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Zoning

What is Zoning? Learn everything you will need to know!

Here’s How To Find Out If Your City or Town Allows Tiny Houses in 3 Steps

Here’s how to find out if your city or town allows tiny houses.

1. Look up zoning codes.

Zoning codes for many municipalities can be found on your town’s website or on ecode360.com.

Here are some helpful search terms:

If you’re hoping to put a tiny house ON WHEELS either on its own property or on a property with other buildings:

  • Tiny House
  • RV, Recreational Vehicle, or Recreation Vehicle
  • Park Model (if your tiny house is greater than 8.5′ in width)

If you’re hoping to build a backyard cottage ON A FOUNDATION:

  • ADU or Accessory Dwelling Unit
  • Detached ADU
  • Accessory Apartment

If you’re hoping to build a small house ON A FOUNDATION on its own piece of land:

  • Minimum Square Footage, Minimum SF, Minimum Sq Ft, or Minimum Sq. Ft.
  • Frontage (some towns don’t have a minimum square footage but they have rules on how big the road-facing portion of the house is based on the percentage of road frontage the property has)

Appendix Q for tiny houses on foundations:

If you’re hoping for a tiny or small house ON A FOUNDATION, look into whether your state has adopted Appendix Q for tiny houses into its building code.  Appendix Q is a set of safety standards for houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. and under, basically providing standards for how lofts and ladders are built.  More info on Appendix Q for Tiny Houses here.  If your state hasn’t adopted Appendix Q, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t build small: it just means you’ll have to follow your state’s existing building code for lofts and ladders, and the other details in the Tiny House Appendix.

On January 1, 2020, Massachusetts and California simultaneously will join Maine, Idaho, Oregon and Georgia as the first six states to adopt the Tiny House Appendix into their building code.  Many other states are in the process of adopting the Tiny House Appendix.  The Tiny Home Industry Association has updates on Appendix Q across the United States.

Please note: there may be more lenient rules depending on whether your tiny house will be used seasonally, as a “guest house”, “camper”, or “cabin” rather than as a full-time, permanent residence.  If you’ll only be using your tiny house sometimes, residential zoning laws and building codes may not apply.  Check in with your municipality if this is the case.

Photo: Arcadia Tiny House on Wheels.  This tiny house can travel, and it’s certified as an RV.  It’s currently being used as a guest house at Woodlife Ranch; it isn’t someone’s permanent home.

2. In the (likely) event there are no tiny-house-specific zoning codes, shoot your town zoning board an email.

If you can’t find any info on tiny houses in the town’s zoning but would like to know whether a tiny house on wheels or on a foundation would be legal to live in full-time, send a quick email to your town’s building inspector or zoning board (you can find their contact info on your town’s website).

Be sure to include the following information:

  • What kind of tiny house you’re inquiring about (on a foundation or on wheels?)
  • What code the house would be built to (if it’s on a foundation, does it comply with Massachusetts residential building code? If it’s a tiny house on wheels, is it certified by the RVIA or another third-party inspector?)
  • A description of where you’d like to put it (in a backyard, on its own lot, or in a community) and the address so your zone can be confirmed.  If you don’t have an address in the town but would like to move there, let them know that as well.

They’ll be able to tell you whether tiny houses are legal.

Photo: Green River Small House.  This house was built on-site, piece by piece, and it is compliant with local zoning bylaws and state building code.  It’s being used as a permanent, year-round home.

3.  If there aren’t any tiny house zoning bylaws yet, you can request your town changes their standards (and you don’t have to be an expert to ask!)

If tiny houses are not currently included in the zoning bylaws, your zoning board will be able to advise you whether it’s worth pursuing a change to the zoning bylaws.  Generally this process takes a while, and the zoning board will guide you through it.  You don’t have to be an expert to request a zoning change, just an interested citizen!  Be prepared with knowledge of how having tiny houses would help your town or city. Here are some examples, which you can tailor to the specific needs of your municipality:

