Tag Archives: ADU Hawaii

ADU Landlord Tips: Preparing Your Lease (Part 1)



With your ADU construction, preparation, decoration, and landscaping complete, you’re almost ready to bring in renters. The new income to start paying off your investment and bringing in a little extra household income is so close you can almost taste it… but from this point, you are still one step of away from safely advertising your ADU as being ready for renters. It’s time to build your lease.

The Importance of a Well-Written Lease

To avoid the most common new-landlord mistake made in the industry, you are not going to use a cookie-cutter lease printed off the internet. While starting with one of these fill-in-the-blank forms is a reasonable way to build a frame for your lease, you absolutely do not want to just go with the default clauses. Not only do you want to make sure every clause actually relates to Hawaii rental law, you’ll also want to make a few adjustments considering that the ADU is on your property and is not a completely separate rental house.

The most important thing to realize about a lease is that it’s not a formality, it’s legally binding. You and your tenant will be obligated to meet any agreements, requirements, and restrictions stated on the lease and violations can potentially end in lawsuits, not just hurt feelings. Because nobody wants a misunderstanding or a lawsuit, it’s best to build your lease carefully.

Hawaii Landlord Laws

The first thing you need to make sure of is that your lease, and therefore your entire landlord/tenant agreement, is in compliance with Hawaii law. The best way to do that is to build your lease with the Landlord-Tenant Handbook open as you go from section to section. This covers everything from types of rental agreements to how to manage disputes. If you build your lease entirely based on this handbook, you should be reasonably secure from legal actions and will have a good baseline for handling negotiations. However, there are still a variety of policies that you will want to have a personal hand in deciding.

Rental Amount

Deciding the amount you’re going to rent your property for each month is a calculation every landlord must do for themselves. There are three numbers that go into this calculation: how much standard rent for your square-footage is on the current market, how long it will take you to regain your investment building the ADU, and what your tenants can afford. ADUs were approved initially to create affordable housing so consider pricing a little bit below the square footage standard.

Duration of Lease

Most leases are six months to a year in duration, meaning that your tenants are agreeing to stay for the entire time marked on the lease and pay rent for each month they are present. Six months is the shortest allowed rental duration for a Hawaiian ADU but if you have tenants you really like, you can increase the lease duration up to five years for long-term housing security for both families.

Damage and Security Deposits

The first thing to think about is what happens if the tenant accidentally damages your ADU. This is usually why most landlords take the equivalent of one months’ rent in a security deposit that will be used for any repairs for tenant-caused damages that the tenant doesn’t simply take care of themselves. Your cookie-cutter lease should include a workable damage and security deposit clause, but it’s up to you to decide how much to ask for as the security deposit.

Access to and Respect for Your Property

If you have not landscaped an entire separate yard and entrance for your ADU, or even if you have, you may want to throw in a clause about access to and respect for your property. This gives you the freedom to make it clear exactly how welcome tenants are to enjoy your backyard or if you’d prefer that they kept to the space you’ve designated to them. You can also define whether their security deposit will apply to the damage they may accidentally do to your property outside of the ADU yard.


Privacy and Due Notice

One of the most important aspects of landlord-tenant relationships is privacy and due notice. This means that you, as the landlord, promise not to barge in on your tenant’s privacy and will give at least a 24-hour notice and the option to reschedule before any inspections or maintenance appointments. Socialization does not require notice as long as you’re willing to accept normal social limitations for when one is welcome or not welcome as a guest. Along the same lines, you may also want to define a certain amount of privacy for your family because the ADU is so close to home.

Leases are both complex and important to how you will interact with your future rental tenants. In fact, this is only the first half of our overview of the basics of personalizing a lease for your property and preferences. Join us next time for the second half and if you’re looking for even more information on building and managing a new ADU, contact us today!


Retirement Downsizing in Place with an Accessible ADU

This entry is part of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit




Many seniors are seriously conflicted about the choice to downsize into a smaller, more manageable and affordable house or stay with the family home to pass it on to the children who grew up there. There is an inherent conflict between practicality and sentimentality, especially as you start to slow down and getting around the big old abode is becoming more of a hassle than it’s worth. The good news is that it’s not a clear-cut choice between selling the house to downsize or staying and trying to take care of it on your own. There are many shades of alternatives like living in the master suite and renting out spare bedrooms, running the place like a bed and breakfast through Airbnb, or you can even effectively downsize into a senior-friendly little home, rent out the house, and still be close enough to keep an eye on the old family home. How do you ask? By building an ADU.

