Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

La Casita Moves Again!

The greatest lesson I’ve learned living the tiny life is flexibility. Being as flexible as possible is incredibly important. If you are not one to adapt to new situations readily then seriously consider living this life (as pictured left). Our lives since living tiny is a perfect example.

Capture1About a month ago Cedric and I found out that our neighbors were planning to rent their house, and subsequently the land we were on, to move out west. They offered to let us stay and work things out with the new tenants but we decided that we’d rather not deal with a rental situation with folks we didn’t know and the owners living 3000 miles away. Thus, once again, we found ourselves moving the tiny house. This is the third time we’ve moved the house in just over a year. It is truly the constant dilemma of living the tiny life…land. We rent because we don’t have the resources to buy in the area we live in. A friend of ours in Charleston recently asked me about the realities of living downtown in a tiny house and I warned him that he wouldn’t get away with it for more than a year and that was if he lives in a seedier part of town. Anywhere else and the town officials would be swarming in no time. His best bet-buy a property that he can rent out and live in a tiny house in the backyard. More and more I see that option as the least stressful way to live the tiny life.

We are currently facing the issue of zoning in a small, rural town in Vermont. I have to go and speak to the zoning administrator this week because the owner of the farm where we have moved wants to make sure we do things by the books. Talk about eye twitching stress! We totally understand this, considering she has a working organic farm, a solid place in her community and 4 children to feed and doesn’t want to sneak around behind the town’s back but it certainly won’t make things easier for us. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is connected in this town. There is no where to hide even if we wanted to.  When we lived in the city, anonymity was key to our being able to live in our home but out here in the country, it’s probably not the best policy. Stepping on toes is not advised. It’s the kind of place where nobody’s business is kept secret for long. Thus, by tomorrow morning I won’t be surprised if they town clerk is called and made aware of our presence. And I’m terrified. Cedric and I have read through the zoning lingo on the town’s website and our home just doesn’t fit in. There is no provision for a tiny house on wheels. It’s part of the beauty, but also the seemingly constant stress, of living in these houses. We can’t even unpack our things until we find out if we’ll be allowed to stay on this land and it’s making life that much harder.

zoningNever have we wanted to stay someplace so badly. It’s a gorgeous property with orchards, sheep, chickens, a private swimming hole, gardens everywhere and an amazing view of the mountains. That hardest part is trying not to get attached because come Tuesday, when the zoning admin is in office, we may have to pick up and move again. To keep running around and hiding isn’t realistic but it certainly seems our only option. Until tiny houses are excepted in the the laws that govern building and development, I fear we’ll just keep packing up or finally cave in and enter in a real estate market that we can’t afford.

Your Turn!

  • What do you think is the best option: being open with town officials or keeping a low-profile?

Via

13 Comments
  1. Don’t mess with the powers that be, I have three scenarios which I live in, one is a total chameleon, cube van with no exterior tell tales. The Class A, well, I have to keep moving that. The 3rd is a little store I own in a small town (city) This year I have jumped through the hoops, or should say am jumping through the hoops, commercial in front residential in the rear if I develop some more creature comforts like a sink for a kitchen. I have a plan for exterior commercial projects and was amazed at the co-operation I am getting from officials. I delayed, through anticipating the worst with building inspectors and town planers but was pleased with way they told me to get around thing. Break wind and everyone in this town smells it so face things head on, when you try to side step you generally find you are in a cow pasture and cleaning up the mess you could step in is a lot harder than facing things head on…

  2. It really seems like tiny houses are pushed to the extreme in siting options (as in all things, really). Either you go to an ultra rural, unincorporated area with no zoning or regulation, or you go ultra urban, where people are just happy to have a stable resident. Alan and I are mostly considering always living on land with a separate primary residence, one we can buy cheap, fix up then sell or rent out. This sort of scenario is only financially feasible in second and third-tier cities, however.