  • If your town center has historic buildings but downtown housing prices are excluding a large chunk of the population from living there, adding tiny houses (either on wheels or on foundations) to backyards as ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) can densify and diversify neighborhoods without destroying their architectural character.  Don’t tear down those beautiful old buildings to add more households: add backyard cottages instead!
  • Tiny houses on wheels can provide flexible temporary living spaces for those who may need a live-in caregiver for a few years.  This setup is great for those who are aging in place and need a caregiver close by, a disabled adult living in the ADU in the backyard of their family, or an ill person who cannot live on their own but needs the privacy of their own living space.  If necessary, tiny houses can be built wheelchair-friendly (check out the Wheel Pad).
  • Tiny houses on wheels are also great for people in traveling professions, like military personnel, travel nurses, or agricultural workers.  However, these people need places to stay.  Allowing landowners to rent out a space for travelers helps them earn extra income while adding spaces for traveling workers to live that cause a low impact on the environment.
  • A pocket community of tiny houses on wheels or small homes on foundations can add much-needed housing stock (let’s be honest, there’s a housing shortage almost everywhere in the US) that is more affordable than the large homes that most developers are building now.

It’s best to do this before you have your tiny house built.  This way, you can be flexible in your design, making sure it conforms with the standards the town creates.

kinderhook tiny house in snow park model

Photo: Kinderhook Park Model Tiny House.  It’s a park model because it’s on wheels, but at 10′ wide, it’s too wide to go on the roads without an oversize load permit.  For this reason, these houses usually stay put after delivery. 
Bonus for MA residents:
We’re creating a list of each town in Massachusetts and whether it allows tiny houses.  If you’ve done this in Massachusetts, please let us know so we can add it to the list!

How To Find Tiny House Land: Resources and Knowledge You’ll Need

For many tiny housers, finding land is the toughest part of the journey.  Here’s how to start your tiny house land search.

Before having your tiny house built, you should already have a spot to put it lined up. You don’t want to end up with a tiny house and nowhere to put it!

Because tiny houses are a relatively new phenomenon, most municipalities have never had anyone approach them to ask whether they can live in a tiny house.  Therefore, most municipalities don’t have any bylaws saying you can or can’t live specifically in a tiny house.  Use this guide to learn what you’ll need to know to get the perfect parking spot for your tiny house.

Start Here:

Learn about the tiny house buying process.

The 8 Steps To Buying A Tiny House: Everything You’ll Need To Do To Go Tiny

This post covers your entire tiny house buying process, and the first and most important step is finding a place to put it.  Whether you’ll be buying or renting land, familiarize yourself with the tiny house buying process and how long it’ll take, before starting to your land search.

Learn how to look up zoning laws and how to ask your zoning board to live in your tiny house.

Things to Know Before Buying or Renting Land For Your Tiny House (Or, Where Can You Put A Tiny House?)

Here, you’ll learn how to find and read your town or city’s zoning laws to find out whether there are already rules for tiny houses, whether on foundations or on wheels.  If your town doesn’t have laws pertaining to tiny houses, you’ll learn how to approach your town to ask.  Importantly, you’ll also learn what to look for in the land, including hookups for fresh water, waste water, and power.

Rent or buy land for your tiny house.

Where Can I Put My Tiny House? A Near-Comprehensive List Of Tiny House Parking Resources

Now that you know how to look for zoning laws and get permission to live in your tiny house, you’ll need to do some networking to find a spot for it!  Facebook and Meetup are both great networking sites for tiny house enthusiasts, and this list links to Facebook and Meetup groups about tiny houses in almost every state.  In addition to networking on tiny house specific sites and groups, advertise on local forums on Facebook, Craigslist, and community bulletin boards asking for those willing to rent out or sell land for a tiny house.  The sooner you find land the sooner you can get started with the build.  Good luck, and let us know how your land search goes!

tiny house woodburned siding tiny home arcadia b&b micro manufacturing

Arcadia Tiny House at Woodlife Ranch. Photo by Kyle Finn Dempsey

 

Where In Massachusetts Are Tiny Houses Legal?

Where Can You Put A Tiny House in Massachusetts?

With your help, we’re compiling a list of every city and town in Massachusetts and its attitude toward tiny houses on wheels and on foundations.  This is part of a larger initiative by the American Tiny House Association to gather tiny house information for every state in the US.  (Katie at B&B Tiny Houses is also ATHA’s northeast regional director.)

