January 18, 2024

ADU Laws and Regulations in South Carolina

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In the realm of residential housing, the concept of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) has garnered significant attention. In South Carolina, these units are not just a trend but an important part of the state's housing strategy. As such, South Carolina ADU legislation has been carefully crafted to ensure that these structures provide flexible housing options while maintaining the integrity of neighborhoods. It's essential to understand the SC ADU laws that frame their development - these laws are integral to preserving the aesthetic appeal and functionality of residential communities. South Carolina ADU policy serves as a blueprint for homeowners and builders alike, guiding the creation of these secondary spaces in accordance with community standards. The ADU guidelines in SC are designed to ensure that these dwelling units enhance, rather than detract from, the principal property and the surrounding area. Landlord insurance in South Carolina can be bought to protect your rental property.

Key Takeaways

  • South Carolina's ADU policies ensure accessory units serve the primary dwelling in both function and design.
  • Under SC ADU laws, these units must comply with specific ownership, location, and construction guidelines.
  • State legislation sets standards that maintain neighborhood consistency and property values.
  • ADU development adheres to local ordinances, regardless of the zoning district in South Carolina.
  • Provisions in South Carolina ADU legislation carefully regulate size, placement, and architectural style.
  • The state's ADU regulations offer opportunities for homeowners while fostering community harmony.

Understanding ADU Zoning in South Carolina

The trend towards versatile and affordable housing in South Carolina has shined a spotlight on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Governed by intricate zoning laws, ADUs offer unique opportunities for homeowners to utilize their properties efficiently. These structures, contingent upon adherence to stringent South Carolina ADU zoning laws, can supplement existing housing and cater to diverse needs such as offering a residence for extended family, providing rental income, or meeting local housing shortages.

Introduction to Accessory Dwelling Units

An Accessory Dwelling Unit, typically known as an ADU, is a secondary housing unit on a single residential lot. In South Carolina, the definition of an ADU extends to units that may be attached to or detached from the primary residence, encapsulating structure types like converted garages, basement apartments, or separate guesthouses. The broad acceptance of ADUs underlines the flexibility of SC ADU zoning regulations, which aim to integrate these units into existing communities while maintaining neighborhood character and livability.

Zoning Districts That Allow ADUs

The expansion of ADUs across South Carolina varies by zoning districts, allowing them in both rural and urban areas. Locations within the AGC, AGC-I, RUD, RUD-I, RSF-40, RSF-30, RMX-20, RMX-10, RMX-6, and MU districts qualify for ADU development. These permissions reveal the state's recognition of ADUs as an essential solution to augmenting housing availability without necessitating new infrastructure.

Site Plan Requirements for ADUs

  • Illustration of property dimensions and accurate setbacks for compliance.
  • Evidence of existing easements or rights-of-way that impact the property's use.
  • Clear depictions of utility lines, locations, and connection points.
  • A detailed foundation and framing outline compatible with the primary structure.
  • Electrical plans that safely integrate with the existing system.

It is imperative that the submission of the site plan for an ADU be comprehensive, displaying adherence to all Accessory Dwelling Unit regulations in SC. Such diligence facilitates the preservation of the aesthetic and structural harmony of South Carolina's residential neighborhoods, ensuring that ADUs are a positive addition to the community.

Ownership and Occupancy Regulations

The intricacies of South Carolina ADU requirements revolve significantly around who occupies the space. A cornerstone of these regulations is the owner occupancy mandate, which ensures community integrity and commitment to the locale. This cultivation of resident investment underscores the intention behind SC's ADU legislation and highlights the impetus on long-term domicile over transient occupancy.

Owner-Occupancy Mandates

In the text of South Carolina's ADU laws, it's expressly stipulated that the proprietor of the property must establish their permanent, full-time residency in either the principal abode or the ADU itself. This mandate is fundamental for authorizing the establishment and ongoing utilization of an ADU. This legal provision reflects the state's resolution to promote neighborhood stability and homeowner accountability.

Limitations on Rental Agreements

Delving into the ADU rental regulations in South Carolina, one finds that these units are prohibited from being leased for periods shorter than 30 days. Such a restriction is designed to preclude the possibility of ADUs being converted into short-term vacation rentals, which could detract from the local housing market's stability. Instead, longer tenancy agreements support residential cohesiveness and help address the pressing need for housing alternatives in the state.

Design and Construction Standards for ADUs

Complying with ADU permits in South Carolina involves meticulous adherence to specific design and construction standards aimed at ensuring that accessory dwelling units (ADUs) blend seamlessly with primary residences. Practicing vigilant conformity to these stipulations is essential for creating a harmonious and visually appealing residential space that satisfies both homeowners and communities.

