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California ADU laws help homeowners build granny flats

There’s a traditional saying that goes along the lines of ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.’ The previous expression reminds us that important work takes time. While California lawmakers aren’t necessarily trying to build another Rome, they are entrusted with the important task of addressing the existing housing crisis. 

Through the work of several legislators, California’s housing crisis is brick by brick, or in this case, law by law being addressed through smaller pieces of legislation. During a recent grand signing ceremony, Governor Gavin Newsom signed several ADU (Accessory Dwelling Units) bills into law that collectively empower homeowners in California to erect small freestanding homes (i.e. granny flats) and convert garages into residential spaces. Governor Gavin Newsom hopes that reduced barriers to ADU construction will ultimately spur further construction, leading to an increase in the available housing. 

Planning to build a granny flat?

Use a lease to get your rental details in writing.

What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)?

An ADU is a small free-standing or attached structure that property owners can construct and lease as rental units. They are typically less than 1,000 feet and are often called “secondary units,” “granny flats,” “in-law suites” or “cottages.” 

What are the benefits of building an ADU?

Constructing an ADU can prove beneficial in the following ways: 

  • Adds overall value to the existing residence
  • Offers homeowners the opportunity to generate extra income
  • Has less of an environmental impact than other housing options
  • Decreases the need to expand infrastructure (Ex. Roads)
  • Allows neighborhoods to grow without drastically changing their overall character

What are the recently passed ADU bills that I should know about? 

The following bills apply to property owners across California:

  • AB-68 (Ting): Restricts how often a city can say no when a homeowner applies for permits to build ADU’s that are less than 850 square feet in size and 16 feet in height. Homeowners will also have the option to add a second in-law unit on the property if there is space to build the unit at least 4 feet away from property lines. In other words, a single family home can turn into a triplex. 
  • SB-13 (Wieckowski): A combination of AB-68 and AB-881, SB-13 specifically addresses issues associated with high permit fees and other barriers concerning ADU development. SP-13 waives local impact fees on ADU’s that are less than 750 square feet and will decrease fees for units that exceed that size.  For 5 years, owners of ADUs are also no longer required to live in the main dwelling while renting out the ADU, allowing a landlord to rent out both the main and accessory unit. 
  • SB-330 (Skinner): Also referred to as the “Housing Crisis Act of 2019,” SB-330 generally bans housing construction moratoriums, bars local governments from decreasing the amount of homes that can be built, and reduces the amount of time it takes to obtain a building permit. 

What was once a time-consuming and financially burdensome venture for homeowners transformed into a simpler, more streamlined, and economical investment. Homeowners across the state will now face reduced barriers and greater opportunities with regard to ADU development. If you are a homeowner who is considering an ADU, check out our resources on renting out residential property.

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