Here's everything you need to know to navigate through the permitting process to get your ADU permit in Los Angeles.
Updated Aug 24, 2023
Want to add more living space to your property in Los Angeles on a budget? Thanks to their versatility, affordability, and newly streamlined permitting processes, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are gaining popularity in Los Angeles as a viable solution for homeowners.
The relaxed regulations make it much easier to create an ADU in Los Angeles. This guide to permitting an ADU in Los Angeles will help you learn everything you need to know to navigate the ADU world.
Why is it necessary to get an ADU permitted?
Depending on where you are building your ADU, there may be specific local regulations that you need to follow. Adhering to these guidelines is required and seeking the help of a trusted ADU provider like Cottage ensures you don’t run into any legal challenges down the line.
Permitting an ADU makes it far easier to sell in the future, and since the ADU becomes an official part of your property, it boosts the value of your home. This means your property value goes up, which is important if you’re ever planning to resell. Plus, once your ADU is permitted, you can legally rent it out without any worries.
The permitting process in LA may involve obtaining building permits and zoning permits, and the requirements can vary depending on the type of ADU you plan to build.
Read on to learn about some of the basic permits required by all ADU projects.
What permits do you need to build an ADU?
The permits required for building an ADU in Los Angeles can depend on factors such as the size, location, and valuation of your unit. Here’s a list of the most commonly required permits:
1. Building permit
Unless state law exempts your project from the planning stage, you will need an approved building permit to show you’re compliant with your jurisdiction’s building requirements.
If you work with Cottage on permitting, we’ll have your plans drawn to scale, compile your permit set, and apply on your behalf.
2. MEP (Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) permits
During the course of your project, your ADU provider will obtain MEP permits from the local government and utility providers to ensure your site has all the necessary utility connections set up before you move in.
3. Location permit
Location permit requirements depend on where you’re building your ADU. If your site is along the coast or within a designated landslide or geo-hazard zone, you may need a coastal development permit (CDP) or a geological hazard clearance, respectively.
All ADUs will require the above permits at the very least. Now, we’ll go into more detail about permitting criteria in Los Angeles.
Which ADU structures need a permit?
Both attached and detached ADUs in Los Angeles require permits regardless of whether you are converting an existing space or building from the ground up.
You must submit a permit application if your project falls under any of the following categories:
ADUs attached to single-family residences
ADUs converted from spaces within single-family residences
Newly constructed detached ADUs on single-family properties
Detached ADUs converted from accessory structures on single-family properties
Junior ADUs (JADUs) converted from within single-family residences or detached structures (either new construction or conversion of an existing home or accessory)
Garage conversions (either attached or detached)
ADUs converted from within multi-family residences
Up to two detached ADUs (either separate or connected) on multi-family residences
While an ADU provider like Cottage will help you apply for your permits, here is a quick look at what is needed before submitting an ADU permit application.
What do you need to apply for permits?
ADU projects have certain requirements when applying for a building permit. These include,
A lot located in an approved residential zone; there is no minimum size requirement
A pre-existing home on the property
A structure that meets the basic restrictions (e.g., backyard space, sufficient garage space, and more)
You might also need additional clearances and/or reports from other departments besides the Planning Department, such as,
Department of Water and Power (DWP)
Fire Department - hydrants and access
Department of City Planning - Historical Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), specific plan, and/or front yard landscape
Department of Public Works - design, construction, renovation, and operation of public projects
Bureau of Engineering (BOE) - curb cuts, sewer connection, address approval, and/or site drainage
Bureau of Street Services (BSS) and Urban Forestry Division (UFD) - removal of trees in parkways and/or onsite trees
Bureau of Sanitation (SAN) - low impact development and stormwater pollution mitigation
The approval bodies that may need to green light your plans will depend on the specific characteristics of your project, but working with a provider like Cottage ensures a more seamless and efficient permitting experience for homeowners. Read on for a breakdown of the process.
What is the process of acquiring an ADU permit in LA?
As of 2020, LA implemented an improved permitting process meant to make life easier for ADU owners and providers. Here’s what it looks like,
Step 1 - Your provider will identify whether your site is located in an incorporated or unincorporated area and which jurisdiction you fall under, and liaise with the relevant approval body
Step 2 - Obtain site-specific zoning and property information
Step 3 - Acquire site-specific building permit records online, in-person, or by mail – your provider will choose the most appropriate method for your project
Step 4 - Your provider will create a submittal package that includes the existing building permit records, along with the following minimum plan requirements, all drawn to scale:
Step 5 - Submit the package to the Planning Department and Department of Building and Safety via ePlanLA and obtain the necessary clearances from other City Departments if required
Step 6 - The above departments will review your documents, finalize any changes needed for approval, and return the plans back to you
Step 7 - Begin construction once the plans have been stamped and approved
What happens during ADU construction?
Construction can be broken down into three main phases and you may need to inspect the property or acquire different permits at different stages. Read on for the breakdown.
Phase 1 - After all reinforcing steel, forms, groundwork plumbing, and electrical are installed, before concrete is poured
Phase 2 - When all framing work is completed and plumbing, electrical, wiring, and heating ducts are installed before any of the work is covered
Phase 3 - Once construction is complete
The cost of getting an ADU permit varies by project value and local regulations, but here’s a rough estimate of how much you can expect to pay to get your ADU permit.
How much do ADU permits cost in Los Angeles?
