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Understanding Accessory Dwelling Units in California

Owning an accessory dwelling unit can be an overwhelming process. With considerations such as managing tenants who will be living in close proximity to you, laws impacting the unit differing from other rental properties, and more, things can get complicated quickly. Without fully understanding the ins and outs of owning an accessory dwelling unit, you could be putting yourself, your home, and your rental business at risk. 


What is an ADU? 

An ADU is an Accessory Dwelling Unit. ADUs are defined as an attached or detached residential dwelling unit with complete living facilities. ADUs must be located within areas allowing multifamily or single-family buildings. 

Another term that landlords interested in ADUs should be familiar with is a Junior Accessory Dwelling Unit (JADU). A JADU, according to the City of Ventura, is a dwelling unit that is no more than 500 square feet in size and contained entirely within an existing or proposed single-family dwelling. Additionally, Junior Accessory Dwelling Units can potentially include either living facilities that are separate from or shared with the existing home. 

While an ADU or JADU are official terms, there are many different phrases coined to refer to this style of unit. For example, you may have heard the popular term granny flat, a secondary unit, or an in-law unit. While not official, those terms are often used interchangeably to describe ADUs or JADUs.


How often do updates to the law occur?

The California legislature has continued to update ADU and JADU regulations each year for the last five years. This is, in part, why it is so essential that landlords keep an eye out for any changes that may impact their rental units. All landlords are responsible for following all regulations and laws, whether or not they are aware that an update has occurred. 

The past five years of updates have included items such as:

  • Easing zoning controls;
  • Streamlining permits;
  • Reducing development costs; 
  • And limiting local agencies’ ability to regulate JADUs and ADUs. 

What are the most recent changes to ADU laws in Ventura County, CA?

According to the County of Ventura Resource Management Agency, there have been a few recent changes to the laws and regulations impacting ADUs or JADUs. 

As stated by the VCRMA, In 2018, amendments to Non-Coastal and Coastal Zoning Ordinances in unincorporated Ventura County were approved for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Although Second Dwelling Unit was the previously utilized language, this has now been permanently changed to Accessory Dwelling Unit in an effort to align best with California law. This change also facilitated the ability to broaden development standards as needed. 

The most recent ADU/JADU regulation update took place when changes to the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance (NCZO) was unanimously adopted on February 7, 2023. The updates took effect on March 9, 2023. 

According to Beach Front Property Management, the recent updates to the laws impacting JADUs and ADUs have allowed these types of properties to grow in popularity due to the following adjustments. 

Firstly, now detached ADUs are allowed to include garages which are detached. New ADUs are also exempt completely from any parking requirements if the unit is located within half of a mile of public transport.

Secondly, local agencies must now respond quickly to ADU requests. Local agencies are required to approve or deny applications for ADUs or JADUs within two months (60 days). Additionally, they are not able to impose lot size restrictions or requirements. However, they are able to require the owner to live in the primary home on the property or in the ADU. 

Finally, impact fees are not able to be imposed upon owners with ADUs under 750 square feet. These rules apply to both single and multi-family zones. 


What’s next?

Although we can’t predict the future, we can promise that further changes or updates to laws and regulations impacting ADUs and JADUs will continue to take place. It’s in every landlord’s best interest to keep an eye on changes. 


How can I stay up-to-date?

Inarguably, staying on top of legal updates impacting your rental units is one of the most essential and most difficult parts of being a landlord. We recommend utilizing a professional and trusted local property manager to assist you. This will ensure you are compliant with all laws at a local, state and federal level. 

At Rincon Property Management, we don’t leave any room for mistakes when it comes to adhering to all laws and regulations. We utilize a local, trusted law firm to ensure all properties we manage are compliant, and that we are able to best support and inform each of our owners. Learn more about our services, here, or schedule a meeting with a member of our team, here.

Want to be sure you’re fully up-to-date on all laws relating to ADUs? The most current State laws regarding ADUs or JADUs can be found on the State of California’s Legislative Information page, here.

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