Get information about Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) permits in the City of Portland.
An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a second dwelling unit created on a lot with a house, attached 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.
Code and Rules
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. Building Codes, Rules & Guides has links to the codes and administrative rules, code and program guides.
Our ADU program guide gives 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 Public Records Access page.
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.
Information about ADU permits
Planning and Zoning
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 see the Detached Covered Accessory Structures Worksheet.
Evaluating Existing Space
Unfinished areas may not meet current building code requirements for living space. This includes:
- Ceiling height
- Emergency Egress Windows
- Insulation and Ventilation
These conditions could make it expensive, difficult or even impossible for you to convert into an ADU.
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.
The Bureau of 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.
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.
Oregon Construction Contractors Board
If you are doing the work your self, 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.
What you need for an ADU permit
The following information must be submitted 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:
- Building Permit Application
- Simple Site Erosion Control plan
- If the project will result in disturbing the ground with mechanical equipment and
- If the project qualifies as a simple site (less than 10% slope, more than 50 feet from a wetland or waterbody and outside an environmental or greenway zone
- Erosion Control Plan
- If the project will result in disturbing the ground with mechanical equipment
- If the project qualifies as a complex site
- Can be part of the site plan
- Site Plan (Sample Site Plan)
- Architectural Plans Adding a Dwelling Unit Submittal Requirement
- Structural Plans & Calculations (if applicable)
- Energy Efficiency Additional Measures
- Residential Water Service Application (if project will result in more than 3 bathrooms on site)
- Residential System Development Charge Form
- Mitigation form and/or a stormwater plan if your project will add more than 500 square feet of impervious area
- Disclaimer for Existing On-site Sewage Disposal System (if building an addition and house has a septic tank or cess pool on site)
- For Combination Permits (if applicable):
- Completed NSFR Intake Packet (for new detached ADU only)
How to submit your ADU permit application
To schedule an appointment to submit your plans electronically (one permit submission per appointment), please email or call Schedule a Permit Intake Appointment and leave a message that includes the following information:
- Your name
- Your phone number
- Your email address
- Description of the work
- Project address
- Permit number or Interactive Voice Response (IVR) number (if available)
We will respond as soon as possible via phone or email with confirmation of your appointment. We ask that you please do not call and send an email message as it can cause staff to book duplicate appointments. Thank you!
We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls and emails. Please wait at least one week after submitting your application before sending a follow up call or email message.
If you are unable to create electronic plans yourself, please call us and we will work with you.
During your appointment time, our staff will guide you through uploading your plans using a secure link we will provide. To file a permit application, you must upload a completed application and all submittal materials.
The bureaus/review groups that will check a typical conversion project include:
- Planning and Zoning
- Life Safety Review
- Structural Review
- Site Development Review
- Residential Subsurface Site Evaluation - Site Development
- Bureau of Environmental Services Review
- Portland Department of Transportation Review
- Bureau of Water Works Review
- Urban Forestry Review
If information is missing, or if corrections are needed, you will be sent a checksheet.
When the last technical review is approved, your permit will be pre-issued. Pre-issuance is the last permit check. This step ensures all required reviews took place, all required approval stamps are on the plans, and the fees are charged correctly. 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.
Get ready for inspections
The inspection card lists all the inspections you will likely need during your 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.
Residential inspections, results and 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.
Not approved - there are some reasons why the work did not get approved:
- no access - the inspector may not have been able to inspect the work
- incomplete work
- code violations
The inspector will list the corrections needed on the inspection report.
Call for a reinspection after making the corrections. Use the same three digit inspection code.
If you make the corrections the same day wait until 5 pm to request a reinspection. The inspector needs to enter their results before you can schedule the reinspection.
There is a reinspection fee charged for more than one reinspection for a single issue.
Contact residential inspectors
If you have questions before your inspection, you can talk to an inspector. The 1 & 2 family inspector area map list the inspector's name, area, and phone number.
Because of vacation or illness, your inspector may be different than the one listed on the map. If you have questions after your inspection, find out which inspector to call. Their contact information will be on the inspection results and on Portland maps.