As you’ll see in the chart, most cities and towns don’t already have a policy on tiny houses, whether on foundations or on wheels, so their stance on tiny houses is currently unknown.  Municipalities probably won’t consider whether to allow tiny houses unless someone brings it up with them!  As we’ve seen in Nantucket and Auburn, all it takes is one person to ask.

What Does Tiny House Appendix Q Mean For Tiny Houses On Foundations?

Tiny House Appendix Q has been adopted in Massachusetts, effective January 1, 2020. Appendix Q: Tiny Houses provides building safety standards for houses on foundations that are 400 sq. ft. and under.  However, the appendix doesn’t mean you can build a tiny house on a foundation wherever you want in Massachusetts: you’ll still have to adhere to your municipality’s zoning code.  Here’s more info on the Tiny House Appendix.

Please add to the list:

If you have spoken with your municipality’s government (zoning board, building inspector, or someone else) about tiny houses on wheels or on foundations, we would love to add your info to the list.  There’s even a column for rumors, if you’ve heard a town might be amenable to tiny house living but haven’t spoken with them directly yourself. 

How to find out if your city or town allows tiny houses:

Zoning codes for many municipalities can be found on your town’s website or on ecode360.com. 

If you haven’t spoken with anyone in your city or town government yet but would like to know whether a tiny house on wheels or on a foundation would be legal, send a quick email to your town’s zoning board (you can find their contact info on your town’s website).  

Be sure to include the following information:

  • What kind of tiny house you’re inquiring about (on a foundation or on wheels?)
  • What code the house would be built to (if it’s on a foundation, does it comply with Massachusetts residential building code? If it’s a tiny house on wheels, is it certified by the RVIA or another third-party inspector?)
  • A description of where you’d like to put it (in a backyard, on its own lot, or in a community) and the address so your zone can be confirmed.  If you don’t have an address in the town but would like to move there, let them know that as well.

Someone on the zoning board be able to tell you right away whether tiny houses are already approved.  If tiny houses are not currently mentioned in the zoning bylaws, they’ll be able to advise you whether it’s worth pursuing a change.  

If you have info on a specific municipality, please email info@bbtinyhouses.com and we’ll get your info added to the list.

Here are some tips to use the spreadsheet effectively:

  • The spreadsheet retains its formatting if you’re on a computer rather than on a mobile . If you’re on a mobile you won’t be able to sort columns.
  • To sort a column, right-click the letter at the top of the column and select “Sort A-Z”. For example, if you want to see all the towns in Hampden County, right-click “B” at the top of the second column (or click the small triangle next to “B”) and select “Sort A-Z”. Then scroll down to where the Hampden County section starts. If you only want to see towns with information added about tiny houses on foundations, you may select that column, which is “D”, and sort. Scroll to where the info starts.
  • To see all the information in a cell, click the cell.  The full text will show up in the bar above the sheet.

 

How Dominique Kerins of Auburn, MA Convinced Her Town’s Zoning & Building Inspector To Approve Tiny Houses

Dominique Kerins and her husband wanted to put an accessible tiny house in the yard of their regular-sized home in Auburn, MA for her aging grandmother, so she inquired whether that would be possible at her Town Hall.

Fast forward a couple months, and Auburn’s Annual Town Meeting was last night.  Tiny Houses were the last item on the warrant to discussed, and it passed!

So how did she do it?  Dominique was gracious enough to get a sitter for her kids in order to grant us an interview.

Auburn’s Town Meeting Warrant can be read here.  The tiny house articles are #33 and #34; you’ll read more about the distinction between the two articles in the interview.  The approval process isn’t over yet: next, it’ll be sent to the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (who visited the B&B Tiny Houses workshop last year) to be signed into law for the town of Auburn.

We are so grateful to Dominique for pitching the idea of tiny houses to her town, and in doing so, paving the way for others to do the same in their own municipalities.


First, what’s the background story?  What originally led you to ask your town for permission to put a tiny house in your yard?

  • My husband and I were looking to make changes to the Auburn zoning bylaws so that our family could build a Tiny Home on our property for our aging Grandmother, who currently pays 9K/month for senior housing in Medfield. Our intention was to keep down costs for her, and for us, and to prioritize multigenerational living. We opted for a THOW [Tiny House On Wheels] in our side yard, not only because they’re awesome but because they offer many strengths in creating a solution specific to our unique situation. THOWs offer strengths like affordability, accessibility and adaptability. All other alternatives considered or tried (like senior housing, and building on to our current single-family home) are unaffordable, and are not ideal for the long-term!) THOWs on the other hand can be easily re-purposed, sold or simply relocated. It happens to be a BONUS that THOWs promote healthier living and green initiatives.

