How to Get a Permit for an In-Law Unit

How to Get a Permit for an In-Law Unit

In-law apartments are a common name used to denote the legal term of 'accessory dwelling unit.' This is because of their prevalence as additional properties constructed on a plot that only one property has occupied. The reason for these additional constructions, as evidenced by the colloquial name, is to provide a space for in-laws, grandparents, or other relatives to live on our plot of land. Additionally, many people use additional living space to provide extra income as a short term rental. It's a means to grant space to those living with us so that they retain their independence yet can easily socialize with the family while in their care. While not all homes have additional space to occupy certain relatives, expansion construction projects can provide all the necessary needs associated with this new living situation.

However, property construction laws are tightly controlled and often quite strict, no matter where you live. This means that simply building a home without a permit is illegal, and will cause you no uncertain amount of headaches. This could include fines, the demolition of said construction, a blanket ban on further development, and other actions.

This means it's wise to plan out your construction and apply for a permit in advance. In this guide, we will list a few techniques and measures to help you while pursuing a permit for your in-law unit.

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Zoning Law


It's important to understand where you fall in terms of your zoning law adherence. Sometimes, an in-law apartment may be a difficult task because of the restrictions placed on your area. For instance, it might be that the apartment is under the restriction of limited occupancy, in which only direct relatives can live. This might also prevent you from renting said property to those looking for a place to stay.

It may also be that certain limits are in place, depending on where you live. For instance, properties in protected environments with laws designed to protect the natural beauty of an area may limit new or unnecessary construction. If not this, it's most likely to restrict your ability to develop competently. If you live in a historic preservation district, you will need to apply for a certificate of appropriateness, which will be reviewed by an independent board. Furthermore, how this affects the community will be taken into consideration. Overcrowding, aesthetic impacts, and logistical necessities in terms of transport will be taken into account when the adjudicator allows or prevents your plans from taking place.

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To ensure your plans are watertight, you must ensure you know every inch of the project you hope to construct and to draw up accurate plans possible to support your application. This is where a thorough and detailed plot plan can be the most critical asset to utilize. With custom plans from MySitePlan, you will be more likely to achieve this most necessary of objectives.

Your plans must include your budget, schedule of completing the construction, and how you hope to secure the property and adhere to correct building codes. Working with a construction professional and architect can also help you draw up these pitch-perfect floor plans and layered utilities.

There are two schools of thinking regarding how you should ask for certain concessions. Some may suggest designing your plans purposefully larger than they might be; this way, a revision advised by the housing authority can help you reduce changes and find a result more in line with your original thinking. Some may believe that keeping your plans small, tight, and economical will help the housing authority see your humility in design and thus be more likely to grant you planning permission. Our advice is to apply for what you intend to build and to avoid plans to double-bluff. It's better to be honest and open from the first moment than to sacrifice your vision and viability of development in this manner.

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Types of In-Law Units

Remember that in-law units are not always separate from the main building. They may be constructed above a garage or connected to the home itself. However, in legal terms, an in-law apartment must have its entrance, living space, kitchen, and bathroom. This does not include a communal space like living rooms and laundry areas. Remember the difference between living areas and living rooms. While a living area is enough space to live comfortably, a living room is a dedicated room for leisure and communal activities.

It must be said, despite how obvious this is, all planned developments must also adhere to essential building codes, fire safety essentials, and structural integrity allowances. Despite this seemingly cheap construction, it must be fully regulated and constructed in the best possible sense. Showcasing your intent to use professional construction services and planning your blueprints with an architect can surely help your efforts.

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Legal Codes


It's important to research the zoning laws in your particular neighborhood and state because this can provide a guideline to strengthen your application. For instance, will you require a separate mailing address for this property? If not, then how might this property be defined? Furthermore, how can you properly apply for financing through the proper channels, such as through a home improvement loan?

A zoning category's minimum lot size may also define the size and scope of your construction. Furthermore, pending approval, you may have to display a sign detailing your intent to build on your property. This way, neighbors can see this visible public notice and ask questions, and either accept or dispute your construction aims.

In Conclusion


Gaining a permit for an in-law apartment can be a lengthy and often intimidating process. Yet, with the advice to guide you above, and MySitePlan to aid you with the drafting process, you can design a thorough, considered project, you will be more likely to become approved and move forward with your intentions. We wish you the best of luck.

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FAQs Answer
What are the common features of an in-law unit? An in-law unit typically has its own entrance, living space, kitchen, and bathroom. It is designed to be a separate living area, although it does not necessarily include communal spaces like living rooms and laundry areas.
How can I ensure that my in-law unit plan complies with local zoning laws? To ensure compliance with local zoning laws, you should conduct thorough research into the zoning requirements specific to your neighborhood and state. This might include restrictions on occupancy, environmental considerations, and requirements for historic preservation areas. Consulting with a professional like an architect or a planner who understands these laws can also be crucial.
What strategies can help in getting an in-law apartment permit approved? Effective strategies include ensuring that your plans are detailed and accurately reflect your construction intentions. You should apply for exactly what you intend to build, without trying to manipulate the application with larger or smaller plans than necessary. Working with construction professionals to ensure that all building codes and safety standards are met can also increase the likelihood of approval.
Can I rent out my in-law unit to non-relatives? This depends on your local zoning laws. Some areas may restrict occupancy to direct relatives only, while others might allow renting to non-relatives. It's important to check specific local restrictions before planning to rent out the unit.
What should be included in the planning process of an in-law apartment? The planning process should include a detailed site plan, a budget, a construction schedule, and security measures to adhere to building codes. Ensuring that the plans are detailed and include every aspect of the construction will support your permit application. Working with an architect to draw up precise floor plans and utilities can be beneficial.
What financial considerations should I keep in mind when planning an in-law unit? You should consider potential costs associated with obtaining permits, construction, and ongoing maintenance. It may also be necessary to apply for financing, such as a home improvement loan. Understanding the implications of having a separate mailing address or zoning category for your in-law unit can also affect financial planning.
What are the implications of building an in-law unit in a historic preservation district? Building in a historic preservation district usually requires obtaining a certificate of appropriateness, which involves review by an independent board. Your plans will need to consider the aesthetic and historical impacts on the community, and modifications might be necessary to align with these standards.
How does constructing an in-law unit on my property affect my property's value? Constructing an in-law unit can potentially increase your property's value by adding liveable space and versatility in its use. However, the actual impact on property value can vary depending on the quality of construction, the local real estate market, and compliance with zoning and building codes.

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