You recently learned you could better use your house space if you converted your garage into another bedroom. You may want a relative to live there, or you’re thinking of renting it out. However, this idea also leaves you with another question: is it legal?

You can convert a garage into a bedroom legally if you obtain a planning permit and conform to your state’s residential building standards. This applies to most states. You always need a permit to convert your garage, and you need to follow applicable guidelines.

This article will discuss illegal garage conversions and their consequences. It will also explain how you can convert your garage into a bedroom correctly. Moreover, it will tackle topics such as the cost of converting your garage, how much value it adds to your home, and what to do if you can’t convert your garage.

When Does Garage Conversion Become Illegal?

You’re quite unsure how it’s called illegal. How can remodeling something within your own house be illegal if you own the place? Are you breaking the law because you didn’t pay for a permit to build, or is it more than that?

It’s illegal if you convert your garage into a bedroom without obtaining the required permits and approvals based on your city and state. These approvals and permits serve as your guides into creating a safe living space that conforms to residential standards in your area. Hence, remodeling your garage is largely illegal due to safety concerns.

In fact, an illegally converted garage can create serious health issues and even death. Suppose that the owner isn’t even aware of the building regulations in their area. In that case, they may accidentally establish improperly installed electrical wires that can cause fire, plumbing systems that contaminate the city’s water supply, or venting systems that may lead to asphyxiation.

Those things could get people sick or even kill them as they continue to live in the converted garage. Likewise, another concern for illegally remodeled garages is that it may not have the correct amount of windows or emergency exits or possess the required construction materials, like fire-resistant necessities and even fire prevention systems.

Should an emergency occur while someone is inside your illegally-converted garage, you’re responsible for their medical fees and the accident itself. This means you may receive a fine and an order to deconstruct your converted garage.

Does an Illegal Garage Conversion Open You to Lawsuit?

Anything illegal opens you to lawsuits. Typically, illegally converting your garage can lead to lawsuits when a tenant who lives within the garage files a complaint against you after realizing your garage doesn’t conform to the city’s requirements.

Similarly, you may receive a case against you if a fire occurs in your illegally-converted garage and somebody gets hurt. It wouldn’t matter if they set the fire themselves; you’re still liable for their medical expenses.

How Do You Correctly Convert a Garage?

First, you will need to obtain planning permission. You actually need planning permission and when doing any kind of building or rebuilding project within your house, not just in garages. You can get this by contacting your city’s zoning department for assistance.

Second, you need to follow building regulations, local zoning codes, plumbing, and fire safety precautions. The International Residential Code often applies to most states, and you can easily check your required codes to follow on ICC’s page based on your state.

You may also need to check your local municipality’s rules. Some municipalities prohibit the addition of a toilet in a converted garage, so it’s wise to check on that. Additionally, ensure that all the changes you’re adding to your garage conform to regulations. Otherwise, you may receive a fine or a court order that asks you to remove an offending structure or two.

How to Apply for a Garage Conversion Permit

The best way to apply for a garage conversion permit is to contact your city’s zoning department for guidance. You’ll need to ensure your plan meets your area’s building codes and the local ordinances set for living spaces. This includes the ceiling’s height, your exits, windows, and outlets, and many other things.

How Much Does a Garage Conversion Permit Cost?

A garage conversion permit usually costs $1,000 to $1,500. However, note that this may be more or less depending on the variance of remodeling you’ll do on your garage. Similarly, know that some permits require an inspection at the end of the conversion to see if you meet all the zoning and building code requirements.

Guest Quarter and Accessory Dwelling Unit

You can convert your garage into two bedrooms in general: a guest quarter or an accessory dwelling unit. If you convert it into a guest quarter, your relatives or guests may reside in it short-term. However, you can’t rent it out to tenants because a guest quarter only possesses a bathroom alongside a wet bar and no kitchen.

Meanwhile, an accessory dwelling unit is fully functional with its own entrance, bathroom, and kitchen, so you can rent it out as long as it follows your state’s rules.

What Happens to Your Driveway When You Convert Your Garage?

You can simply leave it as it is and ensure that your house still possesses a parking space for your car or cars once you convert your garage. Because you need to replace the parking lot you remodeled, you can use your driveway as your new parking space.

How Much Does a Garage Conversion Cost?

You can expect to spend about $90,000 to $120,000 when converting your garage into an apartment. This breaks down to design fees, builders’ risk insurance, energy calculations, waterproofing, fireproofing, site work, construction expenses, appliances, and fees and permits.

However, note that this estimate varies from state to state, so what’s expensive in someone’s state may not be as expensive in your state. You may also pay for fees not taken from other states and vice versa.

How Much Value Does Converting Your Garage Bring to Your House?

Your converted garage’s additional value to your home depends on how much you rent it out for. However, you can be sure that you’ll benefit from your converted garage within a few years of renting it out, fully repaying the initial remodeling cost and earning a new passive income.

See also: Garage Ventilation Options

Garage Conversion Alternatives

You badly wanted to convert your garage into a bedroom, but you found out you’re not allowed to do so. Alternatively, your plans may have been rejected, or your zoning or parking restrictions disqualified you from creating a living space out of your garage.

If you can’t convert your garage into a bedroom, you can consider remodeling your attic or basement instead. When converting your attic, you may simply need to add a bit of ceiling height, some outlets and wires, windows, and a bed. Meanwhile, converting your basement often means you’ll have a readily-made structure for the bedroom.

However, note that you’re sacrificing storage space for these conversions. Hence, you need to ensure you have adequate storage space somewhere else or dispose of or eliminate unnecessary items.

Final Thoughts

It’s legal to convert a garage into a bedroom if you obtain a planning permit from your city’s zoning department. You also need to conform to your state’s residential building standards and zoning requirements. If you’re disallowed from remodeling your garage, you can convert your attic or basement into a bedroom instead.

Related: How to Add a Room to a House for Cheap

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