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Get That Illegal In-Law Unit Up To Code

If you are looking at buying a home that has an “in-law” or “granny flat” unit, know that the unit might not be legal to rent out as is. In many cases, these extra living spaces were not built with the right building permits. Many are in fine shape, but the lack of permits means that cities can shut down the units and potentially fine the owners. The lack of documentation can also affect your safety as an occupant of the house. With the help of building code consultants, though, it may be possible for you to fix up the unit so that you have a safe space that you can rent out.

Permits Mean Minimum Standards

Without a building permit, you have no idea if the unit in question is actually a hazard — maybe the location blocks access to your yard for firefighters, for example. You also don’t know whether the wiring and plumbing were really done correctly, or if there is an issue with flooding if the unit is on the ground floor. All of these uncertainties can make purchasing and living in that house a risky proposition unless you have a plan for getting the unit up to code.

Also, if the unit is illegal, you run the risk of losing any rent you get from tenants. If the city says the tenants have to move out, for example, the tenants could claim that they didn’t know it was an illegal unit, and you might have to pay back rent, depending on what a court says.

Code Consultants Can Do Evaluations

As part of the home-buying process, you’ll have to have the home inspected. Rather than getting a general home inspector in there, get building code consultants who can show you what you’d need to do to bring the unit into compliance with local standards. Find out:

  • How long getting the place up to code will take
  • What specifically needs to be done
  • What changes to city and state laws are coming that might help you or hinder you

If the changes aren’t too drastic and your bank still approves your mortgage, get to work on the unit as quickly as you can. Be aware that your purchase and the inspections might draw the attention of the city’s code compliance department, meaning that you’ll have a deadline by which to get the work done or risk punishment.

If you’d like more information on making these units legal and safe, talk to building code consultants today. These units are very common, so you should be able to find consultants who are familiar with these types of dwellings and who can help you get a good construction schedule into place.