Did you originally intend to get permission solely for tiny houses meant for caregiving, or was that restriction suggested by the planning board or another entity?

  • We certainly wanted to keep as many options open to the public as humanly possible, maintaining that people should be able to do what they see fit on their own parcels of land. Unfortunately, after a lot of planning board meetings and emails, we were forced to accept the negotiated terms if we were to gain any traction with the town. Nevertheless, we came to realize that the narrowed (senior and disabled) audience had most to gain, especially given that Auburn has the HIGHEST population of elders in their 60’s and 70’s across the state. All other audiences (college students, for instance), or persons looking to save money, may have a bit more time than the elders for the bylaws to be altered and tweaked down the road!

What was the process?  How long has this process taken so far?  What are the next steps for Article 33 to come to fruition?

  • We went to the Town Hall, in February of this year, thinking that the Zoning Enforcement (Building Inspector) would have most insight on the feasibility of building tiny in Auburn. He did provide insight, and some healthy skepticism that led us to be more prepared for questions presented by the Planning Board, roughly 1 month later.
  • The Building Inspector directed us to speak with the Town Planner, who had more information about the collaborative efforts of the Planning Board and the creators of the town’s Master Plan (which I read prior, and understood to give priority to the seniors in Auburn).
  • The Town Planner encouraged us to do 2 things:
    • Create a citizen’s petition, requiring signatures from the town’s (voting-age) residents in support of our idea.
    • Solicit recommendation and support from the town’s Planning Board and Selectmen in order to compose more detailed language to present to the Town Hall.
  • The first item was easy. The second required attending many Planning Board meetings, and a bit of bickering and emailing.
  • Realizing that the Town backed their own detailed bylaw (and not our original language), we felt it best to work with them; I made phone calls to voters in our precinct to ask for their support, and mailed a letter to all voters to do the same, instructing them to support Article #33 at Town Hall.
  • At Town Hall, we sat as members of the audience, quietly, biting our fingernails, as we watched the Town Planner present the Bylaw proposal. After time (and confusion at the Town Meeting), the Bylaw was approved by a 2/3 vote.
  • Next, the bylaw gets sent to Atty. General for approval! In the meantime, I have written Representative Frost (who is an Auburn resident) to ask for his support in expediting the approval process.

I understand you and your husband are builders and plan to build your own tiny house.  Did the town of Auburn ask you to build it (or prove that it has been built) to a particular set of standards or code?

  • …We have done a lot of building in the past. My husband is a concrete mason and is gifted as a handy man.  We have completed a lot of renovation projects, mainly in basements, (in our particular home, the renovated basement wouldn’t suffice for our elderly grandmother, for obvious reasons). The town… asked that we ensure that it is built to the town’s standards as well as those specified by the state and the federal government (and HUD). IRC – the international residential building code, will inform the building standards. Thankfully, my husband is well versed in the language of building codes!
  • I should also shout out to the awesome Design & Build school, Yestermorrow, in Vermont, for having providing so much valuable insight on the ins and outs of Tiny Home construction!!!! The class was invaluable to preparing us for the questions presented by the Town.

Before now, have you ever been involved in a political or government process?  Did you reach out to others for help or guidance along the way?  Are there any other Auburn residents you know of who are interested in having their own tiny houses?

  • Besides my exposure to college-level or professional procedural hearings, I had not been involved in politics. Reaching out to neighbors was very helpful, as was the opportunity to read Katie Jackson’s updates [Ed. Note: hey, thanks for the shoutout!] and other bloggers on tiny living. Just knowing that others are going through similar situations has been extremely insightful and comforting.

What advice would you have for others looking to ask for permission to have a tiny house in their own municipality?

