Unpermitted garage conversion is very common in Los Angles and the surrounding areas and are on every block. Now that accessory dwelling units (ADU) are legal, cities are cracking down on unpermitted additions, and especially on those illegal garage conversions.

When dealing with unpermitted construction, there are two options that you as an owner can choose from:
1) Restore the building to it’s previous condition.
2) Go through the process of legalizing the unpermitted work.

This article will help you understanding the process of option number 2; legalizing the unpermitted garage conversion work.
Legalizing unpermitted additions can be very tricky. The biggest issue is that the city’s building and safety department did not review or approve the project plans and they did not conduct inspections on the actual work to make sure that it was done correctly. In order to meet the city’s building and safety standards the following steps will need to be taken in order to legalize the unpermitted construction work.

Issue Construction Documents
Typically will require a site plan, floor plans, elevations, sections, structural drawings (if required), electrical plan, and the Title 24 report all will to be provided for the city Plan Check Review. Other drawings and documents may be required depending on the scope of the work and what the Plan Checkers of the building department require. It’s important that the drawings of the as-builts (the drawings of the exact construction after the building has been built) are as accurate as possible, so the plan check is approved the exact way it was built, if done properly the inspector will have fewer comments during the inspection process. An architect and engineer or a design-build company should be hired to put together the construction drawings and documents.

Check Zoning Ordinances
Once a basic drawing of plot plan and existing structures dimensions is available and before the full set of construction documents is issued, have a discussion with the city’s building and safety department to see if the illegal work is within the zoning ordinances. This could be a simple over the counter meeting at the planning department. The planner would want to see the area that was unpermitted on a drawing with dimensions and the square footage to see if the addition or conversion meets their zoning ordinances. If it meets zoning ordinances you may proceed with the next steps, however If the addition/conversion is not meeting those ordinances, then legalizing the work might not be an option, having this information would avoid the time and expenses in taking further steps. however, you can always proceed and apply for a variance and take your chances. A variance is an exception to the rules, if approved by the planning committee.

Plan Check Review & Building Permit
Once all the drawings and other construction documents are completed, those will need to be submitted for Plan Check. Plan check is the process where the city will review the drawings to see if they meet their minimum respective codes and standards. It may take a few weeks to receive any comments for corrections on the drawings that need to be addressed or an approval of the plans. Once plans are approved the building permit is issued. Building permit is an inspection card that needs to be signed by a city inspector during a physical visit at the property.

Inspections & Repair Work
Once a building permit is issued, an initial inspection will take place, the city inspector will be looking at structural, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, insulation and other specifications that were approved on the plans. During an inspection on unpermitted construction work, the inspector will most likely want to see a section of the footing and will ask for holes in the drywall to see insulation, electrical, plumbing he will verify any other items that are shown on the plans to the actual construction.
The inspector will issue a report that will call for repair work to take place as needed and based on his findings.

Certificate of Occupancy
Once repair work was completed based on the plans and the report provided by the inspector’s initial inspection a final inspection will take place, once approved the building permit will be signed off and a certificate of occupancy will be issued. This document officially completes the process of legalizing the unpermitted garage conversion.

* It’s a lengthy, exhausting process, with big rewards of adding value to your home. *

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