What is an ADU?

An ADU is a small additional home built on your property either separately from or connected to the main house. These are homes generally between 400 square feet and 800 square feet. What’s so special about ADUs is that you can build one almost anywhere because they are so small but include enough room for one or two people to live comfortably, if not expansively.

Most ADUs feature one or two bedrooms, a full if small kitchen and dining area, a bathroom, and sometimes a laundry area. They often feature wide porches to help create more living space and are very comfortable in a spacious backyard. In other words, they are the perfect retirement downsizing apartments and you can build one right next to the home you don’t want to leave behind.

An Accessible ADU is Perfect for Retirement

ADUs are great for a lot of different population groups but for seniors, they are the perfect put-it-anywhere retirement flat. Small and incredibly compact, the ADU will be easy to keep clean even with a limited daily energy and you’ll never have to go up and down stairs to reach a room in the house. Even better, they can be easily designed for perfect accessibility with all the privacy and comfort of an apartment in a retirement community but still on your own land and completely under your control. A ramp can be installed out front, bars can be elegantly and discreetly installed throughout the home, and you can even have it custom-built with counter lifts, light-touch appliances, and other helpful accessibility features to make it a luxury retirement suite right in your own backyard.

The Smart-Home Upgrade

You can also make your small retirement flat even more convenient with the installation of a modern voice-activated smart home. You can have wifi-enabled lights and thermostat, and maybe even other appliances like a smart oven, coffee maker, self-watering plants, pet treat dispensers, and amazingly much more. Even non-smart things can be added to the smart home roster with the use of wifi-plugs for simple on/off functions. This means that from the comfort of your chair, you can manage many aspects of your home without having to waste your energy wandering around turning lights on and off, resetting the thermostat when it gets cold, or starting the oven pre-heating. And with an ADU, you’ll only need one hub because it can hear you from one end of the house to the other.


Downsizing is often the most practical choice for aging seniors, but it can also be a hard one because you don’t want to leave your family home. Fortunately, you don’t have to actually go anywhere to downsize or even give up some of your privacy to rent out part of the house. You can gain the full profits from renting the entire main home and still live comfortably on your own property by building yourself a cozy little accessible ADU. With the combination of a small clean space, ramps, and handrails, and helpful smart-home integration, you should be able to enjoy your retirement quite blissfully with all the joy of watching your family home come to life again with activity from a nearby comfy porch chair. For more information about building your cozy custom retirement ADU, contact us today!


5 Tips for Building an Energy Efficient ADU

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit


If you’re thinking about or already planning to build an ADU on your property, it’s important to remember that the cost of construction is only the beginning. The ADU will connect to your property’s water, power, and possibly gas hookups. Whoever lives there will add to your utility bills as if they were living in the main house, meaning your monthly costs will inevitably go up. This means that the more energy-efficient your ADU is, the lower it’s monthly utility cost will be. While there’s little you can do about water other than to have a well or collect rainwater (a whole new project all on its own), you can [amazon_link asins=’0979882001′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ab5886f5-e67f-11e7-9b62-6fcd0550a544′]lower and even eliminate the power required to keep your ADU residents happy. Here are five tips to remember when designing and building your ADU that can help.

1) Insulation and Weatherproofing

The weather in Hawaii is notoriously nice but most modern families still prefer to turn on the AC when relaxing at home or preparing for work and school each day. This means that the more efficiently a home maintains it’s internal temperature, the more energy efficient it will be. To ensure that your ADU doesn’t leak AC, make sure that the home is fully sealed and well-insulated. Windows and doors that open wide are wonderfully breezy, but they should also have efficient weatherstripping so that when closed, they seal completely.

2) Central Air

A lot of homes have stop-gap cooling measures like window AC units or free-standing room heaters. Not only are these bulky, they’re also less efficient than a centralized air system with sealed ducts, clean vents, and a single well-built appliance managing all your cooling and occasional heating needs. The more streamlined your ADU design is, the less power it will use.

3) Low-Watt Appliances

Appliances come in a wide selection of quality and efficiency. No matter what kind of appliance you’re looking for, from [amazon_textlink asin=’B074BXLK17′ text=’washing machines’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’d6319d19-e67f-11e7-b5dc-2fc330d35f0b’] to water heaters, there will be options that consume less power for the same high-quality performance. With just a little bit of research, you should be able to fully equip your ADU with appliances that will combine into a significant reduction in power consumption for you and your ADU residents.