Architectural Consistency with Primary Dwellings

Maintaining architectural continuity is paramount when developing an ADU. In South Carolina, the aesthetic features of ADUs, including materials, design elements, colors, and window treatments, must echo the primary structure's character. This requirement preserves the visual integrity of neighborhoods and upholds the established ambiance, realizing a unified aesthetic appeal.

Building Size and Coverage Restrictions

Another critical aspect of ADU construction standards is compliance with size and coverage limitations. Specifically, the surface area of the ADU must not surpass the lesser of either 1,000 square feet or 50% of the principal dwelling's floor area—exclusive of garages or unfinished basements. These caps are instituted to ensure the accessory unit remains subordinate to the main residence, facilitating a balanced distribution of built space on a given property.

Height Limitations for Detached ADUs

For detached ADUs, South Carolina enforces a height ceiling that is cognizant of the unit's role as a subsidiary structure. Standing at a maximum permissible height of 25 feet, detached ADUs should not overshadow the primary dwelling. This height regulation, alongside ADU size limitations in SC, maintains a low-profile silhouette in residential territories, while sustaining an equilibrium with neighboring constructions.

Permitting Process for Accessory Dwelling Units

Navigating the steps towards securing ADU permits in South Carolina can be complex, necessitating careful preparation and understanding of the SC ADU permitting process. The journey to permit approval begins with the assembly of requisite documentation and extends through a methodical review by various local governmental bodies. By following South Carolina's clearly defined permitting guidelines, aspiring ADU constructors can ensure a smooth transition from plans to reality.

Completing Permit Applications

The first pivotal step in the ADU development venture is the completion of a thorough permit application. Applicants seeking to erect an accessory dwelling unit must gather extensive supporting materials, a task that can be made easier by utilizing a comprehensive checklist provided by South Carolina's Planning and Development Services. This checklist ensures the potential oversights are addressed, covering everything from site and foundation plans to septic permits and homeowner association approvals, if applicable. Adhering to this guide is instrumental in presenting a well-prepared application, thereby augmenting the likelihood of expedited approval.

Review by Environmental and Zoning Divisions

Once submitted, the ADU application undergoes a detailed review by dedicated staff members of South Carolina's Environmental Compliance and Zoning Divisions. During this stage, construction plans are scrutinized to ensure full compliance with zoning standards and environmental safeguards. The length of this review can vary, typically requiring up to five business days, after which permits are generally processed within the next business day. This careful review process underscores South Carolina's commitment to fostering ADUs that harmonize with community environmental and aesthetic norms. By satisfying these stringent requirements, the permit for your proposed ADU stands on the precipice of approval, marking an essential stride towards expanding your residential options.

Utility Considerations for South Carolina ADUs

For homeowners and builders in South Carolina looking to add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to their property, understanding the utility requirements is fundamental. When we talk about SC ADU utilities, the implications range from operational efficiency to complying with local ordinances. These considerations are pivotal, as they ensure the harmony of shared services and the well-deserved autonomy of your ADU's utilities.

Shared Utilities and Independent Systems

In South Carolina, the decision to connect ADU independent systems or to make use of accessory dwelling unit shared utilities comes down to the specific circumstances of the ADU's placement and access. According to the local regulations, ADUs typically harmonize with the primary residence by sharing its water and sewer connections, as well as gas and electric services. This shared utility framework is not only cost-effective but also minimizes the impact on the existing infrastructure.

However, there are scenarios where an ADU might be best served with independent utility systems, especially when it has a dedicated right-of-way separate from the main residence. In these instances, installing independent meters and connections is advisable to facilitate accurate billing and maintenance.

Whether choosing shared utilities or going the route of independent systems, what's non-negotiable is that the chosen utility solution must comply with South Carolina's ADU regulations. These rules ensure that while ADUs serve as flexible housing solutions, they do not disrupt the existing service delivery or infrastructure of the community.

ADU Laws and Regulations in South Carolina

Unraveling the layers of ADU Laws and Regulations in South Carolina provides a comprehensive understanding for homeowners aspiring to add accessory dwelling units to their properties. Laced with intent to maintain the architectural integrity of local neighborhoods, these regulations include a vast array of ownership and structural constraints that are pivotal to the legal establishment of ADUs.

Particularly, owners must navigate through a series of South Carolina ADU regulations, beginning with ownership obligations. These rules are intrinsic to preserving responsible community development. They dictate that either the principal dwelling or the ADU must be the owner's primary residence, therefore establishing a direct vested interest in the upkeep and harmony of the local environment.

  • Strict limitations are set on the size and layout of ADUs, to ensure the new structures are secondary in nature to the main residence both in purpose and in scale.
  • The regulations maintain that aesthetics are not to be overlooked; ensuring that ADUs complement the primary residence in design, using similar materials and colors.
  • Establishment within certain zoning districts is a key compliance point, underscoring the need for harmonious city planning and community development.

