Illegal Living Units

See also: Accessory Dwelling Unit

What Is It?

A white woman wondering if a room is legal to live in.Illegal units are living spaces, usually apartments including separate kitchens and bathrooms, that were installed without a permit and may not meet the City’s zoning requirements and safety standards. 

What It Isn’t

This section does not cover:

  • Rooming and boarding houses
  • Legal accessory dwelling units that were established by permit
  • Vacation rental units

Rules to Follow

  • Owners must obtain a permit when adding a dwelling unit to a building
  • Owners must follow the rules for accessory dwelling units when adding a “mother-in-law” apartment to their own residence
  • If you are a property owner and receive a notice of violation for an illegal unit, you may be required to stop renting the unit if you cannot obtain a permit

If you are a tenant in a unit that has been identified as an illegal unit, you do not have to move until you receive a written notice to do so. In many cases the owner will be able to legalize the unit.

Tenants who are required to move out of an illegal unit must be given proper written notice. They may also be entitled to relocation assistance paid by the property owner. Please see the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) section about just cause eviction, SMC 22.205.010(J)

Read the Code


If you receive notice of a code violation and don’t fix the problem in a timely manner, we may fine you $150 to $500 a day. Additional fines are charged for violations in neighborhood residential zones. We will also charge you for inspections.

Construction and Inspections

Nathan Torgelson, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 2000, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 34019, Seattle, WA, 98124-4019
Phone: (206) 684-8600
Phone Alt: Violation Complaint Line: (206) 615-0808
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SDCI issues land use, construction, and trade permits, conducts construction and housing-related inspections, ensures compliance with our codes, and regulates rental rules. SDCI is committed to an antiracist workplace and to addressing racism through our work in the community.