4) Solar Panels and Micro-Grid

Now that you’ve ensured that the ADU will consume the minimal amount of energy, you have the opportunity to have it compensate for its own power consumption, possibly reaching net-zero and removing the ADU from your power bill entirely. All you need is a modest solar panel array and a battery bank that can support the home’s power consumption overnight and maybe a day or two of clouds.

5) Smart Home

The final power-saving and incidentally delightful solution is integrating IoT smart home features. Wifi-controlled and programmable LED lights are not only more efficient, they can also be turned off from anywhere and turn themselves off when no one is home. A smart thermostat can ensure that the AC is never running when the house is empty. You can even install smart outlets to control normal appliances from your phone or on an efficient timer.

The more efficiently your ADU has been designed and built, the more inexpensive it will be to keep running comfortably and maintain in the years to come. From good insulation to lights that turn themselves off, with a little bit of forward thinking, you can reduce the amount of power your ADU consumes and possibly even generate all the power it needs to run every appliance in the home. For more helpful tips on building a new ADU for your family or rental use, contact us today!


How to Optimize Space In Your New ADU

This entry is part 2 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit



Anyone who’s been looking into ADU designs recently has probably had to face a very stark truth: ADU’s are small. Unlike normal single-family homes, they are each limited to a certain maximum floor space size based on the total size of your lot. Unfortunately, floor space means that even if you decided to build up (to safe ground space), you would still only be able to build so much area worth of rooms. The vast majority of ADUs will be limited to a maximum of 400 sq feet of floor space. This is about enough room for one fairly tight bedroom, a full or 3/4 bath, and an open kitchen and living area. With traditional furniture and storage methods, this can get cramped pretty fast but with a few creative storage and design techniques, you can maximize the living space while remaining within regulation size.

Turning The Walls into Storage

The limitations on ADU size is based on floor space, meaning the area between the walls. But what about the walls themselves? rather than using up a hundred of your square feet for dressers, shelves, and cabinets, why not install them directly into the walls so the floor can be used for comfortable human activity? All you need is a little innovative carpentry to embed stacks of drawers, fold-out shelves, and hidden cupboards to store everything from tools to clothes to [amazon_textlink asin=’B003IKMSFE’ text=’kitchenware’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’4c0a9c72-e677-11e7-8743-7b58c1ee8f1f’].

Murphy Beds

The Murphey bed is a simple but effective engineering marvel already well-loved by apartment-dwellers. This design involves a bedframe with what appears to be a tall, recessed headboard. The bed can be folded vertically, with the footboard folding toward the ceiling, to embed itself into the wall, creating floor space for daily activities. With this method, you might be able to comfortably turn the master bedroom into a convertible study and/or fit one or two children’s beds into the living area to better accommodate a young family.

Roll-Away and Platform Beds

Roll-away beds are another innovation that can help you double bed space for floor space. A simple platform, perhaps made into a play area, can hide a full-sized children’s bed that is only rolled out for sleeping time. Platform beds, on the other hand, are out all the time but have either another roll-away bed or large drawers worth of storage underneath.

Ceiling Storage

While lofts will count against your floor space, simply choosing to store things hanging from the ceiling will not. By designing a vaulted ceiling, ladders, and hooks or brackets for hanging storage, you can give your ADU residents a lot more room for their things so the floor space is only occupied by daily activities. These can hold bicycles, potted plants, hanging cleaning supplies, even cabinets that lower themselves on electric rails if you want to go all-out.

Embed the Tech

How much floor space do you want to be taken up by standing lamps, entertainment centers, or [amazon_textlink asin=’B00FU3ZKN4′ text=’computer desks’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’c2ef2b3d-e677-11e7-a6db-f52111b67e20′]? You can plan for these features as well by embedding them into the walls. An entertainment center can fold out or you can leave a handy recess in the wall with convenient outlets and cable hookups for your resident’s media needs, maybe even with matching recesses for surround-sound speakers. Mount the lights on the walls and ceilings, and take the time to design a corner desk that doesn’t take up much room, once again near convenient outlets.

Most ADUs will be using their limited floor space for traditional furniture, storage, and beds but you can set the trend of optimized comfort and efficiency. Give yourself, your relatives, or your rental tenants the gift of elbow room with a creatively designed ADU, embedded storage, and beds that can be put away. For more advice on building perfect custom ADU, contact us today!


