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Are "guest houses" (converted sheds) legal within city limits?

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Today I went to a real estate open house in my neighborhood. The house I visited was built about 70 years ago. The yard is not very big (1/5 acre), but it has a little guest house in the backyard. I imagine the guest house has been there since the main house was built. The family's college-age daughter uses it when she's home. It has a full bathroom but no kitchen.


That got me thinking: Is it usually legal to build a guest house -- or convert a shed into a guest house -- within city limits? (I'm assuming the guest house I saw today would be legal under any circumstances because it's so old.) I'm just thinking hypothetically. Obviously I could check our city building codes, but I thought I'd ask you ladies. I'd love to build one! My kids would love to live in one!

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codes will vary by city. It can also vary by subdivision. My parents live in unincorporated county and the regulation, in their rather rural area, is one residence per property. You can have outbuildings, someone even has a pool house, but no second house/cottage.

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In my community, the problem would be the bathroom. Outbuildings may be allowed. It depends on the proportion of impervious surface left on the lot.


Of course, many people constructed things on their property before zoning or land use plans. So there are always situations that are grandfathered.

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