Have an Illegal Garage Conversions or Unpermitted Guest House?
“Garage: An accessory building or portion of a main building designed or used for parking or storage of motor vehicles of the occupants of a residential use.” (Definitions offered up by the City of Los Angeles Municipal Code)
A Garage is supposed to be a Legal Structure: A garage is designed for its intended use – to park a car(s). If you intend to do a garage conversion, find out first if the conversion is feasible. You will save time and unnecessary expense and prevent being ordered to remove it all out someday.
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What Homeowners MUST Know About Illegal Garage Conversions
1. You must verify all the legal options you have to legalize your converted garage. This will include building codes, zoning and planning regulations, your property’s legal profile, setbacks, parking, etc. You’ll also want to perform a thorough analysis and research about the potentials and limitations of your property.
2. Chances are, you will need some type of designs and plans drawn. We will work with you on the type of conversion that you want based on what you have already constructed, and what may be necessary and/or allowed on your property.
3. We will go to the appropriate department(s) in your city to show the planners your initial sketches so you will have the necessary feedback about your intended legal conversion, as well as any changes or corrections required.
4. We will submit the architectural plans and get all the clearances from the different departments necessary for the final approval and follow all the legal steps and procedures from your City and County to get the garage conversion plans approved. The time length of this entire process varies from city to city and may involve repeated visits to the city.
5. After the plans are approved and you get the required building permit(s) for the conversion, you are ready to have any further needed construction work performed.
6. Please note that, once cited for illegal construction, there is a firm deadlines for completion on the work, before some heavy-duty fines and penalties kick in.
Here’s what you need to be concerned with from a legal perspective:
Building Codes & Permits
A garage structure is not an approved occupied space for people. Once the use of a garage changes to a habitable space, it is considered as a new “conditioned space”, required to comply with specific technical and legal standards that were not previously required, such as structural integrity, ingress and egress, fire, electric, plumbing, air circulation, ventilation, insulation, lightning, heating and cooling, seismic compliance, etc.
Cities generally require the homeowners to have or maintain required side, back, and front-yards (setbacks) from property lines; number of required parking spaces or the possibility to park on the street and/or to relocate the parking spots under a new carport or a garage inside the property limits, use of the new space and any impact on the neighborhood and community.
In most cases, a garage conversion may only be accepted as long as the homeowner provides on the property an alternative parking space for the car(s) removed from the original garage. Adding a new garage or carport will do this, and usually it requires another type of permit.
Doing a garage conversion may involves the need to build or buy an external storage shed) in order to remove some items from the garage. The addition of storage shed in the property usually may alsorequire a specific kind of permit.