5 Decisions to Make Before Starting Your ADU Construction

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit



If you want a source of passive income and to do a community service at the same time, a rare opportunity to be sure, there’s no better option than constructing an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) on your property. This is Honolulu’s best answer to the increasingly pressing crunch for affordable housing and while there are some very specific rules, it’s a great chance for current homeowners to significantly increase the value of their property, provide a new home to family or renters in need, and enjoy the excitement of a new project literally in your [amazon_textlink asin=’B01FLO0TWI’ text=’backyard’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’6957f4aa-e67a-11e7-ba81-156c15ca43e3′]. However, before you start putting up timbers, there are a few important decisions you need to make.

1) Is the ADU for You, Family, or Renters?

The reason you’re building an ADU will shape every other decision you make, so you might as well start at square one. ADUs can serve a number of interesting, helpful, and profitable purposes depending on how they are used. If you (the homeowner) plan to move into the ADU and leave the main house for the family or high-dollar renters, the design should be fit to your personal needs. If the ADU is to house an overflow of family, consider their preferences and look into ohana housing instead, which has fewer regulations but isn’t as versatile if the family moves out. Finally, if you’re planning for renters, you’ll want the ADU to be as welcoming as possible for anyone who might move in.

2) Would it be better Attached or Detached from the Main House?

You may not have realized it, but ADUs can absolutely be built as an attachment to your main house. In some cases, this may be the only way to achieve the required number of parking spots or fit the second dwelling onto an oddly shaped lot. That said, attached ADUs are more ideal for the family as you’ll be living in close proximity, along with sharing a wall and possibly a door to the main house. For ADUs you plan to rent or plan to eventually be able to rent, later on, it would be better to build a detached dwelling for added privacy and personal space.

3) Are You Prepared for a Very Small Dwelling?

ADUs come with a maximum size restriction depending on the square footage of your lot, and these can be pretty darn small. If your lot is between 3,500 and 5,000 sq ft, your ADU could have a maximum size of 400 to 800 sq ft. That may be smaller than you’re imagining. With 400 sq ft, there’s usually enough room for one bedroom with a full to [amazon_textlink asin=’B01KGRAHJ0′ text=’queen sized bed’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’93f69a54-e67a-11e7-934c-89a72daf9e9d’], a compact kitchen/living/dining area, and a small bathroom. Once you know how big an ADU you can build, take a walk through a few models and existing homes around the same size to really get a feel for the functional size of the home. That said, people have reported living comfortably in less than 200 sq ft.

4) Can You Convert an Existing Accessory Structure?

If you have a large shed or well-built workshop already on your property, there’s a chance that you might be able to convert this into all or part of your new ADU. For this to be a viable option, the accessory structure needs to be sturdy and capable of being upgraded to good quality living conditions. You’ll need insulation, real walls and floors, a kitchen, and a bathroom along with the necessary power, water, and possibly gas connections. It may just be easier to build a new structure, perhaps even making room by knocking down the old shed rather than repurposing it.

5) Do You Want to Go “Off-Grid”?

One of the really nifty options for a brand new ADU is the ability to go ‘off-grid’. What this means for most is solar panels. Big ones, with enough battery power to ensure that the lights and water heater work at night as well. You can even install a rainwater collection and filtering system but we suggest keeping the water pipes even if your ADU is power independent. An off-grid ADU will cost a little more to make but for the rest of its life will add nothing to the power bill. If you’ve got the money to invest and love the idea of renewable energy, this could be a great ADU choice that will, incidentally, also raise its value as a rental property. While you’re at it, throw some solar on the main house, too.

Here at Owner Built Designs, we specialize in making your Honolulu ADU dream a reality. For more helpful tips on designing the perfect ADU for you, your family, and your property contact us today!


Six Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Build an ADU in Hawaii

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

It has been awhile since we discussed the benefits of having an accessory dwelling unit (or ADU) – including their potential for bringing more affordable housing options into the Hawaiian housing market and how ADUs can provide a new source of income. If you need to refresh your memory or read it for the first time, you can find that post here.

While the benefits of an ADU are numerous, there is a lot to think about when it comes to [amazon_textlink asin=’1600850227′ text=’building’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f4d2b31b-a228-11e7-a86a-69a32f71f3e4′] an accessory dwelling unit. We have compiled a list of six questions you should ask yourself before you commit.

1. Why do you want an ADU on your property?

The reasons for having an ADU can vary greatly. Some are looking to generate extra income by renting it out. Others want to keep multiple generations of their family together on the same property while having separate spaces at the same time. Knowing why you want it and being able to articulate your reasons will be helpful as you get further into the process.

