• RTB Staff

Permits, Laws and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) (FAQ)

Yes, they are beautifully designed and sustainable. Yes, they can both save and generate money.

And yes, accessory dwelling units can be a paperwork nightmare.

But never fear, because we did the research, and covered all you need to know to dive into the world of permitting ADU’s. 

How has ADU permitting changed in the last 10 years? What should I know about the process now?

In short, it is now easier than ever to get an ADU project off the ground. Many cities, a plethora of which are in California, are actively encouraging ADU construction and leasing as a way of developing local communities, from incentive programs to financing options to new property regulations. 

How do I get started in the permitting process?

Now, to begin with, you should be doing the research on what type and size of ADU you want, so that you can confirm it fits into the local standards and regulations set at your county, city, or state level. You can then contact local building officials for more information, and apply for approval on your unit through your city. In addition, arranging a pre-approved loan or financing plan, general design and floor plan, and selecting both a contractor and architect is a good step you can take while waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn. 

What kind of documents may I need to gather?

What forms and documents you need to be approved for permitting really depends on both the scope of your project and the area you live in. But it’s a safe bet to gather  and fill out: 

  1. The building permit application form

  2. The residential system development charge form

  3. The building construction plan

  4. The site, architectural, and structure plans

I know a guy who converted the old shed in his backyard into an ADU, himself, no permitting and codes needed. Can’t I just do the same thing?

No, you can’t. Though, to be fair, neither can your friend; he just hasn’t gotten in trouble for it yet. 

The fact of the matter is, no one can get out of ADU permitting -- even the impassioned DIYer’s have to follow the rules. Not doing so can not only subject you to fines and legal conflict, but also make it impossible to legally lease out your space. And remember, an ADU that serves as a secondary living space requires correct wiring, plumbing, and installation, as well as proper insulation and AC/heating.  

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