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Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Permits

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Apply for an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) permit online. Get required forms for a complete ADU permit application and apply online. Learn about ADU inspections for basement apartments, granny flats, in-law units, mother-in-law apartments, rental units, secondary units and adding another dwelling.
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An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a second dwelling unit created on a lot with a house, attached house, tiny house or manufactured home. The second unit is smaller than the main dwelling. You can create an ADU by:

  • Converting part of the existing house
  • Building an addition to an existing house
  • Converting an existing garage or
  • Constructing a new building

A building permit is required to convert attics, basements or garages to living or habitable space. Your project may also require electrical, plumbing or mechanical permits. 

What you need for a complete ADU permit application

You will need a completed building permit application, a site plan and architectural plans. Depending on your project, you may also need to complete more forms from the list of forms below. 

Review the plan drawings requirements:

  • Drawings, drawn to scale where necessary to verify compliance with code.
  • Drawings may be handwritten/drawn if clear and legible. Text or note shall be in print.
  • Minimum drawing size: 11x17. All required information is to be clear and legible. Minimum printed text is to be 3/32” or the equivalent 12-point font.
  • Cannot use professional's drawings without the permission of the professional who signed the original drawings. For example, an architect’s stamped plan set cannot be used without their permission.

Depending on the scope of work, you may also need structural calculations. 

If your project qualifies as a Major Residential Alteration and Addition (MRAA), there are additional requirements including a delay period and notification to neighbors and neighborhood associations. Review the MRAA webpage for more about these requirements.

If you are applying for a combination permit you will also need to submit the trade permit applications (Electrical, Mechanical, and Plumbing). Learn more about what to include with your application.

Who can do the work

Contractors must have a license to work in Oregon. The Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CCB) issues licenses to contractors. The permit application and their company materials must list the license number. Need help finding a contractor? The CCB website has good tips on how to search for one. Plumbing and Electrical contractors have additional license requirements.  

If you are a homeowner doing the work yourself, then you can sign the trade permit applications. You cannot do the electrical work yourself for an ADU. You must hire a licensed electrical contractor to do the electrical work on an ADU. The State of Oregon has some helpful information for homeowners: 

Building permit application, forms and information needed for an ADU permit

The following information is part of the application. This is everything you might need when applying for a permit to construct an ADU. Since every project is unique, there may be some situations where you will be asked to provide additional information. Things you need to apply for this permit may include some or all of the following.

If you aren't sure what you need, contact Permitting Services. ADU permit forms and information include: 

Building permit application 

Energy Efficiency additional measures requirements 

Erosion control information and forms

Submit an erosion control plan if the project will result in disturbing the ground with mechanical equipment and/or if the project qualifies as a complex site. This can be part of the site plan.

Submit a simple site erosion control requirements form if:

Existing on-site sewage disposal system disclaimer 

Life Safety checklists 

Download the Word document and save a copy to use these forms:

Sample site plan 

Sample site plan drawn to scale. Get more details about site plan requirements in the submittal requirements for ADU permits below.

Septic tanks and cesspools

If building an addition and house has a septic tank or cesspool on site:

Simplified approach form and/or stormwater plan

Mitigation form (simplified approach form) and/or a stormwater plan if your project will add more than 500 square feet of impervious area.

Submittal requirements for ADU permits

Please carefully read the submittal requirements. The requirements explain what you must include to have a completed application. 

Structural plans & calculations (if applicable) 

Systems Development Charge (SDC) form 

W-3 form: small meter sizing worksheet 

Include all existing and proposed fixtures in the W-3 form.

For combination permits (if applicable)

Completed NSFR application for new detached ADU only 

If your project is for a new detached ADU, use this application: 

Step 1: Research your property, what's allowed and what you need for your ADU permit

Code and Rules for ADU permits

Permits are reviewed under multiple city and state codes including: 

  • Oregon Residential Specialty Code 
  • Portland City Codes: 
    • Title 11 Tree Code 
    • Title 24 Building Regulations
    • Title 33 Zoning Code 

Other codes may apply based on the scope of work. The City and State Codes, Administrative Rules, Code Guides and Program Guides web page has the codes, administrative rules, code guides and program guides.

