Splitting a SFH into two dwellings in Maryland

10 Replies

Hello everyone, One of the houses I’ve had my eye on lately has the potential to be split into two separate dwellings. Currently, the house is a 4 bed 1.5 bath. And the back master bedroom was an addition built on at some point which is approximately a 20 x 20 room. It already has a rear entrance built in with steps leading up to the door making it a prime candidate for this. My equity partner who is a GC seems confident he can make this into an efficiency with a full bath, kitchenette, washer/ dryer and place for a bed. We would take down another wall to increase its SF to About 500SF without losing the 3 bed 1.5 bath on the main side of the house. So one side is 1 bed 1 bath around 500SF and the other side 3 bed 1.5 bath around 900SF. Anyone have experience with this? We are investing in Maryland. I’d imagine the electrical and plumbing needs to be done by a licensed contractor which isn’t a problem- he has subs that are licensed and he is a licensed GC. Any additional permits need to split a house? Plus whole house is on oil heat which I don’t believe can be split with two separate meters so our plan is to block the duct to the efficiency side and put in its own heating element, Propane wall unit or Electric wall unit. Efficiency side Tenant will be billed separately for this unit. One last thing! We must cut out the sidewalk for a second driveway which gets the county involved. Anyone have experience calling the county to cut and ramp out a sidewalk for a second driveway? On top of all these expenses the numbers do work especially with the two incomes. We’re estimating around $40,000 in expenses with him doing the work. We are 50/50 equity partners and he is very experienced so I trust his numbers. Thank you

@Russell Brazil

Could you elaborate? The bank that gave our LLC the pre-approval on this property knows of our plan and hasn't backed out on financing the deal. Should I call the county planning and zoning department?

My business partner thinks if we call it an in-law suit there shouldn't be any problems.

Originally posted by @Ken Nyczaj :

@Russell Brazil

Could you elaborate? The bank that gave our LLC the pre-approval on this property knows of our plan and hasn't backed out on financing the deal. Should I call the county planning and zoning department?

My business partner thinks if we call it an in-law suit there shouldn't be any problems.

 Your lender has no say in the legality of it. The county wont allow you to rent out 2 seperate units on a 1 unit property.

Russell Brazil, Real Estate Agent in Maryland (#648402), Virginia (#0225219736), District of Columbia (#SP98375353), and Massachusetts (#9​0​5​2​3​4​6)
(301) 893-4635

@Russell Brazil

Thank you for your responses. I'm going to call the planning and zoning administrator and ask a few questions. The street this house sits on has a mix of multi family, single family, and commercial properties with businesses on the first floor and apartments up top.

Due to the types of structures surrounding, it makes me think this area is permitted to have R2/ R3 zoning. Next store is what looks like a large house but has four apartments built within. They do all have street numbers and actual addresses though.

We would more or less be creating an in-law suit.

Check the actual zoning for the property and what that zoning permits.  There is no such thing as "R2/R3" zoning.  It can be "R2" or "R3" and each has an explicit definition.  R3 might include multifamily while R2 does not, for example.  Your local zoning office can point you to the ordinances.

Just calling it an in-law suite is not going to cut it.  You must comply with the ordinance definition of "in-law suite" if it has one.  Many municipalities limit in-law suite to direct relatives of the owners of the principal dwelling.  They are not for whomever you can get to sign a lease.

It will depend on the zoning, which in Maryland varies by county - I was able to obtain permits to legally convert a single rancher into a two unit duplex in Baltimore County a few years ago.  Based on the zoning (DR 3.5, I believe) it should have been a by-right conversion (meaning I wouldn't have to seek permission, besides pulling regular permits) but the existing house was non-confirming so I had to seek a variance from an Administrative Law Judge.  PM me if you'd like contact info for the planners that helped me with the process.

@James Mc Ree After checking with planning and zoning, they were completely fine with creating an in-law suite. Since we weren’t adding any non-permeable land to the building we didn’t need additional permits or have to pay additional impact fees. Since the property was on county sewer/ water there didn’t need to be an inspection of wells or septic tanks. We would need to acquire permits of course but legally the county was fine with it. Regardless, our offer was rejected.

@Joe Norman thanks joe. I will gladly seek your advice but our offer was rejected.

Originally posted by @Ken Nyczaj :

@James Mc Ree After checking with planning and zoning, they were completely fine with creating an in-law suite. Since we weren’t adding any non-permeable land to the building we didn’t need additional permits or have to pay additional impact fees. Since the property was on county sewer/ water there didn’t need to be an inspection of wells or septic tanks. We would need to acquire permits of course but legally the county was fine with it. Regardless, our offer was rejected.

@Joe Norman thanks joe. I will gladly seek your advice but our offer was rejected.

 Did you ask them if they would issue a multiple dwelling rental license on a property that is currently a single unit? This would allow you to rent out both units seperately. An "in law suite" or accessory dwelling unit, where allowed in most of Maryland is available only if the property is owner occupied. (PG County doesnt allow ADUs at all)

Russell Brazil, Real Estate Agent in Maryland (#648402), Virginia (#0225219736), District of Columbia (#SP98375353), and Massachusetts (#9​0​5​2​3​4​6)
(301) 893-4635

@Russell Brazil I’ll make some follow up calls and ask about these points specifically. Our offer was rejected but it would still be good information to know for future reference. Thank you

Anne Arundel  County considers (you didn't say where the property was) an in law suite different than a separate unit. I bought a property in Glen Burnie that was advertised as a single family with an in law suite. I did not check into the zoning before the purchase. It was actually two separate units. The county told me I could not do that, that having multiple dwellings on a single lot was against zoning.

if there would have been access between the units it would have been ok. That would be considered an in law suite. if there are separate entrances with no access between the units it will be considered two separate dwellings.

I had to go through the variance process with the county for it to be legal. It was not hard to get it approved partially because  at least a third of the neighborhood was duplexs and tri plexes already.

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