Integral to the process is the access to ADU legal information in SC, which supports homeowners through the labyrinth of planning and permits, making certain that every box is ticked to prevent future legal headaches.

To the advantage of potential ADU owners, the guidelines offered by the Planning and Development Services of South Carolina consolidate the standards for these structures, streamlining the understanding and application process that can otherwise seem daunting. The goal is clear: to sustain quality living while providing additional housing solutions.

Recognizing the importance of these regulations, it becomes crucial for homeowners to not just read but digest and adhere to the standards prescribed by South Carolina's comprehensive ADU laws. Successful navigation and application of these laws ensure that additions to residential lots contribute positively to South Carolina's thriving communities.

Parking and Accessibility Requirements

Creating an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in South Carolina comes with specific mandates tailored to facilitate both convenience and compliance. Among these, parking and accessibility stand out as critical factors in shaping the functionality and legal adherence of ADUs within the community.

Off-Street Parking Spaces

Recognizing the essential nature of adequate parking, South Carolina ADU parking requirements stipulate that off-street parking is a must for any newly established accessory dwelling unit. This requisite is not merely about providing convenience for residents but also about ensuring that the introduction of an ADU does not lead to street congestion or parking scarcity. Homeowners are obliged to allocate at least one off-street parking space per bedroom for their ADU, beyond what the principal dwelling necessitates.

Tandem Parking Restrictions

While efficient use of space is important, ADU accessibility laws SC also address parking configurations, particularly tandem parking arrangements. In South Carolina, such arrangements are permissible only if they are dedicated to the ADU itself. This limitation is in place to prevent any potential conflicts of access between the primary dwelling and the ADU. It is an approach directed towards maintaining harmony in the residential setting while sufficiently serving the transportation needs of ADU occupants.

ADU Restrictions and Prohibitions in South Carolina

In South Carolina, the creation and use of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are governed by well-defined restrictions that aim to protect the character and integrity of neighborhoods. These South Carolina ADU use restrictions ensure that these secondary units serve as suitable, safe, and appropriate additions to the residential landscape of the state.

Prohibited Uses for ADUs

Key ADU prohibitions SC explicitly outline certain uses that are not allowed for ADUs. Manufactured homes, recreational vehicles, tiny houses on wheels, travel trailers, campers, and similar mobile units cannot be utilized as ADUs. This prohibition is in place to maintain consistency in design standards and to ensure that all additional dwelling structures are permanent and compatible with the existing community fabric.

Non-Conversion Agreements

Integral to the concept of ADUs in South Carolina are the ADU non-conversion clauses in South Carolina, which prevent the subdivision of property ownership. These agreements safeguard single-ownership status, prohibiting the transformation of properties into horizontal ownership regimes which would allow for separate ownership of the ADU and the principal dwelling. Such measures are vital in retaining the overall unity and management of the property in line with established residential regulations.

Impact of ADUs on Neighborhood Density

The incorporation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) into South Carolina neighborhoods has been thoughtfully pursued to respect the fabric of community living. The impact of ADUs on South Carolina neighborhoods is measured and considerate, enhancing housing availability without compromising on the aesthetic or societal standards that residents cherish. A key element contributing to this balanced approach is that ADUs are exempt from being counted towards neighborhood density caps. This exception speaks volumes about the state's commitment to fostering residential expansion in a way that honors the existing community structure and planning desiderata.

When contemplating ADU neighborhood density considerations in SC, it's important to highlight that these units are designed to serve as an integral yet discreet complement to primary housing. This architectural symbiosis allows neighborhoods to accommodate growth, provide diverse living arrangements, and cater to a range of financial circumstances, all the while maintaining a consistent community atmosphere. From families looking to keep their loved ones close, to homeowners seeking supplemental income through rentals, ADUs offer an adaptable solution that aligns with local housing strategies.

Furthermore, the intentional non-count towards the maximum density preserves green spaces, reduces strain on public resources, and avoids the compaction that often accompanies urban sprawl. This approach embodies a proactive stance in preserving the personality of South Carolina neighborhoods, showing that density regulation doesn't only apply to numbers but to the lived experience of community members as well. By effectively managing the integration of ADUs, South Carolina continues to demonstrate respect for both individual property rights and collective neighborhood goals.


Accessory Dwelling Units in South Carolina represent a unique balance between individual property rights and communal aesthetic standards. Our journey through the detailed aspects of ADU guidelines and legislation provides homeowners and builders with the essential framework for constructing and maintaining these secondary units within the fabric of the state's residential areas. As we've seen, ADUs must operate in allegiance to the primary structure, conform to meticulous design directives, and satisfy stringent size parameters, all while upholding the residential tenet that the owner must reside on the premises.