The program guide has an overview of zoning and construction standards.  For example, zoning code has rules on the maximum size of an ADU (no more than 75% of the living area of the house or 800 square feet, whichever is less).  The building code has specific rules about separation between units as well as electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems.  

How to check the permit history for a house 

Depending on the age of your house, we may have inspection cards or microfilmed plans that show the permit history for your house. It is important to verify the permit records, not rely on the tax information from the county assessor’s office.  If "existing” finished attic or basement was not permitted, it will need to be legalized through the new permit as if the work was not already done.

Some records are available online, visit our How to Request Public Property Records webpage.

Contact Planning and Zoning to find out if an ADU is allowed on your property

Before getting started, contact Planning and Zoning to find out if an ADU is allowed on your property. There are also a variety of design and use standards in the zoning code which apply to the creation of an ADU. These include:

  • Limits to the number of residents in both units
  • Restrictions on home occupations
  • Rules on the location of entrance doors 
  • Limits on the size of the ADU
  • Design requirements for new detached ADUs (Materials 

For additional requirements that apply to detached ADUs, please review:

Combination permits - call for all inspections and pay for all permits at one time 

Development Services sells a "Residential Combination" permit package. This allows you to call for all inspections using one Building Permit (RS) IVR number. You can also pay for all the permits at one time. If you choose a combination permit, you will need to submit the trade (mechanical, electrical, and/or plumbing) applications with your plans.  If you are hiring subcontractors to do the trade work, they must sign their trade permit application.  

Decommissioning a septic tank or cesspool

If you are building an addition, and the house was not connected to the sewer when it was built, you will likely need to decommission the cesspool or septic tank.  

Evaluating existing space to convert to an ADU

Unfinished areas may not meet current building code requirements for living space. This includes: 

  • Ceiling height
  • Stairs
  • Emergency egress windows (emergency exit windows)
  • Insulation and Ventilation

These conditions could make it expensive, difficult or even impossible for you to convert into an ADU.

Excavation near property line 

Be careful when digging near the property line for construction. The work should not cause damage to the next door property and buildings. The temporary excavation guidelines has information on requirements.

Major Residential Alteration and Additions (MRAA)

A major residential addition is adding more than 500 square feet of new interior space by expanding the building footprint or envelope. A major alteration means removing 50% or more of the exterior walls above the foundation. If the Major Residential Alterations and Additions have a notification rule. There is also required delay period. (Portland City Code Section 24.55.210). For more information, visit apply for a Major Residential Alteration and Addition permit (MRAA): 

Major Residential Alteration and Addition Permit - Overview and Criteria 

New detached ADUs 

If you are building a new detached ADU, you will follow the same permit process as a new single family residence (NSFR).  There are additional requirements for your permit.  This does not apply to additions or conversion of existing buildings. 

Permit fees for ADUs 

Permit fees are based on the type of permit, the work proposed, the valuation of the work, and the staff that need to review the work. When you create a new Dwelling unit, system development charges are usually charged. 

Residential Engineering

Your project must be designed to meet all structural requirements in the building code. The construction drawings must show how both gravity and lateral (wind and earthquake) loads will be resisted. Please see our page on Residential Engineering for more information on these requirements.

Apply for an ADU system development charge (SDC) waiver

You may be eligible to apply for an ADU system development charge waiver. Learn more about the ADU SDC waiver program

Step 1b: Still need help? Schedule a 15-minute appointment 

If you have questions after reviewing the information on this page, we recommend you book a free 15-minute appointment with us. 

This is an optional step. We're here for you if you have questions about the information and materials you need to apply. 

