Cartoon images of the state of Florida, a house, sunshine and checklist with the caption "Can You Build an ADU in Florida?"

An accessory dwelling unit (or ADU) is a great addition to most properties, especially if you have friends or family you want to keep close without them moving in with you. As a Floridian, you’re a little fuzzy on the ADU rules in your neck of the woods. Can you build an ADU on your property in Florida?

Floridians can usually build an ADU on their property, but depending on the county or city, they’ll be subject to differing building code rules, zoning laws, and permitting requirements that can complicate the project.

This guide will be your go-to as you plan your ADU project in Florida. We’ll tell you the correct resources to reach out to as well as the rules to follow if you’re in one of the Sunshine State’s bigger counties or cities. Make sure you keep reading! (Don’t live in Florida? Check out this article instead.)

How Do You Know If You Can Build An ADU In Florida?

You’ve been reading up fervently about ADUs as you’ve begun mentally planning where on your property your ADU would go. You already have a few ideas, and you’re eager to begin contracting architects and builders, but you know that would be too hasty.

a wood frame accessory dwelling unit sitting on a concrete foundation in the backyard
My friend Chad is building his first ADU in Saint Petersburg, FL. It took over five months just to get the permit!

As we touched on in the intro, across the United States, varying rules and laws limit the scope of your ADU. You might also need a permit. Failing to get a permit could cause you to incur pricey fines. In a worst-case scenario, your ADU could be deconstructed.

You must be clear on whether you’re even allowed to build an ADU on your Florida property. While we’ll delve more into the legalities in the next section, for now, let’s provide some resources you can seek out to better understand the rules in your neighborhood.  

Check With Your Homeowner’s Association

Is your home part of a homeowner’s association? Now building an ADU­–which can already be a sticky proposition in some cities and towns–becomes even stickier.

In addition to the development standards, zoning laws, and permits you’re subject to, your ADU must also pass the tough rules instituted by the HOA.

Rewinding for a moment, development standards are limitations on your ADU’s length, width, and sometimes square footage. Your HOA might have its own set of rules about the above criteria as well, which can further narrow the scope of your project.

In some instances, the HOA can turn down your request to build an ADU on your property. However, that doesn’t always mean that your dreams of an ADU are dead.

For example, according to ADU resource NEO Builders, as of January 1, 2020, the Assembly Bill No. 68 in the California Accessory Dwelling Unit Law went into effect. This law allows homeowners to build ADUs despite their HOA’s refusal.

Of course, you live in Florida and not California–but just know that there are sometimes legal workarounds, even if your HOA isn’t thrilled at the prospect of you building an ADU.

Three blocks with the letters HOA and a hand placing tiny toy houses on top of each of them
Besides your local government, make sure you check with your HOA and know if it allows ADUs.

Quiz Your Local Contractors

What if you’re not a part of a HOA? In that case, we’d recommend reaching out to the parties you’d need to hire to build an ADU such as an electrician, an architect, a plumber, or a construction team.

If ADUs are allowed in your neck of the woods, then these professionals would have likely been involved in designing and constructing ADUs for others in the past.

They’d be able to tell you at the very least whether you can build an ADU at all. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to glean some of the permitting rules and other laws regarding ADUs from these professionals.  

Contact Your Government

Of course, you can also get in touch with your local government about what the laws and rules are surrounding ADUs in your city, town, or county. Your elected officials should be able to give you the information you seek, or at least point you in the direction of someone who can.

ADU Rules & Restrictions For Florida’s Biggest Cities & Counties

A U.S. map with a magnifying glass over the state of Florida, showing its major cities.

To provide you with more information as your plans for building an ADU get underway, we found a variety of resources highlighting permitting, zoning laws, and other restrictions for building ADU’s across Florida’s most noteworthy cities and counties.

Miami-Dade County

According to Florida’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Guidebook (which last seems to have been updated in 2019), as of 2018, Miami-Dade County is one of the Florida counties that does not allow long-term rentals of an ADU “for use by persons that are not an immediate family member or worker.”

A late 2018 document entitled Report on the Feasibility of Developing Micro Housing in Miami-Dade County by the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources mentions several restrictions.

For one, the RU-TH zoning code in the Townhouse District limits square footage of lot area per unit to 1,250 square feet. However, the RU-4 code, which is the High Density Apartment House District, requires 10,000 square feet as a minimum.

A third part of the zoning code states that mobile homes must be on a lot that’s at least 2,700 square feet. A one-bedroom unit, which many ADUs would be, must have 1.5 parking spaces per Miami-Dade County’s zoning code.

The Building Code/Fair Housing Act Requirements rule states that: “Every dwelling must have at least one habitable room that has a minimum of 70 square feet of gross floor area. Other habitable rooms must have a floor area of at least 70 square feet. The kitchen must be at least 50 square feet in gross floor area.”

Orlando

As of 2021, the great city of Orlando is estimated to have 315,324 residents. If you’re among them, what are the ADU rules here?

