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Question DetailsAsked on 8/15/2017

We have an existing garage turned into living space before we bought this house. We want to get it permitted.

The existing garage now is permitted for Office and Laundry room. It is about 800 s.f. and actually has a kitchen area, living space, bathroom and bedroom. Looks like all is to code. How do we get it permitted for a guest house?

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Will have to pay building permit fee - and in many area a penalty. Commonly a penalty (for not having the permit in the first place) of 100% or the permit fee, which can be a little or a lot depending on area. As little as around $50, in some areas is based on % of improvement cost/value so could run $1000 or more potentially.

Plus in some areas the property tax system is linked to the building permit system so they may come back and hit you for property tax increase since the improvement was done. Many areas will waive any penalties if you can show previous owner did the improvements, not you.

The will have to get it inspected and approved and (in some areas) occupancy permit approved. it commonly goes better if an Architect who routinely does remodel jobs in your area handles the negotiations with the building department - they can commonly get you a better outcome, though sometimes going in and talking to them and begging leniency since it was not your fault works too- what can really get you in trouble (though a few people do get away with it where inspection is slack) is trying filing for a building permit as if this will be new construction work - but almost all get caught because a normal inspection stage is utilities and framing complete and dried-in but drywall not up, so allow inspection of everything before it is closed in.

One other possibility on the building permit inspections - in some areas they allow an architect or civil/structural engineer to do the inspection and certify to the building department that all meets code - that can be a much easier way to go because since he is working for you he can pre-inspect and flag any deficiencies which need correction, tell you HOW it needs to be fixed, then after all is up to snuff do the actual final inspection and signnoff on it. Can avoid issues with the city inspector getting huffy because the work was done before permitting, and can avoid the possible inspector requirement that the drywall be removed so he can see all the utility and framing work.

First thing you should discretely check on (or have your architect check) is whether making this a guest house / in-law apartment iseven legal in your area, or if it is whether you will need to increase septic leach field capacity (if on septic) or add parking spaces or such - which are commonly sized based on number of bedrooms. In many areas you could make it a guest room or in-law apartment for short-term non-paying guests or for a relative, but NOT as a rental unit. Assuming this is an attached garage or tuck-under, getting permitting as a rental unit is highly unlikely - sometimes that is allowed for detached structures, but depends on your zoning code.

I would really go to a reputable architecture firm in your area (not just a one-man outfit) who routinely does permitting and zoning applications with the local government.

One other thing - if not directly allowed in your area by zoning, and sometimes even if so, a public notice period and signage outside your house about the planning and zoning permit application will be required - which gives neighbors a say in whether it happens or not, so there is a risk (especially if trying to permit as a stand-alone rental) that it will be rejected - so talk to the architect about youyr chances before going beyond a guest/live-in relative apartment application. I HAVE seen cases where the planning and zoning department got a court order requiring tearing out the improvements because the application was rejected.

One other risk - if garage was converted and you do not have another garage, in some areas that willl be a Planning and Zoning (or homeowners/condo association) violation, in areas requiring on-site garages. That of course could scotch the entire situation and require building a new garage or reverting the living space back into a garage.

I would not expect this to be real cheap - probably in the thousand or two $ range minimum PLUS any percentage-of-improvement fee or property tax increase back payments, commonly somewhat move than that but rarely (except in high-rises where code requirements tend to be much more strictly enforced and you common get a fire department as well as building department inspection) more than about $4000 or so - plus any required remedial work to bring the work up to code and then repair any interior finishes damage from that, of course. I have seen botched DIY jobs like this run over $5000 for a single large room or over $15,000 for an entire house where there was major framing or piping or electrical issues requiring tearing out and redoing it.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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