A Guest House - Is it Legal?

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Ace Home Realty DRE#01206592

A Guest House - Is it Legal?   Yes and no.  There are several Los Angeles none Luxury Neighborhoods that have legal guest houses that were built prior to 1950.  These homes were built as an accessory to a Single Family Dwelling on the same lot. They have sleeping rooms, full bathrooms, but NO Kitchens. Somewhat similar to an original  hotel or motel - No Kitchen.  Also they're not designed for long term occupancy.  So using it as a rental property may be illegal, but using it as a Guest House as defined in the City of Los Angeles Zoning Manual and Commentary section 12.03 page 21 is legal.

  Los Angeles Houses


However,  it is quite common in Los Angeles for homeowners to construct a separate dwelling.  The workmanship may be professional, but is it legal.  Their listing agent may refer to it as a guest house, guest quarters or mother-in-law quarters. But the name does not make it legal.  The key word in the definition of a Guest House is No Kitchen.  


Small House in Los Angeles


Before completing the purchase of such a property, you may want to make sure you have a legal Guest House.  This could be accomplished by stopping by the city of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.  There you could verify the permits and save yourself time, money and frustration in the future. 


So if you happen to have the opportunity to purchase one of these legal hidden gems, enjoy it.  It's like the hard wood floors under the carpet - included in the sale, but not in the price. 



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Sharon Sanchez, Broker-Owner of Ace Home Realty is a Short Sale Agent with the following specialized training designations:

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Comments (57)

Sharon Sanchez
Ace Home Realty - Carson, CA
Your Number "1" Source For Real Estate.

Sharon - Thanks for your comment.

Lloyd - You're right. 

M. C. - Interesting point about permits not being issued prior to 1950.  What about the permits that have been issued, but they can't find them.  I had that happen.

Jill - Thanks.

Take care everyone and thank you for your comments.

Mar 02, 2014 08:45 AM
Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Broker/Owner
Travis Realty - Enterprise, AL
email: Travis@theSOLDman.me / cell: 334-494-7846

"In-law Suites" are fairly common here, WITH a kitchen. Works good with the young Military guys who wanna Buddy-up to save $$.

Mar 02, 2014 11:39 AM
Jon Quist
Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996

Each city and each county have their own rules, as do most sub divisions. One must be VERY careful passing on any information without a LOT of research.

Mar 02, 2014 03:41 PM
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles real estate concierge services

This is an important post, Sharon. When you see a guest house on a property it is incumbent on the buyer to do their due diligence and see if it is permitted.

Mar 03, 2014 08:59 AM
Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

Great job with your post. I have owned a couple of guest houses, they can be very profitable.

Mar 06, 2014 06:52 AM
Sharon Sanchez
Ace Home Realty - Carson, CA
Your Number "1" Source For Real Estate.

Thank you Joe.

Mar 07, 2014 04:55 AM
Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400
The Top Team @ Charles Rutenberg Realty 255 Executive Dr, Plainview NY 11803 - Plainview, NY
Long Island Condo and Home Specialists

This can be a terrific investment for a buyer, but as you state...Make sure it's legal first!

Mar 08, 2014 09:04 PM
Ralph Gorgoglione
Maui Life Homes / Metro Life Homes - Kihei, HI
Hawaii and California Real Estate (310) 497-9407


Very controversial subject matter.  Good post.

Unpermitted guest houses are plentiful in LA!

There is definitely value for the buyer, but the lender can't give it any value if it's not permitted.

Mar 09, 2014 01:32 AM
Sharon Sanchez
Ace Home Realty - Carson, CA
Your Number "1" Source For Real Estate.

Ralph - Yes in some LA neighborhoods, it seems like almost everyone has an unpermitted structure.  Thanks.

Mar 10, 2014 03:06 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Great information, and we have these guest homes included in a sale in Denver, but is a bit more money.

Jun 22, 2014 10:20 PM
Sharon Sanchez
Ace Home Realty - Carson, CA
Your Number "1" Source For Real Estate.

Hi Joan.  In California, the appraiser will not give it any value.

Jun 23, 2014 07:47 AM
Suzanne De Vita
Online Associate Editor

Sharon, congrats on the feature! Thank you for shedding some light on this.

Jun 25, 2014 03:04 AM
Sharon Sanchez
Ace Home Realty - Carson, CA
Your Number "1" Source For Real Estate.

Thank you Suzanne.

Jun 25, 2014 04:59 AM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

OK, Sharon!  I have a request.  This is a terrific post, and I'm thinking it's about time for you to write another one!  And will you send me an emai alert when you do?

Jun 27, 2014 11:28 AM
Sharon Sanchez
Ace Home Realty - Carson, CA
Your Number "1" Source For Real Estate.

Hi Patricia.  You're right.  I definitely need to write another post.  Thanks.

Jul 01, 2014 09:01 AM
Wayne Johnson
Coldwell Banker D'Ann Harper REALTORS® - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio REALTOR, San Antonio Homes For Sale

Sharon-It is interesting to see how issues and construction are handled in different parts of the country. We have very few guest homes in our area.

Jul 22, 2014 10:46 AM
1~Judi Barrett
Integrity Real Estate Services 116 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK

Sharon, We do not have many properties like this.  I find it interesting that there enough of them in your area that it common.  

Jul 22, 2014 11:32 AM
Sharon Sanchez
Ace Home Realty - Carson, CA
Your Number "1" Source For Real Estate.

Hi Wayne and Judi.  It's not common, but a lot of older homes and luxury properties have a guest house.

Jul 25, 2014 04:02 AM
Nick T Pappas
Assoc. Broker ABR, CRS, SFR, e-Pro, @Homes Realty Group, Broker/Providence Property Mgmnt, LLC Huntsville AL - Huntsville, AL
Madison & Huntsville Alabama Real Estate Resource

Sharon, while it's generally legal here it really comes down to HOA covenants and restrictions.  I just went through this with a client who wanted to build a separated dwelling for their parents, but the HOA nixed the idea.

Jul 27, 2014 08:22 AM
Sharon Sanchez
Ace Home Realty - Carson, CA
Your Number "1" Source For Real Estate.

Nick, the owner would definitely have to have the HOA approval in a gated community.

Jul 30, 2014 07:33 AM