Owners of California Properties Governed by HOA May No Longer Be Prohibited From Building Accessory or Junior Unit

Thanks to a new law in California, HOA rules prohibiting the use or construction of accessory dwelling units (ADU) are unenforceable.

By , J.D.


With the new year comes a new potential opportunity for California owners of properties located within a development governed by a homeowners' association (HOA), potentially allowing the owners to add "granny" or other accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to their land, if they own any.

(See Assembly Bill 670, codified as Cal. Civil Code § 4751.)

The new law addresses what are commonly known as the "CC&Rs" or Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions by which HOA owners in a common interest development must abide. (They're where you'll find rules and restrictions on things like pet size and house paint color.)

Going forward, any provision in these governing documents that effectively prohibits or unreasonably restricts construction or use of an ADU or junior accessory dwelling unit, if the lot is zoned for single-family residential use, will be void and unenforceable.

However, there's a big "if" in this new law. The restrictions are voided if and only if the new structure meets the "minimum standards provisions" for a dwelling, as set forth under local zoning ordinances. So if, for example, you've got a tiny back yard already, and there's a local setback ordinance that requires a minimum number of feet between property line and structure, check local rules carefully before planning to build a unit there.

Also realize that not everyone in an HOA actually owns the land their unit sits on. Condo owners, for example, are unlikely to benefit from this new law, while townhome owners might. You definitely can't build on land you don't own.

Effective Date: January 1, 2020