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The Rundown on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

The ADU movement is on the rise in LA and not going away. We are in the midst of a paradigm shift, and the way we use our homes is part of that. From additional rental income to housing for relatives to increasing property value, these units offer a number of benefits for homeowners. With an estimated 4,500 projects permitted in 2019 alone, we cover what you need to know about this growing trend in LA real estate.

Image Courtesy of Studio

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?

An Accessory Dwelling Unit, also known as a granny or in-law unit, is a living unit that may be up to 1200 sq. ft. An ADU is an attached or detached residential dwelling unit which provides independent living facilities for one or more people. The ADU unit is located on the same property as the primary residence, and is an accessory to the primary residential building.

As of January 2020, ADUs and JADUs (see below) are now allowed to be added to existing multi-family units (not just single-family residences). Another new development is one ADU and one JADU may be built on any lot with an existing or planned single family home.

What is a JADU?

A Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU) is an ADU of no more than 500 square feet and must be within a proposed or existing single-family home or accessory structure, such as a garage. Unlike ADUs, JADUs may share a bathroom with the single-family home and must only meet “efficiency kitchen” requirements. (Source)

Why Install an ADU?

Homeowners build ADUs for various reasons, including:

  • To generate rental income

  • To increase a property’s resale value and home equity

  • To create private living spaces for extended family or elderly parents

  • To maximize use of space in a formerly unused portion of your property

What Are the Different Types of ADUs?

Homeowners can build many different types of ADUs. They can be attached or detached from the existing home, or located within the existing home.

  • Detached: An independent structure entirely separate from the primary dwelling that includes full amenities.

  • Garage Conversion: A conversion of an existing garage or structure that includes full amenities

  • Garage Addition: An addition, attached that shares at least one wall with the garage. Units can be built above the garage.

  • Attached: An addition, attached to the primary dwelling that includes full amenities

  • JADU: An ADU of no more than 500sf

Image Courtesy of Bunch Design

How Much Do They Cost to Build?

Typically the cost per square foot to build an ADU is $220 – 350 in Los Angeles according to Maxable, a leading California firm that offers free ADU consultations. Unsurprisingly, single-story garage conversions tend to be the least expensive.

How Long Do They Take to Build?

According to Modative, a LA-based architecture firm that specializes in ADUs, a Garage Conversion ADU can take between 3 – 6 months from start to finish, whereas a Ground-Up ADU can take between 6 – 9 months to complete.

Is a Building Permit Required for An ADU?

If you are building an ADU, you will need the relevant permits and have a full inspection as you would with any residential property. Good news is that at the start of 2020, California State introduced new laws to make the process more streamlined. For more information on the permit and inspection process, click here.

Is Parking Required for an ADU?

Parking requirements for ADUs vary based on the type, size and location of the unit. For more details, click here.

Image Courtesy of Modative

Can I Rent My ADU?

Yes, but long term rentals only. Short-term rentals like Airbnb are not allowed unless the resident can prove the ADU is their primary home.

Do I Have to Live on the Property?

No, you can rent the main house and the ADU.

Can I Legalize an Unpermitted ADU or Garage Conversion?

Yes, the introduction of bill AB 670 at the start of the year, you will have five years to legalize your granny flat by bringing your structure up to code as long as the issues are not related to health and safety. Maxable outlines the 4-step process here.

Need a Little Inspo?

Dwell Magazine has compiled a list ‘7 Smart ADUs and Additions That Cost as Little as $18k’  that is sure to get the creative juices flowing.

Additional Resources for More Info

Below is a list of resources to learn more about recent news and regulations including links to the Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning and the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. Always consult an architect or professional before beginning any work on your home. All the material presented above is intended for informational purposes only. Information is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is subject to errors, omissions, or changes without notice.

LA County Department of Regional Planning 

The Official Ordinance for the City of Los Angeles

Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety

Erica Lockhart – DRE 01763313
Lorin Ruttenberg – DRE 01309588
Compass is a licensed real estate broker licensed by the state of California and abides by equal housing opportunity laws. All material presented herein is intended for informational purposes only. Information is compiled from sources deemed reliable but is subject to errors, omissions, changes in price, condition, sale, or withdrawal without notice. No statement is made as to accuracy of any description. All measurements and square footages are approximate. This is not intended to solicit property already listed. Nothing herein shall be construed as legal, accounting or other professional advice outside the realm of real estate brokerage.