Tiny homes have wheeled in right inside our hearts, but legally owning one is still an area of confusion. Many aspiring homeowners are quite unsure of whether building codes and permits apply at all to the construction of these mini dwellings. Building codes exist to impose standard construction guidelines so that structures are safe for habitation. Because the safety of occupants remains a valid concern, building codes and permit requirements will apply in case of tiny houses. However, depending on a range of several other factors associated with the construction and use of tiny houses, building permits can be sidelined as well.
The tiny house basics
A tiny house is typically defined as a small-size home that’s anywhere between 80 and 400 sq. ft. It can be built upon a traditional foundation of cement, or on a trailer bed, with or without wheels. Now, tiny houses do not have any uniform building arrangement codes or models that apply to their construction. Designs vary from one builder to another, and the range of customization varies from one homeowner to the next.
Three indicators could clear the ambiguity regarding all kinds of permits that building your own tiny house may require:
• Permitted land use - The first thing to ensure is that the property you have designated to erect your tiny house on is allowed land use. Once this is confirmed, enquire about required permits from your local building department.
• Intent to live - If you’re building a tiny house intending to occupy it, all local building codes will apply, and this means availing a building permit. Building codes mandate certain safety and construction standards, ensuring that a building is safe for occupancy.
• Built on wheels - In this case, the local authority will require compliance of your tiny house with the regulation standards for recreational vehicles. Meaning, you’d have to avail an RVIA certification.
Safety during occupancy remains essential even if it’s a tiny house, whether moving or not. Therefore, based on the categorization of your tiny house, permits are a must.
Having said that, let’s walk you through more info related to tiny house permits.
How to obtain the permit to buy/build?
First, visit your local building authority and understand the development norms that apply to your tiny house construction. Second, employ the services of a contractor who knows all the applicable building codes and may be familiar with the challenges of permits and construction process. In case, there are any doubts about further legality, do not hesitate to avail the services of a land-use attorney.
On the other hand, if your tiny house is on wheels, then this means you would require a manufacturer issued RVIA certificate. Some states do have a ‘home-built RV’ certification, but then you would need to be a resident of that lucky state. The next step is compliant parking and residing zones for your tiny house trailer, which requires its own homework in legality.
Tiny house challenges to building codes
So you’re a model citizen, and building codes compliance is at the core of your tiny house construction. However, get ready to face some complications with building standards such as 120 sq. ft. area for at least one room, electrical segmentation when your tiny house walls are multi-use, neighborhood purview complaints, city requirements assessors, etc. In all these scenarios, your best bet is to stay updated with all coding and zoning specifications. And, remember, if your tiny home requires a permit concerning your safety, then it’s best to get it done.
Tiny house misconceptions
Building grants rules are triggered the minute you specify your construction as a ‘house.’ One popular misconception that naive homeowners have, and smart salespersons propagate is that a tiny house on wheels is clear of clauses and conditions. But the truth is that the city will move the jurisdiction from building to recreational vehicles safety standards.
Second, tiny house owners do not get immune to permits even if they claim they are camping and not actually staying. Most municipal authorities have duration limits and designated areas for camping that you have to comply with. If you counter it by moving around in your tiny house, the authorities can promptly point out that you are, in fact, dwelling rather than camping in your tiny house.
In the horizon
Tiny house aspirants can look forward to better permit days with states coming around to the tiny house revolution. For example, San Luis Obispo has allowed tiny backyard homes on wheels with specific riders and an opportunity to renew the said license after a minimum duration. Also, it is commendable that you reach out and connect with other tiny house dwellers to understand their experience. If you are still wondering how to negotiate the permit obstacle course, we are happy to decode it for you!