Check the feasibility of legalizing an illegal unit in your home

Hire a licensed building professional and meet with the Unit Legalization team.

What to do

1. Check if the unit is eligible for the Unit Legalization program

You can only legalize one unit per lot (single-family or multi-family) using this program. The unit must have existed before January 1, 2013.

If the unit had no-fault evictions registered with the Rent Board after March 2014, you must wait five or ten years before applying. You can contact the Rent Board for eviction history. SF Planning will confirm the eviction history after you apply for the building permit.

Other considerations

Improvement costs cannot be passed onto tenants.

You cannot subdivide or do a condo conversion on a legalized unit.

If your illegal unit was issued a Notice of Violation, we can suspend the violation for one year while you legalize the unit.

2. Hire a licensed professional to fill out the screening form

An architect, civil or structural engineer, or California-licensed contractor must complete and stamp the form.

They will check if the unit complies with the building code. If the unit has code issues, they will list the estimated cost to fix it.

3. Gather supporting documents about the unit

You must have:

  • Floor plans of the entire building
  • Site (plot) plans showing property lines and other structures on the site
  • Proof that the unit existed before January 1, 2013

Examples of proof that the unit existed before 2013

Proof can include direct documentation. Examples include:

  • Lease for the specified unit, signed and dated
  • Proof of payment for rent (such as bank deposits)
  • Official eviction history

You can also provide multiple pieces of indirect evidence that can be combined to prove someone lived there. Examples include:

  • Voter rolls
  • Utility bills
  • Affidavits or letters from neighbors or prior occupants
  • Prior DBI or Planning enforcement cases that referenced the unit

4. Give us the packet

Email the screening form and supporting documents as a PDF attachment. Use “Unit Legalization Screening Submittal” as the subject line.

You can also mail the packet to us:

Department of Building Inspection

Technical Services Division
49 South Van Ness Avenue
Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94103

At the screening meeting

We will review the screening form and plans for completeness.

If you are eligible and decide to use the Unit Legalization program, you must apply separately for a building permit.

Special cases

Units not eligible for the Unit Legalization program

Units not eligible for the Unit Legalization program

Contact SF Planning to explore other legalization options. Email

More information

For detailed information, refer to DBI Information Sheet G-17 and SF Planning’s FAQ.

Get help

Unit Legalization Program

Permit Center
49 South Van Ness Avenue
2nd floor, Counters 66 and 67
San Francisco, CA 94103

Last updated October 19, 2022