    • Hi Marie! Having a property that you can eventually rent out is definitely the way to go but it’s true that this is only possible in cheaper areas. We can’t even buy a space in the country in VT it’s just so expensive. We could only do it if we go in on a property with several other tiny housers which is still our dream but so far it hasn’t worked out. Living on land that is not yours turns out to be a game of up and move over and over again. It’s becoming exhausting. I wish you both luck finding a place to park!

  3. I dont live in a tiny house, but my opinion: I think people who want to live in tiny homes-before they even build their houses need to pick a town, township or whatever, talk to the locals and petition a ballot to change the zoning laws. or looking into founding a town yourselves with like minded people. Utility companies are extremely powerful politically, they may also be blocking tiny houses.

    • I agree with you on the subject of checking thing out before you enter into the project of living in a tiny structure. One posting I read a couple of months back displayed the most beautiful structures I have ever seen. No permits, obstructing a waterway and I believe not conducive to the area. That is just super stupid. I fell in love with a tiny lifestyle because of its simplicity to my creature comforts as a single person and my utilities not to include city services in my little building. Hell, including everything with the building my annual expenses for services and taxes are presently way under $2,000 Canadian. Woops, I forgot propane for the BBQ. Ask the questions ahead of time, co-operate with municipal government (they will lead you in the right direction if you are not bullheaded and ignorant to them), and then, be good responsible community serving friendly neighbors, it will amaze you as to how many people will embrace your presents and lifestyle with that attitude. When I am on the road in the cube van or a 4th unit I have is a one man truck camper and I boon dock with those. I have seen people urinate in the middle of parking lots, leave tons of trash around, have fires in parking lots (anyway, that’s another subject) I don’t think the power companies have anything in place to boycott or block the tiny lifestyles (as of yet) as there are really not that many of us to hurt their profits “Yet”, if anything those who have gone off the grid are selling cheaper hydro back to them for resale at a good profit so that is a win, win situation, one direction I hope to head into.

  4. I don’t know where you are in Vermont, but you might contact Peter King also in Vermont. I spoke with him a few years back about tiny houses – he has land, and last I knew was open to having people on it. He teaches tiny house building. If not, he might know of other locations. You can find him online by searching Tiny Houses of Vermont. M

    • I actually contacted Peter King when we first moved to Vermont and received an e-mail back saying to give him a call and I never did. We don’t live close by to him but I know he’s full of good information. Luckily the town we are in seems pretty laid back about it all. They gave us the paperwork for a permit for at least a year so we’ll see where we go from here.

  5. Congratulations, sounds like they are at least considering you a test case over the next year, (but that’s just a hypothetical possibility!) You will at least be living there a little more comfortable with their blessings than without it and those opposed to our lifestyle or jealous of it are silenced for at least a year, during that year, even they may change their attitude. Who knows, you may be opening some doors but you can’t declare victory until the permit is actually granted. Each scenario is a little different, in my case, half of my plan is somewhat opposed to by many but their hands are a little tied because I am the land owner and municipal tax payer, the other half of my plan is appreciated and being looked forward to by many so I am a little in limbo. I want to forge ahead but am restraining (with great trepidation) until I actually have permits in hand. Anyway, tons of luck to you and my fingers are crossed that you do get the permit. Thanks for keeping us updated.

  6. I participated in one of Peter’s workshops last year in Cabot – it was very laid back and fun. I plan to do my own workshop build this year thru him before winter. I am also considering opening up to others down the road, but that will take time. Nowadays, we have to work to rebuild solid communities and work locally to change what we can for smaller households. More people are needing/wanting to get out of the ‘big mortgage’ trap and hamster wheel of debt, and simple, tiny homes are the way to make it happen.

