Building an ADU in Salt Lake City

Want some extra, passive income each month? Well, if you haven’t thought about building an ADU (or Accessory Dwelling Unit), you should! ADUs are extra dwellings you add on to your home or onto the same lot as your home.

They can give you more living space for you or your guests, or you can rent them out (especially with our extreme housing shortage here in Salt Lake). Either way, they add a lot of flexibility to your housing situation and give you options for your housing needs in the future, too.

ADUS in Salt Lake City

Interestingly, Salt Lake City just passed an ordinance last fall that finally allows ADUs throughout all of Salt Lake City and makes it easier to build one. Lawmakers are hoping its passage will really help ease some of the housing shortage in our area. There’s been substantial interest in building ADUs since then, and the city hopes that continues because of the new ordinance.

What Exactly is an ADU?

So, how exactly do you know if a bonus dwelling is defined as an ADU? First, ADUs are always on the same lot as the main home. They have their own kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms—they have all the components they need to be an entirely separate living space.

The entrance to the ADU can be either a separate outdoor entrance or an entrance from the inside of the main home.

There are a number of ways you can build an ADU. These include:

  • Adding an ADU on to your home
  • Converting an attic, garage, or basement into an ADU
  • Adding a new-construction ADU to your lot

Planning Your ADU

No matter what kind of ADU you’re building, you’ll want to meet with a city planner from the city’s Building Services Division to make sure you’re following all of Salt Lake’s laws and regulations.

I highly recommend doing this while you’re still in the early planning stages of your ADU project. The people there will make sure that your ADU is allowed on your property and help you understand any relevant zoning restrictions. They can also help you understand all of the costs associated with your ADU project before you start spending money.

Building an ADU That Needs Conditional Approval

Proposed ADUs in some zones will need extra approval by the city. If this the case with your property, you’ll have to fill out a conditional use application, wait while the city does an internal review, and then there will be a public hearing and a decision. All R-1 and FR zones require this type of approval.

If you don’t have to get a conditional use approval, the process is substantially shorter (see what that looks like below).

Building an ADU in a Single-Family Home Zone

If you live in a zone that allows ADUs without additional approvals (any zone that allows duplexes and other multi-family homes), you can jump right in to getting a building permit application. If you’re building a new construction home and also building an ADU, you’ll need a second building permit.

You’ll also work with the city on building code and fire code compliance, to certify zoning, and to certify owner occupancy of the main home (more on that later). If you’re going to rent out the ADU, you’ll also need to fill out a business license application and enroll in the Good Landlord Program.

Regulations for ADUs

There are many rules an ADU must conform to, but here are some of the main ones you should know about:

  • There is a maximum of one ADU per lot, and the lot must have an existing single-family home, rowhome, or townhome
  • Your ADU can’t exceed 50% of your home’s footprint or more than 650 square feet, whichever is less
  • The homeowner is required to reside on the property in either the principal home or the ADU
  • You must provide one off-street parking space for the ADU (unless you have legal on-street parking or live within ¼ mile of a mass-transit stop)
  • The ADU must be at least 10 feet from the single-family dwelling and 4 feet from any rear or side property line
  • The height of the ADU can’t be more than seventeen feet or greater than the height of your home
  • ADUs in SLC’s historic districts require a Certificate of Appropriateness

Fees for ADUs

Building permit fees are based on the work you’re planning to do. They’re unique to your project, so you’ll have to turn in all of your paperwork before you know exactly what the fees are. There is, however, a helpful online fee estimator here.

Depending on the work you’re doing, you can expect to pay for building permits and other permits, including plumbing, electrical and mechanical permits. See more information about possible fees and charges here.

Safety Regulations for ADUs

It’s no surprise that there are all kinds of safety regulations to follow when you’re building an ADU. There are a lot of them, but here are some of the most important.

  • Each bedroom needs a working smoke detector
  • Hallways need smoke detectors and CO detectors
  • Bedroom windows have to meet minimum egress requirements
  • Basement apartments need handrails and guardrails

You’re sure to still have some questions, so you can find a lot more information about building an ADU in Salt Lake City here.

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