that was ideally set up for a JADU (there had been a addition that already had a separate entrance, BR, and Ba). We were not going to initially put in the JADU. We were going to put in a detached ADU (new construction). If the rules changed on owner occupancy related to the JADU, then we would have leveraged the fairly easy JADU addition. We were not planning on living on the RE, but even if we were I am unsure if it would have convinced us that the JADU would be worth it. Best to have good exit plans.

Good luck

I believe the new CA legislation effective 1/1/2020 knocked out the ability for any municipality to require owner occupancy for ADU's or JADU's.

incorrect. JADU still allows restriction to owner occupied. ADU can no longer mandate owner occupancy.

Note: just because the state allows a jurisdiction to require owner occupancy for a JADU, does not mean the jurisdiction is obligated to have this limitation. The state ADU rules are minimums that must be followed by a CA jurisdiction. A jurisdiction can be more lenient, but it is rare. I added this because verify with your local jurisdiction, but the jurisdiction is allowed to require owner occupancy for a JADU.

Originally posted by @Brian Larson :

@Dan Heuschele - San Jose is a more lenient jurisdiction for ADUs.

Are you indicating San Jose does not require owner occupancy for a JADU? A jurisdiction can be more lenient than the state ADU rules, but this would be the first jurisdiction that I am aware of to allow JADU without an owner occupancy requirement.