It’s been a while since I did a post about how tiny houses deal with building codes, so today I wanted to share the top 5 myths about building codes, zoning and tiny houses.
Myth 1: I don’t need a permit if it’s under ___ sq/ft.
This is true, typically if you are building something under a certain square footage than you don’t need a permit. The catch is there is an exception to this is and it’s when you want to dwell/live in it. The second you place any personal property in that house, it is classified as “dwelwing” and it doesn’t matter if its 10,000 square feet or 10 square feet, you need a permit.
Myth 2: It’s an RV, Mobile Home, Camper.
Again this true… If your home is being built by a certified RV or Mobile Home manufacturer; also important to note, to become a manufacturer it will cost you several thousand dollars, an LLC and an inspection process to ensure you meet all 500+ requirements. So you can’t just build an tiny and and say “look! it’s a RV or Mobile Home.” To top it off once you do become classified as such, you often can only reside in certain zoning areas, which are fast disappearing. There is an exception to this: if your state has a “home built RV” class, but these are few and far between and more and more campgrounds and trailer parks refuse entry on them.
Myth 3: I can just say I’m “camping”
Somewhat true. Typically municipalities have limits of how long you can camp. This is is often 2 days to 30 days in one spot or on one parcel of land. In the city I live in, you are legally not allowed to camp at all unless FEMA has declared a state of emergency. In some cases you can “camp” if you move every few days, but the city could also say “you’re not camping, you’re dwelling” and then its curtains.
Myth 4: They can’t stop me! I’ll do what I want.
In some places you’re right. It’s often the case that its not that they can’t stop you, but they won’t unless it becomes a big public issue. In most places they can stop you. They will come in and condemn you tiny house, which means if you enter it, they’ll arrest you for being in your own home! They can also fine you, run a bulldozer through your house to destroy it, or deny you utilities like they did to me (read about it here). All of which they legally can do, have done and you have no recourse for.
Myth 5: It’s on wheels codes/zoning don’t apply.
This is a big myth perpetrated by those who want to make a quick buck of tiny house people. It is true that having a tiny house on wheels will help things generally because it confuses the bureaucrats, you can move it so easily, etc. But the truth is that the second you dwell in it, all bets are off and the city can do what they want.
So what can I do?!?
There are two approaches to this: 1) you can beat them at their own game and know how to leverage the codes 2) you can fly under the radar. Each of these have their pros and cons. To get a better understanding of these things I have an ebook of how you can work within the system to gain legal status with your tiny house. I show you the key barriers for tiny house folks, offer possible solutions and give you strategies to beat the system. I also show you how to fly under the radar, how to live in your tiny house without getting caught. Both are covered in Cracking The Code: A guide to building codes and zoning for tiny houses.