While some municipalities have set fees, in Los Angeles, the construction permit fees usually range from $2,000-$10,000, while building permit fees and zoning permit fees can be anywhere between $3,000-$11,000. These cost estimates can help you budget for your project.
Certain municipalities also impose impact fees on ADUs that exceed 750 sq. ft., with charges ranging from $5,000-$25,000. These fees are typically calculated based on the relative size of the ADU compared to the main house.
How long does the permitting process take in Los Angeles?
The average wait time for an ADU permit in Los Angeles is four to six months, but the duration may vary depending on the specific municipality where you apply.
Your ADU permit can expire if the work does not start within 12 months of issuance or if the work lapses for more than 180 days at any time after the work begins. Timelines may also vary according to the revised laws, so read on to learn more about what they mean for homeowners.
What are the revised ADU laws in Los Angeles?
Since 2017, California State lawmakers have been working on making it easier to build an ADU. Starting January 1, 2020, the following five bills have been passed to streamline the ADU approval process.
AB 68 and AB 881
Permits for ADUs and Junior ADUs (JADU) must be approved or denied within 60 days
Local authorities no longer regulate minimum and maximum unit size requirements
Up to one ADU and one JADU allowed on any residential property
Up to two detached ADUs are allowed on multi-family properties
Replacement parking is not required when an ADU takes up existing parking spots
AB 670 and AB 671
Homeowners' associations can't bar you from building an ADU on your single-family property
Local housing agencies are required to encourage and promote the construction of ADUs that offer affordable rental rates to low-income households
If an accessory structure was demolished to make space for the ADU, you can build it in the same location with the same dimensions with an excess of 150 sq. ft. for ingress/egress
No owner-occupancy requirements until 2025
No impact fees for ADUs under 750 sq. ft., and fees will be proportional to the square footage of your primary residence in the case of ADUs above 750 sq. ft.
The right ADU provider can help you navigate the permitting process, making ongoing compliance from the get-go a more practical solution than legalizing or rebuilding an illegal ADU.
How can you permit an unpermitted ADU?
ADU regulations and procedures weren’t as easy to navigate a few years ago, so it’s not uncommon to find older unpermitted, or “illegal” ADUs still standing today. In this scenario, Los Angeles City’s Unpermitted Dwelling Unit (UDU) Legalization Program allows homeowners to bring these ADUs up to code after the fact and get permitted, assuming they meet all safety regulations.
New ADU laws have made getting permits so much easier to achieve with the help of your ADU provider. Plus, there are ways to shorten the overall timeline and avoid unnecessary delays.
How can you speed up the permitting process?
While the permitting process is necessary, it can sometimes be lengthy. To expedite the process, you can first make sure your ADU plans comply with all local regulations and building codes from the get-go to prevent unforeseen delays. Working with an experienced ADU provider like Cottage that is familiar with the local laws and permitting requirements can streamline the process significantly.
How can the right ADU provider help with the permitting process?
Selecting the right ADU provider can accelerate the ADU process and create a more efficient and enjoyable process, ensuring all necessary permits are obtained on time. ADU providers like Cottage have access to a trusted network of licensed ADU professionals with a track record of successful projects, giving you peace of mind throughout your ADU project.
If you want to build an ADU and explore the full potential of your property but don’t know how a free consultation with one of our specialists at Cottage is a great place to start.
1. Do you need a permit for an ADU in Los Angeles?
Yes, you need permits to build an ADU in Los Angeles. Having permits makes your ADU an official part of your property. When your property value goes up over time, the value of your ADU can also add to it. You also need permits to legally rent out your ADU.
You may likely need building and zoning permits and other additional permits/clearances depending on factors like the size, type, and location of your ADU.
2. How much does an ADU permit cost in Los Angeles?
The cost of an ADU permit in Los Angeles can vary based on the specific project value, type, size, and local regulations. Here are the main permit fees,
Construction permit fees - $2,000-$10,000
City fees - $3,000-$11,000
Impact fees (may also apply for ADUs exceeding 750 square feet) - $5,000- $25,000
3. How do I get an ADU permit in Los Angeles?
Review the Los Angeles Department of Public Work Development Services Building and Safety Division's ADU checklist to understand the requirements and ensure compliance. Then prepare and gather all the required documents, such as construction plans and other relevant paperwork. Lastly, submit your ADU permit application through the ePlanLA website.
To ensure a smooth and efficient process, you can hire a licensed and experienced ADU provider to navigate you throughout your project.
4. How far does an ADU have to be from a house in Los Angeles?
According to state law, if the ADU is no more than 800 sq. ft. and 16 feet tall, and it is set back at least 4 feet from the property line, it qualifies for a permit in any residential or mixed-use zone. These regulations were put in place to encourage the construction of ADUs and increase housing availability.
5. Can I build two ADUs on my property in Los Angeles?
Yes, you can build two ADUs on your property in Los Angeles if you own a multi-family home and have sufficient space as required by the authorities. In most cases, you’re allowed to build an ADU and JADU in a single-family residence.
6. What is the difference between an ADU and a duplex in Los Angeles?
The main differences between an ADU and a duplex are their purpose and structure. ADUs are supplementary living units that can be either attached or detached from a primary home and are designed to provide additional living space for family members or generate rental income. On the other hand, duplexes are two attached dwelling units intended for two separate families. They are typically designed as separate residences for two families sharing a common wall.