Game-Changing New Law Regarding Accessory Ohana Dwellings in Maui County!

January 25, 2019

This week it was publicly announced that the Maui County Council approved a game-changing new law regarding accessory ohana dwellings in Maui County.

Detached 700 square foot accessory ohana dwelling.

What Is an Ohana?

Accessory dwellings, or, as we commonly refer to them “ohanas,” are secondary living units that can be either attached to or detached from the main living structure on the same property. Typically the ohana unit is defined by whether or not it has a kitchen. The previous law stated that on any lot under 7500 square feet an ohana was not allowed… though many smaller properties have them anyway. This caused problems for homeowners wanting to apply for building permits, home buyers trying to obtain financing to purchase, and a variety of other issues where everyday practicality and existing legislation were out of alignment.

Open living area in a 500 square foot ohana.

So What Has Changed?

Ordinance 4936 has made the following adjustments to the county code for the island of Maui:

  • On lots under 7500 square feet, you can have a legal ohana up to 500 square feet!
  • On lots over 7500 square feet, you can have two legal ohanas!

Woah! Let’s reflect on this for a minute… all of those existing non-confirming ohana units were just given the okay to make themselves legal. Homeowners who have always wanted to convert that 4th bedroom or family room with a bar sink into an ohana for extra income to offset high ownership costs can now make that happen. Larger lots can add a second unit opening up more long-term rental possibilities for Maui residents.

Converted family room studio ohana.

Important Considerations

  • The law was amended to read that, “No accessory dwelling shall be used as a bed and breakfast home, short-term rental home, or transient vacation rental.”
  • The law does not apply to properties in agricultural districts. It applies ONLY to properties zoned as follows:




Interim zoning

State Land Use Rural District

  • A property still has to meet the development standards for yard setbacks, parking, wastewater systems, water supply, fire protection, etc.
  • Even though the county zoning may allow for ohana construction, individual Homeowners Associations may not. Check the CC&Rs!

500 square foot ohana on a 7845 square foot lot sold in December 2017.

Other Changes in the New Law

Though not as earth-shattering, the county also adjusted upward the allowable sizes of not just the ohana living areas, but also covered and uncovered decks, patios, lanais, etc. Below is a table showing the new allowable living area sizes:

The sizes above are per allowable unit, not total floor area to be shared between multiple units. So if all the other development requirements were met, one could, for example, build two separate 600 square foot accessory ohana dwellings on a lot over 7500 square feet.

Like any new legislation, additional considerations will roll out in the coming months as the dust settles. There’s a lot more to the bill than what is summarized here. This is a link to an additional summary of the new law written by the Realtors Association of Maui Government Affairs Director. Check back for future updates and please share your thoughts in the comments! I welcome the opportunity to discuss with you further and assist however I can with your Maui real estate needs. Aloha for now!

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