  7. Well I gotta say very stressful always moving around and I don’t even have a small house on wheels…I just pack up jump on a bus and go to the work and rent a room…and that also sucks…but I got the little cottage back in Ontario when I just wanna get away and hang my hat for a few days… I think its pretty sweet what you guys are doing its alot of stress but gotta do what ever it takes to save money today….good job

  8. Hello All,
    Boy if you could take a step in my shoes. I’m the ultimate living on the sly remodel guy. Motto: my home, my castle: Butt Out! It was never relevant that I do a much better, more thorough job of things than any contractor I’ve ever met (their motto: fake it till you make it.) It was always a case of some neighbor doing their social duty; protecting the community.
    What I really learned after 30 years under the cloak was that “they” have eyes everywhere. Whether it’s the neighborhood watch, an innocent comment you yourself make about improvements you are making on your home, a utility worker notices something or the fact that somebody like me is not on the “your ok” list (as my neighborhood watch group labels each homeowner) and under constant scrutiny.
    Another thing I learned, at a certain point, is that you start to become paranoid and hateful. Both are very self defeating attributes to have.
    Bottom line though: find out what the regulations are beforehand and make the needed corrections Before! you get the city involved. It goes so much more smoothly then.

  9. Robert nailed it.

    Eyes are everywhere and people love to talk.
    Just a footnote for you on dealing with the town inspector; that must be a good paying job because most of them have been at it for years. On one, “let’s see what we can get away with project”, I moved a light switch and an old sink, not on the original plan. On final inspection the inspector stood outside a door and was reaching in to turn on the w/c light (where it used to be) and somewhat startled ask were the light switch went. Do not BS the man, I immediately told him I did and moved it to this side of the wall. He just smiled flicked on the light and said he could let me away with that because it was DC power. Then enquired on the sink and as per instructions from an old plumber in town I told him Ernie B put that in there for me. He laughed and said that old bugger doesn’t get permits for anything so that’s ok; it’s a great job and he has plumbed everything in town. (a case of who you know maybe)
    This inspector had been in this building every week on social events drinking beer with the prior owner for years and knew the place inside out.

    On this little building I am in now, the inspector came in for a preview because I applied for a hot dog vending cart to put outside in the driveway, and as Robert said, “Bottom line though: find out what the regulations are beforehand and make the needed corrections” but make sure those corrections do not need a permit. This inspector went to every defect and anomaly hidden by obstacles, building material, garbage and supplies covering it up, (not intended to hide it! “Yep”). Without seeing it he told me that others have had a problem fixing a part of the floor for years and then pushed on a tool crib I have on a damaged wall, I did cover that with the crib because I tore it apart, made some temporary repairs to prevent water coming in over a year I had to leave it vacant but he knew dam will it was not up to code and in need of repair.

    I will be featuring a small house on here shortly that a friend of mine has. Much like the one you probably have Andrea and could not get a permit to put it there as per the original plan until an inspector told her to put it on pylons, turn it into a skid shack, tie it down much like with a manufactured home or mobile home and that would be permissible. The upside of doing that here is it is tax exempt like that and covered under household insurance. I did that with several out buildings in Alberta years ago turning slab buildings into skid shacks and our taxes went down considerably. It was nice having them like that because when we expanded the yard for other things the buildings were usable and able to move around. For others with trailers under their homes, this is a concept to check out because if the wheels come off and it is tied down and skirted, some areas may consider that a viable plan to having it there.

    I have never had a building inspector give me anything but good advice and cooperation (within reasonable boundaries) but could tell you horror stories about those who have thinking they knew it all. With all that said, once you have it permitted and are living in it there are changes you can make for creature comforts and luxuries. It would be a sad day if there was a society that someone could come and check out your living conditions every once in a while on their whim. I would be the first one to rebel on that tone. Anyway, enough from me.

  10. Interesting question. I think it depends on the circumstances! Tiny houses are only just starting here in oz so no one is any wiser. Been looking at all the regulations. Here the majority of councils (local government) have no power, they can only request that you comply with the laws of the state and country. There was a guy in Melbourne, who built a house( no trailer) and he has been living in it for seven years before an article in the local paper saw the council act. Even then they admitted they were powerless and couldn’t evict him. They often overlook these houses because it is as Aussies say ” put in the too hard basket”

    The plan for my tinyhouseinoz is to do both. Be open with council but not tell the whole truth. Know the laws of the land enough to challenge them if i need too. But not cause a stir by asking if its legal and of course grease the neighbours with food so they don’t complain! Will put the question to my fans on facebook!

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