If you need help, here are some experts we recommend you meet with for this project*: 

Meet with a Permit Technician 

  • Schedule this appointment if you have questions about the permit process. Permit technicians will provide you with the information found on this page. 
  • Get help with permit application requirements. 

These are optional meetings. Only book if you have questions. 

Meet with a Permit Technician

Meet with a City Planner 

  • We recommend you meet with city planner about planning and zoning or tree code requirements before submitting building permits.  
  • Get information on rules that apply to your property. 

These are optional meetings. Only book if you have questions.

Meet with a City Planner

Meet with a Building Code and Engineering Reviewer

  • Get help with building code and engineering requirements. 
  • To submit a question by phone, call Building Code Plan Review.  

These are optional meetings. Only book if you have questions. 

Meet with a Building Code and Engineering Reviewer

Meet with a Water expert 

  • Find out if your project requires you to increase the size of your existing water meter. 
  • For development and construction related questions about water services. 

These are optional meetings. Only book if you have questions. 

Meet with a Water expert

Meet with a Transportation expert 

  • Questions about how your project will affect the right-of-way.  
  • Find out if your project will trigger right-of-way improvements. 

These are optional meetings. Only book if you have questions. 

Meet with a Transportation expert

Get help from the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) 

  • Questions about the sewer, waste line, or stormwater. 

These are optional meetings. Only book if you have questions. 

Get help from BES

*Not all review groups are listed. The groups listed above will help get you started. 

Step 2: Apply for an ADU permit online 

You can submit your permit application request online using Development Hub PDXRead step-by-step instructions for submitting a permit application request online or in person. 

For most projects, electronic plans are submitted through the Single PDF process. Large projects such as commercial new construction are submitted though PDX E-plans and ProjectDox.

If you are unable to create electronic plans, please call us and we will work with you.

Step 3: Check plan review status and make corrections to an application 

You can check the status of a permit review on Portland Maps permit/case search. Many people might review a single permit. The Permit Review Process webpage has more information about the groups who review permits. 

A checksheet is sent to the applicant when a reviewer needs additional information or a correction has to be made to the plans. When you have gathered the additional information or made the corrections, you will need to send us a checksheet response with corrections. Reviewers will be notified that a checksheet response has been received and the review will continue.

Read more about how to send us corrections and how to prepare corrected paper plans.

Step 4: Get your ADU permit 

You will be contacted when your permit is ready, and notified of your final fee total. Instructions will be given on how to get your approved permit and pay your fees. Your permit is not issued until all fees are paid. Read more about the pre-issuance process.

Step 5: Start building and get ready for inspections for your ADU permit 

The inspection card lists all the inspections you will likely need during your ADU construction project, and what work needs to be done first.  

Once your building permit is issued, erosion control measures and sometimes tree protection measures must be installed, inspected and approved prior to beginning any further ground-disturbing activities. All permits need a final approval inspection to be complete.

Step 6: Schedule an inspection, get inspection results and make corrections

To schedule an inspection, call the automated inspection request line. You will need your IVR or permit number and the three digit code for the inspection.

Get the results of the inspection on Portland Maps permit/case search the next day. Read more about why work does not get approved and how to schedule a reinspection.

Contact residential inspectors about your ADU permit inspections

If you have questions before or after your inspection, you can talk to an inspector.

Contact

Building Code Plan Review

Development Services

phone number503-823-1456

Monday through Friday from 8 am - 5 pm. Leave a message with detailed information.

Oregon Relay Service711 Oregon Relay Service

Permitting General Information

Development Services

Residential Inspections

Development Services

phone number503-823-7388

Monday through Friday from 8:15 am - 3:45 pm. Leave a detailed message.

Oregon Relay Service711 Oregon Relay Service
fax number503-823-7693

Zoning Information Line

Development Services

phone number503-823-7526

Monday through Friday from 8 am - 5 pm. Leave a message with a phone number, the project address, and your questions.

Oregon Relay Service711 Oregon Relay Service

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