Introduction: Why Build an ADU?

Do you consider yourself “house rich and cash poor?” Perhaps you or an older relative would like to age in place but cannot afford to? Maybe you’d like to supplement your income by having a rental unit? Or maybe you simply don’t need as much space anymore and are tired of the upkeep on an oversized home?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then building an “ADU” may be a good solution for your needs.

What is an ADU?

All homeowners in Vermont (outside of certain flood areas) can get a zoning permit to build what’s called an “Accessory Dwelling Unit,” or ADU. ADUs can be built inside existing structures, built onto existing structures as additions, or built from scratch as freestanding structures. New Hampshire has a few more restrictions on how ADUs are treated, but it they are still relatively easy to permit.

ADUs, by definition, are on an owner-occupied lot where the homeowner can choose to stay in the primary dwelling and rent the new ADU, or vice versa. Rental of homes or ADUs can trigger state building permits, and it is imperative that owners understand state building codes before beginning any project. If you are not interested in having a rental unit on your property, another option is to create a duplex and sell one of the units. Duplexes are now allowed throughout residential areas in Vermont, meaning you can get a permit to build a second attached unit or subdivide a large single-family house into two units. You can then sell one of the units by formally establishing it as a duplex or condominium.

Either way, there are several steps an ADU project will go through.