Living legally in your tiny house
The tiny-house movement has captivated thousands of people across the U.S. However, many of these minimalists have been met by pushback from city officials citing zoning rules about how small a home is permitted to be, where you can keep a home on wheels and more restrictions.
These ordinances have made the tiny-home life challenging. But with some research and careful planning, a prospective tiny-home builder or buyer can successfully purchase or construct their ideal tiny home and still stay on the right side of the law.
House on wheels
There are many different reasons people are attracted to the tiny-home life. Some want to simplify their lives or reduce their impact on the environment. Others want the flexibility to — quite literally — pack up their life and hit the road, should the mood strike them.
To make this easier, many tiny homes are built on wheels and can easily be hooked up to a trailer hitch. However, in the eyes of the law, sleeping, cooking and relaxing in a home on wheels isn’t living; it’s camping. And there are rules about how long you can camp on a single piece of land; usually, it’s 30 days.
However, Tiny House Community pointed out that some communities across the U.S. permit you to live in your house on wheels, so long as you meet certain rules:
- Logan County, Oklahoma, if it’s in an unincorporated area.
- Spur, Texas, if it’s outside city limits.
- Several counties in California, if the resident of the tiny house is a caregiver to a resident of a larger house on the property.
Other areas don’t have these restrictions and allow you to have a house on wheels on your own land:
- Pulaski County, Kansas.
- North Yarmouth and Richmond, Maine.
- Fresno, California.
Building on a foundation
If you build your home on a foundation, you’ll have to look at a different set of guidelines. While a house on wheels is considered an RV, that same dwelling on a foundation will probably be considered a shed or workshop and not suitable for living. This means you’ll have to dive into the world of building codes and zoning restrictions to ensure your tiny home is in line with the law.
TinyHomeBuild.com outlined some excellent tips for anyone planning on pursuing a tiny home project. Before you begin to build anything on your property, it’s a good idea to meet with the right city officials to be sure you’re not inadvertently breaking any laws. These rules are there to prevent unsafe living conditions, but they can be very restrictive and confusing at times.
Be prepared when you meet with the zoning officials. Bring in three copies of your plans — one for you, one to archive and one for taxation purposes. Also, have them professionally drawn-up and as detailed as possible. The more professional they look, the more seriously officials will take you. Be sure not to omit important information such as:
- Where your circuits will be.
- What materials you’ll use to build.
- What ventilation areas you’ll have.
- How the plumbing system will work.
- How you’ll heat your home.
If they can see every detail of your build, they’ll be able to spot something that isn’t up to code and help you find a solution that you’ll like and the city will agree to.