2. Are you or a relative willing to live on the property once the ADU is completed?

In Hawaii, as in many other areas, the owner (or a close relative) of an ADU is required to live on the property. This can be in the primary residence or in the ADU, but you or someone closely related to you will need to live on the property. If you are not willing to do this and cannot find a family member interested in doing so, consider investing in updates to the house that is already there and rent it out instead of creating an accessory dwelling unit.

3. Do you know the rules and regulations for ADUs?

Different residential properties on the Hawaiian Islands have different zoning regulations, as well as homeowners’ association rules, which may or may not allow ADUs to be built on your property. There are also regulations regarding owner-builders you need to be aware of if you intend to take on that responsibility for the ADU. Do your research and find out if your property is eligible for an ADU before you invest much money into the process of building it.

4. Are you prepared for the initial and ongoing costs of creating an ADU?

The cost of creating an ADU is not just a one-time, lump-sum payment. Often, there are multiple costs involved and multiple professionals you will need to pay in order to make sure that the work done to create your ADU is up to date and up to code. You need to be prepared for additional costs to surface as construction goes along.

5. Are you planning to convert space that already exists into an ADU, or will the ADU be a new building?

Many of the specifics of the accessory dwelling unit will depend on the answer to this question, so know your answer before you start designing it.

6. When it is finished, are you prepared to take on the role and responsibilities of a landlord?

Once you become a landlord, you are responsible for many things related to the ADU – including the maintenance and upkeep. Not sure what all of the obligations and responsibilities are? Spend some time researching what that means from a legal standpoint as well as what will be expected of you beyond what the law states, and honestly assess your ability to be a good landlord.

If you are considering building an ADU and looking for someone who can create accessory dwelling unit designs that are easy to read and permit-ready, contact us today. We have decades of experience and would love to work with you to create an ADU that fits your specific needs.


The Benefits of Building an ADU on Your Property

This entry is part 8 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

Owning a home in Hawaii is a wonderful experience. It allows you to build memories and make alterations however you choose to on your land. Many people will buy a single family home and make a number of small to extensive renovations like [amazon_textlink asin=’1561584827′ text=’remodeling the kitchen’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a5e3e5ee-9efd-11e7-bb23-c5ef1967877b’], taking out interior walls between public living spaces, and adding new rooms to the existing structure. Of course, not every renovation has to make use of the current home at all. You could construct outbuildings, design the perfect play ground, or landscape the garden into something fantastic. One of the most useful and potentially lucrative changes you can make to your property is the addition of an ADU or Accessory Dwelling Unit.

What is an ADU?

Knowing what the acronym stands for (Accessory Dwelling Unit) doesn’t actually explain what an ADU really is. These are extra buildings or extensions to a single-family home that can support an entirely separate resident and are particularly popular in crowded Hawaii neighborhoods. They are commonly referred to as ‘granny flats’ or ‘in-law apartments’, but you certainly aren’t required to keep your aging parents and parents-in-law in one if you build it. In fact, many ADU owners and builders are putting them on the renter’s market, becoming landlords without having to buy new investment property.

Unlike normal home extensions, each ADU includes its own kitchen and at least one private bathroom. They are often built as outbuildings in a separate section of a large home lot but can also be built as a comprehensive addition to the current structure. They can even be a conversion of an older section of the house or accessory structure in the yard.

Providing a Source of Income

There are many potential uses for an ADU. If you didn’t build it for a specific relative in mind, you can put the property to use making money to pay for its construction costs, provide [amazon_textlink asin=’0812929896′ text=’extra income for your family’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’cfe1b6e7-9efd-11e7-bcbf-81db1592f226′], retirement, or perhaps to pay off your mortgage on the overall property. Most people who build an ADU do so with the intent to rent, which can make a big difference during the current housing crunch.

Alleviating Overcrowding

Because there are so many more people living in Hawaii than there are available single-family homes, it’s quite common for extended families to live together. Building ADUs can give everyone a little extra breathing space by providing separate accommodations. Simply by adding an extra kitchen and bathroom to the property, you can reduce the amount of waiting and jostling in a busy home. ADUs also create flexibility, as the added privacy allows you to rent out space to a non-relative if it’s not currently needed.

Encouraging Aging in Place

Most people, as they age, need less space to take care of and often end up downsizing in order to save the money and energy it takes to maintain a full-sized house. However, an ADU can help seniors who love their homes ‘age in place’ by moving into the smaller residential space and renting out the main house to an eager new family.

