What California Laws You Should Know Before Building Your ADU

What California Laws You Should Know Before Building Your ADU

Inhabitable additions to your home, known as accessory dwelling units (ADUs), can be invaluable for both personal use and the ability to rent them out to other people in certain areas. They also add curb appeal and value to your property. Homeowners are able to get creative with the space that they own and install a variety of different structures or convert existing ones into livable spaces for residents.

With that said, some state and local laws have prevented property owners from building these installations onto their home or converting existing structures into new living spaces in the past. The good news for property owners is that recently, new laws have been passed that have eased restrictions, allowing homeowners the chance to do with their space as they please. Learn more about the new state laws from Garage Conversion CBI in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Contact our team today for more information!

accessory dwelling unit interior

What Is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit is an additional living space that is added onto a homeowners property whether it is for personal use or to rent out to tenants. These ADUs can come in several different forms, but all fall under the same, previously extremely restrictive, laws in California and other rules instituted by homeowners associations in their neighborhoods. The first common type of ADU is simply the conversion of a pre-existing or newly built structure into a living space that is connected to the home or a separate entity.

Following that, the next popular form of ADU is garage conversion. People take their existing garage space that they may not be using for parking or storage and change it into something like an additional bedroom or a completely new area with amenities like small kitchens, bathrooms, and other useful rooms. The final common form of ADU installation is essentially just a home remodel. You can add an additional level to your home or otherwise get creative with your dwelling unit.

accessory dwelling unit

Eased Requirements, HOA Restrictions, and Occupancy Rules

The first of the many changes to California laws regarding ADUs is that the size requirements for both your addition or converted space have been reduced. From now on, you are allowed to build an ADU that is 800 square feet or more regardless of the size of your lot. Additionally, property owners in California are allowed to construct a single junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU) that is smaller than 500 square feet in size. One of the problems outside of these previous restrictions in the past has been that homeowners associations no longer have the ability to restrict your ability to build an ADU on your property, even if you live in a historic district, where preventative rules were even more restrictive than normal.

Another large change in ADU laws is related to the occupancy rules regarding home additions or conversions. Previously, you had to be an occupant of the property in order to even be considered for approval to build an add-on to your home. This was highly problematic for investors and landlords alike who rent spaces to tenants. With the new laws, you can apply for an ADU permit for rental and investment properties regardless of if you live there or not. This legislation will remain in place until at least 2025, when the law is up for review. But, any ADU approved prior to January 1st of that year will remain exempt from occupancy restrictions.

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Financial Aid and Fee Reduction

To the benefit of home and property owners, the state of California has increased its commitment to financial aid for ADU-seeking individuals. It is now a requirement for local housing agencies to make plans that incentivize their creation and classify them as low to moderate-income housing units in their own right. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) recently created a list of grants and other financial assistance incentives for constructing and renting out affordable ADUs.

Fees imposed by local agencies, utility companies, and special districts were often prohibitive when it came to the construction of accessory dwelling units. These exist in order to offset the infrastructure impact of having more individual tenants living on a single property. This often averaged out at about $23,000 per family. Under the new regulations, any unit under 750 square feet is exempt from these fees and anything over that size is only required to pay an amount that is proportionate to the size of the home and ADU.

A final point in favor of ADU conversions comes in the form of an ease on restrictive utility practices. Utility connection fees and capacity charges won’t affect ADUs and JADUs because they are no longer considered new residential uses. However, owners are still subject to these charges if their unit is built as a new single-family residence. Regardless, these extensive fee reductions and financial incentives offered to California property owners will go a long way in encouraging enthusiastic homeowners to invest their time and money in the construction of accessory dwelling units going forward.

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Faster Permitting and Reduced Parking Restrictions

A frustrating aspect of the process of installing an accessory dwelling unit on your property in California has always been the permit approval process. Depending on the number of submissions, time of year, and many other factors, getting legal permission to start on your construction permit could take up to four whole months under the old regulations. But, fortunately, the timeframe in which permit applications must be approved or denied has been cut in half. Now, property owners can expect a response in 60 days at the most. New statewide guidelines have also made the process itself less complicated, so application processing is easier.

Another property owner-friendly regulation that has been dissolved is the previous requirement that anyone that converts their home’s garage into an ADU was required to provide a replacement parking space for vehicles. Now, that is no longer a necessity. Furthermore, homeowners are no longer subject to ADU parking standards if their home is a half mile from public transportation, is part of an existing or planned primary residence, or is located in one of many historical districts. In more ways than one, the amount of red tape has been significantly reduced in recent years.

Have you been considering converting your garage into its own compact living space? Were you thinking about adding another level to your Orange County or Los Angeles County home? Perhaps you were even considering constructing an entirely separate unit in your backyard to rent out and make some extra income. Now that you know the new laws and regulations surrounding the planning, construction, and renting of accessory dwelling units, you are ready to go forth and get started on your project!

If you are thinking about installing an ADU on your property, take advantage of all of the new incentives and reduced restrictions that previously prohibited homeowners from investing in their construction dreams. There has never been a better time to make an addition to your property that can drive up its value and make it a home that is more your own. If you’re ready to start making moves regarding your Los Angeles County or Orange County property, get in touch with a team of experienced contractors who can walk you through every step of the process, from permits to construction. Garage Conversion CBI offers our clients free estimates on their dream projects and will get the job done right, so start the process and get your quote today!