Can an ADU Be a Primary Residence? What You Need to Know

Last Updated: May 25th, 2024

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Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have gained significant popularity in recent years, especially in urban areas where space is at a premium. But what exactly is an ADU, and can it legally serve as your primary residence? If you’re considering making an ADU your main home, it’s crucial to understand the various aspects involved, from legal regulations to the practicalities of living in a smaller space. Let’s delve into the essentials you need to know about using an ADU as your primary residence.

Understanding the Concept of an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

An ADU, also known as a granny flat, in-law unit, or secondary suite, is a self-contained living space located on the same property as a single-family home. Unlike a guest house, which typically serves as temporary accommodation, an ADU is designed for long-term living and includes all the amenities necessary for independent living, such as a kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area.

In the competitive real estate market of Los Angeles, ADUs are becoming a strategic solution for homeowners looking to maximize their property’s potential. According to the 2024 statistics from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the number of ADU permits issued in Los Angeles has increased by 30% over the past year, highlighting their growing popularity.

Key Points:

  • Definition: An ADU is a secondary housing unit on a single-family residential lot.
  • Difference: Unlike guest houses, ADUs are fully equipped for long-term living.
  • Regulations: Specific regulations govern the construction and use of ADUs, varying by location.

Can an ADU Legally Serve as a Primary Residence?

One of the most pressing questions for homeowners is whether an ADU can legally serve as a primary residence. The answer depends largely on local zoning laws and regulations. Many municipalities, including those in Los Angeles, have updated their housing policies to accommodate the rising demand for ADUs as primary residences.

Living in an ADU as your primary home involves meeting specific legal requirements and obtaining the necessary permits. This can include adhering to zoning laws, ensuring the ADU meets safety standards, and sometimes, navigating homeowner association rules.

Factors to Consider When Using an ADU as a Primary Residence

Before deciding to make an ADU your main home, consider the following factors:

  • Legal Requirements: Ensure the ADU complies with local zoning laws and safety regulations.
  • Permits: Obtain all necessary permits to use the ADU as a primary residence.
  • Space: Assess whether the ADU’s size and layout meet your long-term living needs.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using an ADU as Your Main Home

Living in an ADU can offer numerous benefits, such as reduced housing costs and a simpler lifestyle. However, it also comes with potential drawbacks, including limited space and privacy concerns. Weighing the pros and cons will help determine if an ADU is the right choice for your primary residence.

Steps to Legally Establish an ADU as Your Primary Residence

If you decide to proceed, there are several steps to follow to legally establish your ADU as your primary residence:

  1. Research Local Regulations: Understand the zoning laws and regulations in your area.
  2. Apply for Permits: Submit the necessary applications and obtain permits.
  3. Meet Safety Standards: Ensure the ADU complies with all building and safety codes.


Choosing to live in an ADU as your primary residence is a significant decision that requires careful consideration of legal, practical, and personal factors. By understanding the regulations and weighing the benefits and drawbacks, you can make an informed choice that suits your lifestyle and housing needs. At FTR Renovation & Build, we’re here to guide you through every step of the process, ensuring your ADU is not just a secondary unit but a welcoming home.