  • Look at the town’s bylaws. Pay attention to the wording, formalities and procedural recommendations.
  • Network – not only at Town Hall (knowing your Selectmen, Town Planner, Zoning enforcement officials, Planning Board and Clerks) but also the Fire Chief, Police, and regular folk too!
  • Have details READY (blueprints, preexisting example images, placement plans, building plans etc.) The town asks A LOT OF QUESTIONS!!!
  • Consider taking a class (as above mentioned, Yestermorrow was really helpful for DIY building advice!)
  • Be prepared for lots of questioning, answering and follow-up, and try your best to stay positive

Finally, do you have images you’d like to share?  

  • This is our own mock-up, that I’ve created using a program, Home Designer Pro. The wheel wells are “hidden” by a “skirt” in the picture. SketchUp was also helpful in rendering templates with trailers. They have a 30 day free trial, which is nice.

Dominique’s Self-Designed Tiny House For Her Grandmother


Rendering: Dominique’s Self-Designed Tiny House Next To Her Home

 

 

Recap: Meeting on Backyard Tiny Houses in Great Barrington, MA

Last week’s public hearing in Great Barrington, MA addressed using tiny houses on wheels as backyard cottages.  (If you haven’t already seen it or need a refresher, refer back to this blog post).

After the meeting, I spoke with Jonathan Hankin who is the president of the Planning Board.  Here’s his recap:

  • The meeting was 3 hours long and had lots of controversial items to cover!  The proposed tiny house ADUs weren’t discussed, negatively or positively.
  • Public comments remain open until next week’s meeting, which is on Thursday.  However, since there hasn’t been any negative feedback, Jonathan seems confident it should pass without issue.
  • Next week’s meeting is when all the proposed changes to Great Barrington’s Zoning Bylaws should be put on a warrant. Those changes will officially pass (or not) at the Town Meeting, which takes place the last week in May.
  • All the changes that pass in Town Meeting will go to the Attorney General for review.  Her report should come back in August or September.  All changes that she approves will be retroactively in effect back to next week’s meeting (get your Delorean ready).

As a side note, the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, visited the B&B Tiny Houses workshop last year and said, in front of many members of the press, that she feels tiny houses are a good affordable housing option.  She has also signed the Nantucket, MA zoning bylaw allowing tiny houses, so we feel good about Atty. Gen. Healey signing Great Barrington’s as well.

-K. Jackson

Pictured from left: B&B Tiny Houses Owners Chris St. Cyr, Jason Koperniak, Mitch Bressett, and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey outside the Arcadia Tiny House. Photo from iBerkshires.com.

Please Support Tiny House Zoning in Great Barrington, MA this Thursday, March 7

The town of Great Barrington, MA is considering adding Movable Tiny Houses, or Tiny Houses on Wheels, to their zoning regulations, allowable as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

As proposed, movable tiny houses will only be allowed as an ADU which means there has to be a primary dwelling.  A 2/3 majority at town meeting will allow them.

The Thursday meeting agenda includes a Citizen’s Speak Time, where those who live in Great Barrington can share their thoughts.  Those who don’t live in Great Barrington but would like to show up in support of legal tiny houses may also attend the meeting.

This meeting will address movable tiny houses.  Tiny houses that are on a foundation are already permitted as an ADU under the current bylaw and would need to meet the stretch code adopted by GB.  The planning board is also seeking to increase the allowable number of ADUs to two.

 

 

This is the proposed added language to the Great Barrington Zoning Bylaws:

To Section 11.0 Definitions add:

Movable Tiny Houses (MTH)

A structure intended for the separate, independent living quarters of one household for year-round residence that meets all of the following:

            (a) Is licensed and registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles;

(b) Meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 119.5 requirements, and certified by a qualified third party inspector for ANSI compliance;

            (c) Cannot move under its own power;

(d) Has not less than 150 and no more than 430 square feet of habitable living space, excluding lofts;

(e) Is designed and built using conventional residential building materials for windows, roofing and exterior siding.

ACCESSORY DWELLING UNIT: a subordinate dwelling unit on the same lot as a primary single family or two-family residential use, with provisions for independent cooking, living, sanitation and sleeping. (Add) A Movable Tiny House (MTH) connected to electricity, water, and sewer or septic that has its chassis, wheels and hitch concealed shall be considered an accessory dwelling unit.

(This proposed language may have been updated by the time the meeting takes place).

