Step by step

Legalize a unit in your home

Overview of the Unit Legalization program, for units that were built before 2013 without a permit.

Legalizing a unit protects both owners and tenants. Owners can formally register and rent out their units, while avoiding potential code violations and fines. 

There are several ways to legalize an unauthorized unit within your home. We consider a unit to be an independent space that someone is able to live in full-time, without having to walk through the main house.


Check if you can use the Unit Legalization Program

If your unit was built before 2013, you may be able to use the Unit Legalization Program. A California licensed architect, contractor, or civil or structural engineer must help you. 

The licensed professional will check if your unit is up to code.

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Explore other legalization options

If you are not eligible for the Unit Legalization program, check with SF Planning to discuss other programs you can use to legalize your unit. Email

If you plan to do condo conversion on your property, contact Public Works.

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Design professionals: Schedule a pre-application meeting

Optional step


$348.00 to $2162.00


Standard meetings are 2 hours.

If you have questions about how to be compliant with the building code, we recommend meeting with DBI, Planning, and the Fire Department to discuss code issues, including sprinkler requirements.

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Apply for a building permit


Permit fees are 6 to 9% of building costs. Pay the first half when you apply.

You must submit your building permit application with 2 sets of plans.

If the work is only for legalizing the unit, a partial fee waiver (on the plan review portion) is available through December 31, 2024.

If you want to add more work beyond necessary improvement for legalization, you can apply for a separate building permit. This extra work would not be eligible for a fee waiver.

If you combine the legalization work with other work into one building permit, the permit is not eligible for the fee waiver.

Get a building permit with In-House Review

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Apply for your street tree permit


Free to apply for your street tree permit. If you choose to pay the in-lieu fee, it will cost $2,193 per tree.

Upload this checklist with your tree planting application. You must fill this out even if you will not plant new trees.

Start your tree planting permit application with Public Works

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Review by required departments

Your plans must follow City codes for neighborhood development and building safety. 

We review all applications to make sure they follow these codes. Our review will include:

  • Quality review
  • Routing to required City agencies (Planning, Department of Building Inspection, Fire)
  • Plan review with applicant or agent in Bluebeam (our plan review system)

SF Planning will also give you a Notice of Special Restriction about the unit. Notarize and record it at the Assessor’s office. Learn more about how to record a Notice of Special Restriction.

Track your building permit application in our permit tracking system (PTS).

If you need help beyond permit tracking, email


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Get your job card and start construction

When your building permit is issued, you will receive a job card that allows you to start construction.

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Get inspections

Before you cover construction work, schedule an inspection.

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Get a certificate of final completion

After your unit gets a final inspection, you will be issued a certificate of final completion.

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Last updated October 19, 2022