Legalizing an Illegal Addition in Sacramento

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How can one make an illegal unit, legal? Has anyone gone through the process? 

Looking to buy a house in Sacramento that has 600 sq feet of illegal added additions. They look professionally done -- match the existing house perfectly. The house is priced without considering this extra space. 

I come across this sort of thing often and have always wanted to know the process of legalizing these un permitted structures. Is it really that difficult?

The process depends...

Un-permitted work that falls within the zoning/land use allowed, like an extra room on an otherwise legal SFR. Then you are going to need an architect/engineer who will put together a plan set to process through the municipality just like if you were building new. This accomplished two things 1) it creates a paper trail of the work 2) it allows the work to be inspected, even if those inspections might be minimal compared to what was done. The municipality may even allow the architect/engineer to inspect and sign an affidavit of compliance with code. The reason for this process is the plans that show the building will end up in the permanent record, and it also allows the County to update the record card for the property to reflect the correct SF...and correctly tax the property.

The other is that if the work that was done does not meet zone/land-use, depending on the extent to which it doesn't meet...like building 2 extra apartments on a SFR parcel you may need what is called a 'discretionary action'. This would be your variance, re-zone or development permit. This is going to depend greatly on what the issue is and whether it is even 'fixable'. After that you will still need to do the things above to get the construction in the record, this step is just to get the approval for what was done that doesn't meet zoning ect.

THe mechanics of how you do these will be different for each municipality, but generally this is what you want to do. So go discuss with the permitting department to get a general idea of what is needed first, and then from there you can assess if it is worthwhile.