 

Please attend:

GREAT BARRINGTON PLANNING BOARD MEETING

THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 2019 6:00 PM

Great Barrington Fire Station

37 State Road, Great Barrington, MA

Read the Meeting Agenda here.

Where Can I Put My Tiny House? A Near-Comprehensive List Of Tiny House Parking Resources

Where Can I Park My Tiny House?

This is a question we get almost every day.  Often, your town won’t have already considered whether to allow tiny houses as year-round residences: it just takes someone to ask.

Start out by looking at the zoning laws in your own town.  B&B Tiny Houses are built to RVIA standards, which legally classifies them as RVs.  If your town or city doesn’t allow RVs, then you can either ask your planning board or go to another town.

Here’s a blog post on how to read your town’s zoning and what to look for when buying or renting land for your tiny house.

arcadia tiny house

Networking is a common way people find spaces for their tiny houses: start out on Facebook, Meetup, or in person at a tiny house festival.  By using personal networking rather than tiny house websites, you might find someone with land willing to rent a space to you who hasn’t previously heard about tiny houses or considered renting a small piece of their land for one.  Try Facebook Groups that are tiny house specific, or just general community groups.  Before agreeing to rent someone’s land, though, make sure both you and the potential landlord are aware of the tiny house legalities in that community.

Countrywide Resources on How To Find Legal Tiny House Parking

American Tiny House Association: A network of tiny house enthusiasts with resources for how to make tiny house living legal year-round in your own community.

Search Tiny House Villages: RV Parks, villages, and communities across the United States and Canada that allow tiny houses.

Try It Tiny: Short-term and long-term rental lots, often on privately owned property, for your tiny house as well as tiny houses for rent.

State and Region-Specific Tiny House Networking

This list was updated in April 2019 by adding new groups, deleting now-defunct groups, and improving formatting.  Did we miss anything? Let us know via email: info@bbtinyhouses.com.

AK Alaska Tiny House Enthusiasts
AL
AR Tiny House Living Northwest Arkansas
AZ Tiny House Community Living: AZ
CA SF Bay Area Tiny House Enthusiasts

Bay Area Tiny House – A tiny move toward a big change

Los Angeles Tiny House Enthusiasts

Meetup: Los Angeles Tiny Houses Community

LATCH Collective

Tiny Advocacy Network (Los Angeles & California)

LA Tiny Houses

Ojai Tiny House Community

CO Colorado Tiny House Enthusiasts
CT Tiny House Connecticut
DC DC Tiny Houses
DE
FL Tiny House Florida

Tiny Home Tallahassee

Hernando – Pasco Tiny House Group

Tampa Bay Tiny House Enthusiasts

Tiny House Alliance of Southwest Florida

GA Tiny Homes in North Georgia Mountains
HI Big Island Small Houses
IA Tiny House Iowa City
ID Idaho Tiny House Enthusiasts
IL Illinois Tiny House Co-mmunity
IN Midwest Tiny House Movement
KS Kansas Tiny Living
KY Midwest Tiny House Movement
LA Tiny House Louisiana
MA Greater Boston Tiny House Enthusiasts

Granby Going Tiny

Tiny House People of MA

Tiny House Enthusiasts of Western MA, Hudson Valley NY, and Southern VT

Meetup: Tiny Homes – Land, Sea, and Highway! (Falmouth)

MD
ME Maine Tiny House People
MI Midwest Tiny House Movement
MN Tiny House People in SE Minnesota

Wisconsin Minnesota Tiny House for All

MO Missouri Tiny House People
MS
MT
NC Tiny House Asheville
ND
NE Tiny House Enthusiasts — Nebraska
NH New Hampshire Tiny House Fans
NJ Meetup: Tiny Houses & Sustainable Living in NJ
NM Albuquerque Tiny House Meetup
NV Las Vegas Tiny House Meetup
NY Tiny House Enthusiasts of Western MA, Hudson Valley NY, and Southern VT

Upstate NY Tiny House Group

OH Midwest Tiny House Movement
OK Tiny House Collective Oklahoma
OR American Tiny House Association – Oregon Chapter
PA PA Tiny House Association

Tiny House Western PA

Philadelphia Tiny House Community

RI Tiny House Rhode Island
SC South Carolina Tiny House Enthusiasts
SD Black Hills Tiny House Meetup
TN TN Tiny House People
TX Dallas / Fort Worth: DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts Facebook

