The California Legislature has paved the way for the “granny flat” or “mother-in-law unit” in your community.  Formally termed the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) this ever-popular form of housing is a legal and regulatory term for a secondary house that shares the building lot of a larger, primary house.  ADUs are either attached to or detached from the primary dwelling unit but provide independent living facilities for the resident.  Unlike ADUs, JADUs are no more than 500 square foot bedrooms in a single-family home with an entrance from the main dwelling unit and an entrance to the outside.  They need not have a bathroom.

Cloaked with the good intentions of addressing California’s extreme housing shortage and increasing housing density, and modeled after similar laws addressing solar energy systems, electric vehicle charging stations, drought tolerant plants and artificial turf, Assembly Bill 670 adds Section 4751 to the Civil Code which renders void or unenforceable any CC&Rs provision or deed restriction in a planned development that either effectively prohibits or unreasonably restricts the installation of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU) on a lot.

Civil Code Section 4751, however, does allow, an association to enforce reasonable restrictions that do not unreasonably increase the cost to construct or effectively prohibit construction of an ADU.  Any ADU must also meet the requirements of Government Code 65852.2 and 65852.22 (governing ADU).

Many in opposition to AB 670 view it as unnecessary micromanagement of private planned residential communities that negatively impacts an association’s ability to regulate such daily burdens as parking, traffic, noise and other characteristics of overcrowded communities.  Nevertheless, community associations are not powerless.  Adopting sensible architectural standards, aesthetic guidelines and construction requirements for ADUs is perhaps the best way to welcome your new neighbor.  This also may be a good time to review existing community rules on such issues as parking and facilities use to see if adjustments need to be made to account for an increase in residents or vehicles in the community.  What is not addressed in this law is the extent to which an association can offset the burden of an ADU on the community or how to absorb the financial impact of increased density.

Written by Robert M. DeNichilo

Robert M. DeNichilo Esq., CCAL, is a Fellow of the College of Community Association Lawyers and a Principal of Richardson|Ober|DeNichilo.