Summarizing ADU Guidelines

Summarizing the variety of South Carolina ADU guidelines, we find a consistent theme: integration without intrusion. The guidelines ensure that ADUs serve the principal residence in function and form, prescribe the owner's occupancy allegiance, and set forth a clear path that respects local zoning and community character. These laws don't merely permit the creation of supplementary living spaces; they endorse accessory dwellings that add value to properties and potential to communities in a disciplined manner. It's in this summary of South Carolina ADU guidelines that we find the blueprint for responsibly expanding residential capacity.

Future of ADU Legislation in South Carolina

Looking forward, the future prospects of ADU laws in SC hinge on the state's ability to respond to evolving urban development and housing challenges. The dynamics of demographic shifts and the ongoing demand for housing point toward an evolving legislative landscape that must find innovative ways to uphold the twin pillars of neighborhood integrity and housing flexibility. Reflecting on regulations thus far, it seems probable that South Carolina will continue to advance legislation that adapts to the changing tapestry of community living without losing sight of the ideals that make its neighborhoods special.


What are the basic ADU laws and regulations in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, ADU regulations specify that these units must be secondary to the primary residence, have the same ownership, maintain certain distances from property lines, and comply with the applicable local ordinances. They are subject to size, owner occupancy, and design requirements, and are not permitted to be used as short-term rentals.

In which zoning districts are ADUs allowed?

Accessory dwelling units are permissible in several zoning districts in South Carolina, including AGC, AGC-I, RUD, RUD-I, RSF-40, RSF-30, RMX-20, RMX-10, RMX-6, and MU, amongst others.

What are the site plan requirements for an ADU in South Carolina?

A site plan for an ADU must include property dimensions, setback distances, easements or rights-of-way, and utility layouts. The plans must be detailed and demonstrate compliance with land disturbance and zoning ordinances.

What is the owner-occupancy mandate for ADUs in South Carolina?

The owner-occupancy mandate requires that the owner must occupy either the main house or the ADU as their permanent, full-time residence. This is to ensure the ADU serves the local housing market.

Are there limitations on ADU rental agreements in South Carolina?

Yes, ADUs cannot be rented out for periods shorter than 30 days, which precludes their use for short-term vacation rentals. Long-term tenancies support the local housing needs.

What are the architectural requirements for ADUs in relation to the primary dwelling?

ADUs must match the architectural design, style, and appearance of the principal dwelling, using analogous materials, colors, and design features to maintain neighborhood character.

Are there size and height limitations for ADUs?

Yes, ADUs are generally limited to a size of either 1,000 square feet or 50% of the floor area of the primary dwelling unit, whichever is less. Detached ADUs have height restrictions not exceeding 25 feet.

What does the permitting process for ADUs in South Carolina involve?

The permitting process involves submitting a complete application, along with detailed construction plans for review by the appropriate Environmental and Zoning Divisions. The review process includes checking for ordinance compliance and tends to be prompt.

How are utilities handled for ADUs in South Carolina?

ADUs must share utilities with the primary dwelling or have individual connections, the latter only if they have separate access from a different right-of-way.

Are there specific parking requirements for ADUs?

South Carolina mandates at least one off-street parking space per ADU bedroom, in addition to what is required for the primary dwelling. Tandem parking must be restricted to use by the ADU only.

What types of dwelling units are prohibited for use as ADUs?

Manufactured homes and travel trailers, among other types, are not allowed to be used as ADUs. Contractual non-conversion agreements also prevent the ADU from being sold separately from the primary dwelling.

How do ADUs affect neighborhood density in South Carolina?

ADUs are not counted towards maximum density standards, which means their presence does not alter the planned residential density or neighborhood character as established by local ordinances.

Where can I find more information about ADU regulations in South Carolina?

For detailed information on regulations, it's best to consult local zoning ordinances or speak directly with municipal planning and zoning officials. Each locality might have additional stipulations that govern the establishment of ADUs.

Will the laws surrounding ADUs in South Carolina change in the future?

While current laws are designed to meet today's housing and community needs, it is possible that regulations will evolve as housing demands and urban development patterns change. Staying informed about local legislative discussions can help anticipate potential changes to ADU policies.

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This post is for informational purposes only and does not serve as legal, financial, or tax advice. Consult your own legal, financial, or tax advisor for matters mentioned here. The information on this site is general in nature. Any description of coverage is necessarily simplified. Whether a particular loss is covered depends on the specific facts and the provisions, exclusions and limits of the actual policy. Nothing on this site alters the terms or conditions of any of our policies. You should read the policy for a complete description of coverage. Coverage options, limits, discounts, deductibles and other features are subject to individuals meeting our underwriting criteria and state availability. Not all features available in all states. Discounts may not apply to all coverages. Steadily is not liable for any actions taken based on this information. If you believe any of this information may be inaccurate please contact us.

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