What fines are assessed for illegal garage conversions?

Asked by sharonbarton7, Santa Barbara, CA Tue Jan 8, 2013

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Mack McCoy, Agent, Seattle, WA
Tue Jan 8, 2013
Let's grow up. When it comes to Real Property, as Mr. Baker, a Real Estate Pro is well aware of, "Ownership" means that you have certain rights to a property.

Let's not confuse the "rights of real property ownership" with issues of "freedom." You own a house, meaning that you have a certain bundle of rights to it. You may not even own the mineral rights to the land underneath it. And you are subject to the laws of the community - zoning, health, safety . . .
1 vote
Irina Karan, Agent, Aventura, FL
Sun Sep 8, 2013
Hello Sharon,

The best area to find out the exact procedure of "reconverting" or "legalizing" the garage conversion is with the city. Sometimes, there is "grandfathering" and they even tax the property as if the house was built without a garage. Sometimes, you have a certain time period to bring the place "up to code".
Yet, there are times, when you do have to pay fines - normally, when the owner disregards all notices from the city for a very long time. After such a long time, there could be potential liens on the property, put by the city, running at $100/day. Any bills like that could be negotiated down as the city is interested in resolution of the conflicting situation. The lien is not on the owner, it is on the property.

The best course of action is to hire an architect/structural engineer - possibly the one known to the city as a reliable professional. The architect prepares the plans and a licensed contract fixes the issues, and you are good to go.

Cooperation with the city yields good results!

Hope this helps,

Irina Karan
Beachfront Realty, Inc.
0 votes
JMF, Home Owner, Santa Barbara, CA
Sat Feb 9, 2013
I bought a house in SB that had its stand alone one-car garage illegally converted into a bedroom. It had a side door installed, and a wall built about five feet into the garage (leaving the owner about 5 feet of storage space in the garage). The garage floor showed signs of water infiltration. The owner was renting that and the house's three bedrooms out to college students and had stopped paying his mortgage, or caring for the house at all, a few years before. He had also painted the roof black in an effort to make it look in better condition to a possible buyer. A real schmuck of a guy.

The city did not charge me a fine, but I had a certain amount of time to return it to a garage, including removing all the illegal, dangerous and completely convoluted electrical work, then applying for a permit to re-install electrical work correctly (I did want a light bulb inside and outside the stand alone garage), removing that interior wall, moving the door away from the property line (it was about two feet from the backyard property line).

I saved some money on the architectural drawing fees by drawing the iterations of our plan myself, but it took a couple tries before we got it to the city's satisfaction. In all, it cost us between $3 - 4,000 --- for an unheated, cement floor single car garage space!!

We also replaced the roof on the entire house, including on the garage, but that is a different issue. The seller had spliced in ceiling joist "pieces" without any sort of support system or connections between the pieces. The roof, with any pressure applied (think really bad storm), could have collapsed! For a really tiny SB bungalow with a one car separate garage, the roof and its inherent repair work was $15k.

If we had not done this, I am sure there would have been a fine and repeated notices that we were in violation with the city codes. Or, the roof might have collapsed and killed one or some of the inhabitants inside. We cannot live comfortably with this kind of negative energy -- especially when it was caused by someone else.

There are an amazing amount of houses in this condition in SB (and elsewhere, to be honest); aka, many who think themselves above the law, and do not give a hoot about how their irresponsibility affects the lives of their tenants.

Hope this information helps.
0 votes
Andrew Baker, , Santa Barbara, CA
Tue Jan 8, 2013
So, let me get this straight. You own a house. You paid for it. You pay property tax forever for it. But, to even turn a garage into an "artist studio" is illegal, and you can't do it. Freedom?
0 votes
Miguel Avila, Agent, Goleta, CA
Tue Jan 8, 2013
Hi Sharon,normaly the city or county will want you to put everything back to a garage,where they get you is to pay for demo permits and inspection fees and they give you like 30 days to get it all done,if you live in the county you can the county building depatment or go to 109 E Anapamu St if you live in the City call the City of SB Public works or go to 630 Garden St.Thank you
0 votes
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