Dallas / Fort Worth: DFW Tiny House Enthusiasts Meetup

Village Farm Austin Tiny Home Community

Houston – Tiny House Enthusiasts

Austin Tiny House/Co-Housing Building Meetup

UT Utah Tiny House Enthusiasts
VA Virginia Tiny House Coalition
VT Tiny House Enthusiasts of Western MA, Hudson Valley NY, and Southern VT
WA Washington Tiny House Association
WI Wisconsin Minnesota Tiny House for All

Wisconsin Tiny House Enthusiasts

WV Tiny Houses and Off Grid living West Virginia
WY

Things to Know Before Buying Land For Your Tiny House (Or, Where Can You Put A Tiny House?)

So you’re ready to buy some land to put your tiny house on!  What are some financial and legal factors to consider when searching for tiny house property?


You’ve found beautiful land, but can you put a tiny house on it?

Although many people dream of a completely off-grid tiny house in the middle of nowhere, you’ll still need to find a way to get water and power to your house.  The less distance from the road, the less expensive it’ll be to have power and water lines installed.

For electricity, the cheapest and easiest option is to plug into an existing power source.  Others choose to power their homes with solar power.  Click here to learn more about solar power for tiny houses.

For fresh water and waste water, city water and sewer are one option; pieces of property in less dense locations that don’t have city water and sewer will need to use a well and septic systems.

If the land already has electricity and water hookups, you won’t need to worry about having those put in.  Generally, although not always, it’s less expensive in the end to buy land that already has utilities than buying land without and then paying to have them installed.  Be sure to factor in these costs when looking for land.

Become familiar with the town’s laws for the type of tiny house you want.

Every zone of every town has different laws regarding where you can put different types of tiny houses, so unfortunately there aren’t any exhaustive lists of “where to legally put a tiny house”.

The first place you should look for answers is in the town’s zoning bylaws and building codes.  If the town’s website doesn’t have them, you may have some luck with searching for your town on ecode360.com.  Otherwise, call your town hall to ask about your tiny house project.  Note that there may be different rules in different zones of each town, so find out what zone your property is in (there will often be a zoning map alongside the zoning code on your town’s website) before moving forward.

For permanently-affixed houses, meaning houses on foundations, find out if there is a minimum square footage for residences.

Even if there’s not a minimum square footage,  other factors may affect the size of your house, like the road frontage on the property.  In the zoning and building codes, use the search terms “minimum”, “frontage”, and “square feet” or “sq ft”.  Water and electricity would be connected permanently to a tiny house on a foundation, just like a regular-sized house.

Interested in a tiny house on wheels?

Not all tiny houses are certified, but the turnkey tiny houses on wheels B&B builds are certified by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, or the RVIA, meaning they are built to high safety standards that the government can understand, they can be financed as RVs, and they can be parked anywhere RVs can go, using RV hookups to get water and electricity to the house and wastewater from the house (Click here to read more about RV hookups on tiny houses).  Use the search terms “RV”, “Recreation Vehicle”, “Recreational Vehicle” in your town’s zoning code to see if RVs are allowed in your property’s zone.  Building codes won’t apply to RVs since they are legally considered vehicles rather than buildings.

Here’s more info on how to find out if your town allows tiny houses.


Arcadia Tiny House at Night with pond

After you’ve looked over the zoning and, if applicable, building codes for your specific zone of your town, you may need to ask the town permission to have a tiny house on your property.

Although people have been traditionally living in very small living spaces since the beginning of humanity, in more recent history, tiny houses are a relatively new phenomenon in our modern western world.  Therefore, most towns don’t already have tiny houses written into their zoning or building codes.  If this is the case, don’t be discouraged: it doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it just means you’ll have to introduce the concept to the zoning board.  In this blogger’s experience, zoning boards are made up of passionate people who want to find housing solutions for their towns.  With tiny house TV shows and news stories all but taking over television networks, no doubt at least a couple of the folks on your town’s zoning board will already have an idea of what tiny houses are.  They’ll let you know whether you need a special permit to have a tiny house on your property, and if so, guide you through the process.

Pictured: The Arcadia Tiny House, photographed in its permanent home at Woodlife Ranch by Kyle Finn Dempsey