The zoning requirements are available per the City Code in Chapter 58, Part 3A. That part reads: “In the R-2B zoning district, multifamily development (to include ADUs) is permitted if in compliance with Part 3H of Chapter 58.”

Part 3H of Chapter 58 outlines the following rules:

  • The unit size must be at least 750 square feet
  • The building separation must be at least 10 feet
  • The ADU’s front door must face the primary street, with rear units aimed towards the front of the lot or oriented to the side so the unit faces any other units
  • You cannot park between the two front buildings, but you can park along the building’s rear or side

As for occupancy requirements, those are outlined in the International Property Maintenance Code, Section 404. Here are the requirements: “A habitable room, other than a kitchen, shall not be less than 7 feet…in any plan dimension.

…Habitable spaces, hallways, corridors, laundry areas, bathrooms, toilets rooms, and habitable basement areas shall have a minimum clear ceiling height of 7 feet.

…Every living room shall contain not less than 120 square feet…and every bedroom shall contain not less than 70 square feet…and every bedroom occupied by more than one person shall contain not less than 50 square feet…of floor area for each occupant thereof.”

A small bedroom that appears to be built in an attic.
How small is too small? Make sure you find out before you build.

Tampa

For those who call Tampa home, here is a list of city laws as part of their code of ordinances. ADU rules are outlined in Chapter 19 – Property Maintenance and Structural Standards.

According to Section 19-1 – Department of code enforcement; authorized employees or officers; jurisdiction, your ADU would be subject to the Department of Code Enforcement.

Per Sections 19 through 48 – Certain structures declared a public nuisance, here are some rules to keep in mind: “Any structure in the city which by reason of fire damage, age, decay, deterioration, structural defects, disrepair, improper design, unstable foundation, termites or other causes is dangerous to the occupants thereof or to surrounding buildings and occupants thereof or a menace to public health or a fire hazard or so unsafe as to endanger life or property or render the use of the public streets dangerous shall constitute a nuisance.”

In other words, build your ADU right and take good care of it, or you could land yourself in legal hot water!

Tallahassee

Are you interested in building an ADU on your Tallahassee property? Here’s what you need to know. The Tallahassee, Florida Land Development Code, Section 10-412. – Accessory uses says that you can’t add more than one ADU to your property and you can only build an ADU if you have a single-family home.

Here are the restrictions on size: “ADU square footage shall not exceed 40 percent of the area of the principal structure. An ADU of 500 square feet is permissible for all lots with a single-family residence, provided that it can meet all other development standards.

ADUs shall not exceed 800 square feet gross floor area when accessory to single-family structures; or 1,000 square feet gross floor areas when accessory to retail, office, and industrial principal structures.”

Palm Beach County

Although it’s a little older, this 2013 documentation from the Palm Beach County Use Regulations Project states that residents can build one ADU on their property whether it’s freestanding or attached.

The ADU must be under 800 square feet if built on less than an acre of land and 1,000 square feet if built on one or more acres. If you have additional flooring, such as for a garage, carport, porte-cochere, patio, or porch, you’re restricted to 500 square feet.

Your ADU must also have one bathroom and one bedroom.

Is Building An ADU Worthwhile?

As the above section exemplifies, even if legally, you are allowed to build an ADU on your Florida property, there are lots of rules you must know if you want to ensure you’re following the building code.

Is it even worth it to take the time and expense? We say yes. We’ve touched on the multitude of ADU benefits on the blog, so allow us to recap some of those perks now.

  • Affordable housing: Compared to condos and especially houses, as well as some apartments, ADUs are a much more affordable housing option. An ADU gives someone a chance to have some independence without ruining themselves financially.
  • Keeps loved ones close: Whether you’re really close with your family, or you care for a loved one with a disability or medical condition, the proximity of an ADU can be very helpful.
  • Saves land: Our country does not have enough land to continue to build new homes. By adding an ADU to a piece of land you already own, you’re producing another living space without the need to use up more land. (Read more here.)
  • Increases curb appeal: The resale value of your home also shoots up with an ADU. Homebuyers will appreciate the flexible living options that having an ADU on the property affords them. (Read more here.)

Conclusion

Throughout Florida’s cities and counties, ADUs are typically allowed, albeit with tough restrictions on where you can build them and how large the ADU can be. We hope this post gave you the information you need to begin making your ADU dreams a reality!

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2 Comments

  1. Port St. Lucie, FL recently sent out info asking it’s communty members their opinions and options. Glad to see it on the table. My recommendation was to collaborate with other FL cities and not reinvent the wheel. Reducing carbon footprint is so important and now wish that I’d paid more attention to tiny house living.

  2. I think that an ADU is an excellent idea. For one, it could be used for family members that need your care or whose care you need, for another in these times of rapidly rising inflation and shrinking assets, it would be a good way to generated income.
    I live in Citrus County, an area with a very high elderly population and a large numbers of HOAs. There would need to be a revision of HOA bylaws and county housing laws before any are started here, but I feel it would be worth the effort to push forward with the ADU concept.

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