What Is an In-Law Suite?

June 7, 2019 9:02 am What Is an In-Law Suite Published by

An in-law suite is just a term that some people use when referring to a guest area. Anyone who has frequent houseguests may wish to maintain a spare bedroom, but an in-law suite is a little bit more dedicated. This kind of space is also sometimes called an accessory dwelling unit, or ADU for short. This kind of dwelling can be set up as a separated bedroom, a small house attached to a larger house, or maybe just a well-furnished basement or attic. 

The main thing that separates an in-law suite from a spare room is the fact that an in-law suite is designed for total self-sufficiency. It should have a separate bathroom, kitchen, entrance, and anything else that the tenant should require. Unlike guest bedrooms, in-law suites are intended for long visits or live-in houseguests. They are often called in-law suites because they are most often used by young people as a way to take care of their aging parents. 

Do You Need An In-Law Suite?

Obviously, not everyone needs to worry about this issue. First and foremost, you should consider who will actually use the space. If the only company you get is the occasional friend or relative, a separate apartment would likely be a waste of money. 

There are several problems that can come with this extra space, and it isn’t worth the hassle of dealing with those problems if that space won’t be utilized on a regular basis. Extra space means higher utility bills, higher home insurance rates, and more tax liability. 

At the same time, an in-law suite can be a great way to take care of an older relative. No one wants to put grandpa or grandma in a nursing home, but no one wants to give up their privacy either. An ADU allows the opportunity to keep your loved ones close while still maintaining separate spaces.

The Pros And Cons:

Let’s consider the upsides and downsides of this particular idea so that you can evaluate all the relevant factors and make a decision that suits your needs. 


  • ADUs provide a way to care for older relatives in a non-intrusive fashion. It’s a middle ground between live-in care and the nursing home.
  • An ADU will usually raise the property value of your home. This is a simple consequence of the fact that larger homes tend to sell for more money.
  • An in-law suite can be rented out to generate extra income. For those who are strapped for cash, this can be a great option. 
  • An in-law suite can provide extra storage space when not in use.
  • an ADU allows long-term houseguests to feel more comfortable. They are able to get everything they need without bothering their host. 
  • An ADU can be set up in many different ways, though you may be limited by the local building codes.
  • If you don’t get along so well with your in-laws, an ADU should allow you to keep them at arm’s length more easily.


  • Depending on where you live, adding an in-law suite could cause you to be designated as a “multi-family household.” This is a slight problem because multi-family households tend to pay higher property taxes.
  • An extra room will always raise your utility costs, simply because it provides more air space that must be heated or cooled.
  • In many areas, building codes can make it hard to rent out your extra space. Building codes and other regulations are not usually written with this type of project in mind.
  • Once you rent a property to someone, you will have to set certain rules in order to maintain some control over what happens on your property. However, it can be difficult to enforce those rules. Attempting to impose rules on relatives or close friends can put a severe strain on your relationships with them.

Related Questions:

Here are a couple of the most common questions that we have received on this subject:

What Is The Best Way To Arrange Utilities For My In-Law Suite?
Regardless of how much you trust your guest or how long you have known them, it is much better to keep the utilities in two separate accounts. You are unlikely to save any real money by combining your bills, as this will not affect your total combined energy usage. Further, it keeps everything nice and clear so that the bill does not become a source of conflict.

How Much Can I Expect To Pay For An In-Law Suite?
This is a very complicated issue because it will depend on several factors. Obviously, converting a spare bedroom is likely to be cheaper than building an entirely new structure. Unfortunately, this is going to be an expensive project no matter which way you go. Most estimates put the figure between $40,000 and $125,000. Naturally, you can look into the possibility of using primitive or unconventional construction methods in an attempt to hold down cost, but a lot of your expenses will come from all the necessary inspections. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about that problem. 


In spite of the high costs that can be incurred in the construction of these dwellings, in-law suites can be a godsend for crowded households with multiple generations living on the same property. No matter how much you care about your loved ones, it is hard to share your territory with another person. 

However, there is no reason that you cannot keep your privacy and your sense of autonomy while also keeping your loved ones close. Of course, you may not be providing for an elderly relative; you might just be trying to turn a profit, and this is also fine. Either way, we hope this article has given you some good ideas, and that you will fill out our handy contact form below. By doing so, you will ensure that our content is delivered straight to your inbox as soon as it becomes available. We wish you and yours a blessed day.