What are the risks of buying a house with an unpermitted garage conversion?
There are plenty of homes on the market that have unpermitted work, particularly – unpermitted garage conversions. These include garages that have been remodeled to include either a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or all of the above. Oftentimes, the owner may be renting the illegal ADU as well.
The common notion is that buying a property with an unpermitted unit is bad news and that buyers should stay away at all costs. If you’re entertaining the idea of buying such a property, you might be asking yourself questions like:
- When was the garage converted?
- Who did the construction?
- Was the contractor licensed?
- Will I get in trouble for having an illegal unit?
The good news is, you don’t need to worry. New laws in California have made permitting illegal units much easier than before and many municipalities throughout San Diego are willing to work with homeowners to bring their units up to code.
If you’re open to buying a house with an unpermitted garage conversion, read on to learn more about the state’s amnesty program and the benefits of permitting an ADU.
Amnesty Program for Unpermitted Units
The passage of Senate Bill 13 introduced new ADU regulations making it easier to build an accessory dwelling unit in California. These new laws include the creation of an amnesty program which eases the process of permitting an unpermitted unit.
The amnesty program prevents local municipalities from penalizing owners of pre-existing, unpermitted units over the next five years, as long as there are no violations of health and safety.
What does this mean? Let’s say you purchase a house with an unpermitted garage conversion. As long as your goal is to permit the unit and bring it up to code, you don’t need to worry about getting charged a penalty for having an illegal unit in the first place.
The amnesty program is a big incentive for homeowners to bring their illegal units up to code without fear of getting penalized. Unpermitted units are everywhere. Therefore, easing the process to get these units legalized into ADUs will allow more homeowners to provide better and safer housing for renters.
How to Permit an Illegal Unit
Permitting an unpermitted garage conversion into a legal ADU might be easier than you’d think. When evaluating illegal or unpermitted units, building departments want to make sure that the unit is built to code. If it isn’t, they’ll want to make sure that you will make the necessary changes to bring your illegal unit up to building code standards.
To ensure that the entire process to permit your illegal unit runs smoothly, it’s important to work with a professional who understands the ins and outs of ADUs and who are familiar with local requirements.
According to SnapADU, an expert San Diego ADU builder, here are the main steps to get your illegal unit up to code.
Step 1) Draw up plans
The first step to legalizing your illegal ADU is to hire a draftsman or architect to draw up plans of your existing structure.
Step 2) Submit plans to the city
During the plan check process, various departments will review the plans to ensure compliance. These departments include planning, building and fire.
Depending on how your unpermitted unit was built, the city might want to conduct an inspection. This may involve opening up small sections of walls to check for building code compliance.
Step 3) Address non-compliant issues
This will differ on a case-by-case basis. If the building department discovers issues with your existing structure, you will be required to fix them to bring the structure up to building code requirements.
Step 4) Pay for Permits
Permitting costs will highly depend on the type of unit you have, the square footage, and any other issues you need to address to permit the unit. You can expect permit fees to run from $1,000-$5,000 on average.
Do my tenants have to vacate?
Typically, the process for permitting an illegal unit does not require any existing tenants to vacate the premises. This is only the case if no major structural or layout changes need to be done to your existing unit to bring it up to code.
Once you get you have your permits, you can have peace of mind and enjoy the benefits of having a legal unit on your property.
Why Should I Permit an Unpermitted Garage Conversion?
Sure, there are plenty of homeowners who have unpermitted spaces on their properties. In many cases, these unpermitted spaces can go unnoticed for years. However, it is important to consider the risks associated with illegal units, especially if your goal is to rent out the ADU or increase your property value.
If you’re entertaining the idea of buying a house with an unpermitted garage conversion, chances are that you’re looking to rent out the unit.
Renting an unpermitted residential dwelling is illegal, and your tenant has the right to sue you if anything went wrong inside the unit. These risks include fire, flood, injuries from a fall, earthquake damages, etc.
The prime goal of building code enforcement is the health and safety of the public. By legalizing your unit, not only are you reducing your own liability as a landlord, but you are helping to ensure that your tenants are safe while living on your property.
Any unpermitted work done on a property can not be included in the evaluation of the property. One of the biggest benefits of ADUs is the added value to your property. This is because an ADU can turn your single-family home into a two-unit, income producing property. But in order to take advantage of increased property value, you need to ensure that your ADU is legally permitted.
Thanks to California’s amnesty program, homeowners should take advantage of this five year window period to take the steps towards legalizing unpermitted ADUs. Doing so, will allow you to ensure the health and safety of your tenants, reduce your liability as a landlord, and enjoy the increase in property value that a legal ADU brings.
If you’re looking for an ADU-able property, but are unsure where to start — let’s talk. I specialize in identifying the best properties on the market with ADU potential. Whether it’s a home with an unpermitted garage conversion or a property with a large lot for a new detached ADU, I’ll help you identify the perfect property that will fit your goals.