California’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Law

When relocating to a new state, it’s important to be aware of new legislation that can affect your housing circumstances. Established residents should also remain informed about housing developments and what protections they have. This is particularly true in the state of California where the Accessory Dwelling Unit law was just passed.


What Is California’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Law?

California’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Law (Assembly Bill No. 68) took effect on January 1, 2020. Under this law, homeowners can add an accessory dwelling unit to their property — even if the HOA’s governing documents state otherwise. This law mainly applies to single-family homes in planned developments or homeowners associations. It is not applicable to community apartments, condominiums, or stock cooperatives.


What Are Accessory Dwelling Units?

view of a subarban community | california's accessory dwelling unit lawAn accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a living space that you can add to a primary dwelling unit. You can build three types of ADUs: attached, detached, and interior.

Attached ADUs can be built on the side or rear of the primary residence. Homeowners can also construct them on the top of the attached garage. Meanwhile, detached ADUs are separate from the primary residence but still within the property. You can also build it on top of a detached garage.

Interior ADUs, also known as junior ADUs, are built by converting existing space in the primary residence, such as the attic, basement, or garage.


What Are the Provisions of the Accessory Dwelling Unit Law?

If you are planning to add an ADU to your property, it should be compliant with Government Code 65852.2. Here are some of the legal requirements:

  • Homeowners can rent out ADUs but the main residence should still be occupied by the homeowner.
  • Homeowners cannot sell the ADU separately from the main property.
  • There should only be one ADU per lot.
  • The ADU cannot be larger should not exceed 50% of the primary residence.
  • The ADU’s total floor area cannot exceed 1,200 square feet.
  • Homeowners should follow local building code requirements.


Homeowners can also convert an existing space into a junior ADU. Provisions are outlined in Government Code 65852.22, which states:

  • Only one junior ADU per lot.
  • A junior ADU should not be larger than 500 square feet.
  • Junior ADUs should be constructed within the walls of the existing residence.
  • HOAs may require junior ADUs to have a separate entrance from the main residence.
  • There should be an efficiency kitchen in the junior ADU. This includes a cooking facility with appliances, a food preparation counter, and storage cabinets.
  • Junior ADUs may include sanitation facilities. They can also share sanitation facilities with the primary residence.
  • No requirements for additional parking for the junior ADU


Can the HOA Impose Restrictions on ADUs?

panoramic view of Silver Lake and Downtown Los Angeles on a beautiful morning, California, USA | accessory dwelling unit lawHomeowners should first confirm the status of their residence before attempting to create an ADU, or convert an existing space into a junior ADU. While HOAs may not prohibit the addition of ADUs, but they can impose “reasonable” restrictions. However, these restrictions should not make ADUs too costly or impossible to build.

For example, HOAs can impose standards on the design and development of ADUs. The association may require homeowners to follow the architectural style of the community when building ADUs. This can help protect the property values of the community.

When homeowners submit building permits for ADUs, HOA should be able to approve or deny the project within 60 days. As long as the ADUs comply with the Accessory Dwelling Unit Law, as well as their reasonable restrictions, HOAs should approve the homeowners’ requests.


How Should HOAs Deal With the Accessory Dwelling Unit Law?

aerial view suburban neighborhood with identical wealthy villas next to each other | california's accessory dwelling unit lawThe Accessory Dwelling Unit Law can be beneficial to homeowners. For example, ADUs can provide community members with additional income each month. However, it can be hard to determine which rules are applicable and which ones are not. Since the law was just recently enacted, some HOAs may also be unsure about how to handle or implement this law.

For example, there is some leeway on what is considered a reasonable restriction. HOAs may choose to impose certain standards as long as they do not increase construction costs or prohibit construction altogether.

The Accessory Dwelling Unit Law can also pose some challenges to HOA, specifically when it comes to parking and traffic. If you have a large community, or are located in a populous area, this can lead to issues down the line.

At this time, it’s important for HOAs to talk to their homeowners. Are homeowners in favor of this law, or are they also concerned about the potential challenges that ADUs can bring? Meanwhile, if homeowners are in favor of this new law, the HOA can start amending governing documents to include ADU restrictions and requirements. This can protect the association from serious or legal issues in the future.

If you’re still unsure about how to proceed, it can be helpful to consult with your HOA management company. They can help you interpret the law and provide legal assistance if necessary. An HOA manager will also have access to more resources that can help you determine the next steps.


Does the Accessory Dwelling Unit Law Apply to My State?

Remember, the Accessory Dwelling Unit discussed in this article applies to the state of California. However, there are several other states that have established their own ordinances regarding ADUs. This includes Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah. In other states, ADU provisions only apply to the more populous areas such as in Nashville, Tennessee. Make sure to ask your HOA manager about your state’s accessory dwelling unit laws.


HOA Compliance With Federal, State, and Local Laws

While HOAs can impose rules and regulations on their community, they should still follow federal, state, and local laws. Non-compliance to laws such as California’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Law can land your association in a lot of trouble. This can lead to massive fines and litigation costs. It’s important to stay up-to-date with any new laws enacted in your area to avoid any problems in the future. For legal assistance and other community management concerns, don’t hesitate to give us a call.