Could That Tiny Home Be Illegal?

July 18, 2016

The tiny home trend is growing more popular, but owners of these teeny residences say they’re facing a big problem in knowing where to put them.

Few cities allow stand-alone tiny houses, which are typically defined as a house smaller than 500 square feet. Many community ordinances have minimum square footage requirements for single-family homes. Many areas also have rules that require any dwellings to be connected to utilities. (Several tiny homes operate with solar panels and rainwater catchment systems.)

“Many residents and local officials fear [the tiny homes] will drive down property values,” reports Stateline. “Some state and local governments, perplexed about whether to classify tiny houses as RVs, mobile homes or backyard cottages, still refuse to allow them.”

Some communities have softened up when it comes to allowing tiny homes. For example, cities like Washington, D.C., and Fresno, Calif., have eased zoning and building rules. California’s housing department issued guidance in May to help builders and code enforcers identify standards for tiny homes.

Tiny houses have grown in popularity in recent years, due to an HGTV show featuring them and an increasing number of people who say they desire a simpler life with less financial obligations. Some nonprofit organizations reportedly view tiny homes as a potential affordability solution for overheated housing markets too.

But where to place the tiny homes has become the main struggle. Many tiny homes are built off-site and can easily be moved. That raises questions over which building codes the houses must then meet. Dan Buuck, a specialist on codes and standards for the National Association of Home Builders, told Stateline that some tiny homes are built with dangers, such as smoke that could potentially accumulate more quickly in low-ceiling and loft areas.

Bill Rockhill, the founding president of the American Tiny House Association, says he and other builders try to abide by uniform building codes for houses or a similar set of standards for RVs.

Source: “Tiny Houses Are Trendy, Minimalist, and Often Illegal,” Stateline (July 6, 2016)