Opportunity to Help the Families in Need

There is a serious problem in Hawaii with perfectly capable and hardworking families facing homelessness because there simply aren’t enough affordable houses available. Building and renting out an ADU creates an opportunity for private homeowners to contribute to a solution. Families with nowhere to stay will be more than happy to have a freshly built private apartment and access to single-family neighborhoods. By renting your ADU out at an affordable rate, you can help keep a family out of homelessness while making a good long-term investment.

There are half a dozen reasons to build and ways to use an ADU, it’s simply a matter of preparing for the construction costs and choosing a design. Build it the way you like it, with an efficient floor plan and an exterior that compliments your landscaping. Once it’s done, you can share it with relatives or rent it to a grateful family looking for a new home. For more information about building a new ADU on your Hawaii property, please contact us today!


What’s the 411 with Hawaii ADU’s: The FAQs Continued

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Accessory Dwelling Unit

If you live or even occasionally visit [amazon_textlink asin=’1628873140′ text=’Hawaii’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b9643ab7-a226-11e7-ae93-0f338484ecd1′], you’re probably already aware of the intense housing crunch going on, especially when it comes to affordable rental properties for working families. While [amazon_textlink asin=’B015PA9VI6′ text=’homelessness’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’ownbuilddesig-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’fb46d656-a226-11e7-9b2b-b347f01db0bd’] is usually something that happens to people who can’t or won’t work, it’s an unfortunate fact that many families are finding themselves without proper lodgings because there simply aren’t enough homes to go around. For this reason, Honolulu has recently authorized home-owner residents to build small secondary residential homes on their property in order to rent to families in need. These residences are known as Hawaii ADU’s or Accessory Dwelling Units and are a great way for home owners to both alleviate the housing crunch and make a little extra money for their own mortgages.

In a previous post, we covered a few of the FAQs about ADUs from defining our terms to how they compare to ohana units. Today, we’re picking up where we left off to answer more important questions about how you can contribute to the local effort against homelessness.

Frequently Asked Questions Pt 2:

Q: Are owners required to live on the property?

The short answer here is yes, but in truth, it’s a little more complicated. You cannot rent both the main house and the ADU at the same time, but the named owner doesn’t necessarily have to live on the property. In order to rent your ADU, the main house needs to be occupied by a relative by blood, marriage, or adoption to the property owner. However, a designated authorized representative is also allowed.

Alternately, you or a relative can choose to live in the ADU and rent out the main house, which also counts as using your ADU to alleviate the housing shortage. This is a great option for retirees who want to downsize for ease of lifestyle without leaving their family home behind.

Q: Is there a minimum occupancy period for each ADU tenant?

In order to ensure that Hawaii ADU’s are actually being used to help with the housing problem, tenants need to stay at least six months (180 days to be specific) with each lease. This prevents both landlords and tenants from misusing it’s intended purpose, but that also means that it’s inadvisable to Airbnb your ADU between tenants.

Q: Is there enough local sewer and water capacity?

It’s true, not every neighborhood has the infrastructure available to support doubling up on sewer and water needs. For this reason, you’ll need to get approval from all the usual sources including the Department of Planning and Permitting, Wastewater Branch, Traffic Review Branch, State Department of Health, Board of Water Supply, and the Honolulu Fire Department. If they all agree that a new residential structure is OK, you can proceed with building plans.

Q: How much parking is required for an ADU?

Hawaii ADU’s only require one off-street parking spot. This sets them aside from ohana units which require two and therefore permits home owners with smaller yards to contribute to the housing effort.

Q: How big can Hawaii ADU’s be?

It may be tempting to build yourself a near-duplex residential buddy, especially if you have the yard space to spare, but ADUs are, in fact, limited in size based on the size of your lot.

  • Lots 3500 – 4999 square feet can have an ADU of up to 400 square feet
  • Lots 5000 square feet and up are limited to an ADU of 800 square feet.

Q: How many ADUs can I build?

The answer here is only one, but it’s slightly more complex in practice. ADUs fill a secondary residential slot, but can only do so if you don’t already have a secondary residence on your lot. Therefore ohana dwellings, guest houses, and multifamily dwellings like duplexes disqualify a lot from having even a single ADU.

If you’re considering building an ADU on your lot, you’ll need an expert designer who can get your plans through approval the first time around. I have decades of experience and specialize in permit-ready drawings and would be delighted to ensure your ADU project hits the ground running. Please contact me today for more information or plans to build!