Accessory Dwelling Units in Los Angeles: What You Need to Know


Are you considering building an accessory dwelling unit on your property? An ADU can be a fantastic investment. You can use it in different ways depending on your current needs and goals. Unlike a traditional home addition that only offers extra living space, with an ADU, you also can use it as a rental property.

When you’re ready to sell your property, your ADU will make your home more attractive to buyers for the same reasons — they have the option to use the space for themselves or to rent it out to tenants and generate income. This flexibility is one of the reasons many homeowners in the area are building ADUs if they have the space on their property.

Whether you want to create a separate living space for the in-laws or a live-in nanny or you want the benefits of having an investment property, there are a few things you should know about accessory dwelling units in Los Angeles before you get started.

At Ollendorff Construction, we design and build custom homes throughout the LA area, including ADUs. If you ever have questions about how the process works or you want to learn about custom design options for ADUs, we’re always happy to help.

What’s an ADU?

An accessory dwelling unit, also known as a granny flat, is a structure built on an existing residential lot that already has a main house. Essentially, you’re building a second, smaller home in your backyard. You can also convert your garage into an ADU.

Most accessory dwelling units in Los Angeles are modest in size — either a studio or one-bedroom unit. Unlike an outdoor room, an ADU is a fully functioning separate home with plumbing, electricity, a kitchen, and a bathroom.

Some homeowners build them for personal use — imagine having a separate, custom-designed home office or yoga studio out back where you have your own quiet space away from family distractions. They’re also useful if you have older children who aren’t ready to move out on their own yet. And, of course, the granny flat is a perfect spot if you have older parents who visit often or live with you.

You can also rent out your unit. The advantage of building a rental property on your own residential lot is it’s much easier to manage than a property located far away. You always know what’s going on with the property and you can get to know your tenants personally.

What Size Can Your ADU Be?

When you build an ADU, you’ll have to follow local laws for additional dwelling units. Your structure can have a maximum height of 25 feet and you can build a one- or two-storey unit. While smaller units are popular, you can build a larger structure if you have enough space on your lot to accommodate it. At 1,200 square feet, the maximum size for a detached unit, you can create a two- or three-bedroom ADU with one or two baths.

Where Can You Build It?

As long as you own a residential lot, you may be able to build an ADU. When building a new, detached secondary structure, it has to be at least 10 feet away from your main house and the garage. There also has to be at least five feet of space between the unit and your property lines.

Another option is to build an attached structure or simply convert your existing garage. If you’re building off an existing structure, you don’t have to worry about these spacing requirements.

To learn more about accessory dwelling units or to get started on your custom build project, contact the expert design and build team at Ollendorff Construction today.