How to determine if a downstairs apartment is legal? The house is noted as a single family house with 9 rooms and 2 baths. The apartment has 3 rooms

Asked by Sdps, San Francisco, CA Sat Aug 21, 2010

How would you be able to determine if a single family house, as noted on the 3R report but has an apartment downstairs with a separate address and zoned Rh-2 is legal? All the finishes and architectural details are in keeping with the 1922 finishes of the house above.

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Jack Murray, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sun Aug 22, 2010
While you have gotten good answers regarding your question, in San Francisco it will be your 3R Report that shows / determines the "use". However, 3R Reports have been known to be inaccurate, and in the course of years of selling San Francisco properties, I have had 3R Reports revised reflecting a different use than the original 3R Report that was issued. (Scary, but it is far in the double digits for number of 3R Reports I have had revised, and unfortunately speaks to the lack of reliability to these reports). This process actually starts at two different city agencies, and if conclusive results are not obtained at these agencies it then may need to proceed to a microfilm permit search at the department of building inspection. Interestingly enough San Francisco also has "housekeeping" rooms / units, as a use designation. I have encountered these in properties that were built at the same time as your property. Full knowledge of the status of the downstairs will be beneficial to the marketing of your property.
Please do not hesitate to call if you would like to discuss further.
Jack Murray
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Sally Rosenm…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sat Aug 21, 2010
Take your 3R and go to DBI and pull all the permits on file. Sometimes you find permits for rooms where it says a permit has been pulled for other work. Also you can pull all the drawings made and check that way as well. We found a downstairs room and bath were permitted when the Assessor's info counts only the upstairs rooms.

Good luck,
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Bev Smucha, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Sat Aug 21, 2010
The rooms may be legal, but not a legal 2nd unit. Check the tax records, and with the assessors office. A indication that it may be legal if there are two separate gas and electric meters. If so, you can request the
City do a on site inspection, but be careful, hey can also make you remove the kitchen if its not a legal 2nd unit.
Most of these apartments in San Francisco are not legal second units; however, the rooms may have been
built with permits, and legal sq. footage.
0 votes
J Mario Preza, Agent, Burlingame, CA
Sat Aug 21, 2010
It sounds like you've already checked with the City as you refer to the Residential Record Report (3-R) common in San Francisco. Unfortunately, as you're finding, this report only tells you what permits may have been recorded, for what purpose and the dates for these. It doesn't, as you've probably found, tell you whether or not a "legal unit" was permitted by the City.

I have had numerous such situations over the years in both San Francisco and Daly City, a common ocurrence for many houses with "mother-in-law" units (as they are called). I have found in dealing with the municipalities in either cities, that there are some rules of thumb about whether or not something could be "warranted" or "acceptable" by the City, and it all has to do with "health and safety," alas, something that we all know had different standards in the 20's.

You'll probably find if you dig deep inought, e.g., go to the building records, look up building plans, if there is a permit referenced in the 3-R there'll be a plan filed along with that, that the "unit" is most likely NOT legal, particularly if the entire neighborhood is residentially inclined, or if you have a garage for only one car, or if your kitchenette is not properly ventilated, etc., in spite of the period decor or trim.
Our resourceful dads or grand-dads often took it upon themselves to build without the benefits of these now highly important permits.

Hope that helps.
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Pacita Dimac…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Sat Aug 21, 2010
City/county recorder's office will have the information.

Sometimes, the owners may have applied but forgot to follow up on their application to reclassify the property. Other times, permits were issued but not finalized. The best thing to do it to do a check of: 1) building/permits and 2) city/county records to reconcile both.

Good luck
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Fran Rokicki, Agent, BOLTON, CT
Sat Aug 21, 2010
Check with your town assessor's office and zoning officer. They would have updates on file of this property.
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