Why are tiny houses illegal in some states?

Why are tiny houses illegal in some states?

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Living in a tiny house is the ultimate goal for many American families today. Yet, that aim might be a mountain to climb. Why? Well, some state governments have rendered tiny houses illegal in their residential zones.

Now, why are tiny houses illegal in some states? Tiny houses are not legal in several US states primarily because of their building codes. If a state doesn’t recognize a tiny house as a legitimate structure in its construction code, then it’s very likely that it’s illegal. Although, there are states that allow tiny houses—however, it comes with restrictions. 

We listed several reasons why tiny houses are legal in a few US states. 

Why are tiny houses illegal in some states?

Did you know that the demand for downsizing has been stronger than ever? People, especially young families, are exchanging their American dream houses for smaller, cuter, and energy-saving mobile abodes. 

Apparently, they have been realizing that all they need can fit in less than 400 square meters. And best of all, they can drive it anywhere they want to! That is why, despite the fluctuating costs and prices and minor legal obstacles, the tiny house movement is all the rage in the United States. 

Despite this huge exigency, some states still look down on tiny houses. Now, to answer the question “Why are tiny houses illegal in some states?”, here are the main issues. 

1. The state’s building code does not allow it.

house plans with a miniature house and pencils
Building codes vary by state in the U.S.

No national building code considers tiny houses as legitimate residential structures. States’ regulations, meanwhile, can vary; that’s why some states are more lenient with tiny houses and others are not.

As for those states that prohibit tiny houses, the reason is that their building code does not allow it. This might sound too much of an Occam’s razor, but it’s true. 

The state government might have refused to acknowledge the tiny houses’ practicality yet. It could also be that they lack the resources to validate the movement’s sustainability.

Although, if a community is passionate and relentless enough about advocating for tiny houses, that restriction might eventually loosen up. Connecticut, especially, is known to be very uptight with tiny houses—but they are apparently scouting for advocates for the movement.  

Some states also allow tiny houses but pose strict limitations. Other states such as Alabama, meanwhile, don’t also have a state-wide construction code. The sliver of hope, perhaps, is that the state is on its way of legalizing tiny houses. 

RELATED: The 7 Best States For Living In A Tiny House

2. HUD is against tiny houses. 

white tiny house on wheels.
Tiny house on wheels are considered RVs

There are two prominent kinds of tiny houses in the US: tiny houses with foundations and tiny houses on wheels. 

The federal government has always been stringent with the former. However, lately, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a federal agency, has been proposing to outlaw tiny houses on wheels and RV living in general.

With this looming circumstance in the future, the increasing number of tiny houses, and some states’ dependence on the federal government aid, state governments might find it harder to legalize tiny houses. 

If that proposal takes flight, thousands of families and occupants will stop having their right to own and live in tiny houses. Ultimately, the tiny house movement will lose its legs.

3. Tiny houses are not easy to regulate.

Many licensed professionals and firms in North America build and offer tiny houses. These experts have years of construction experience behind them. 

Regardless of the manufacturers’ credibility and compliance, some states are still on the fence about tiny houses, particularly tiny house living. That’s because tiny homes are tricky to regulate when talking about zoning, security, and privacy. 

For a house to become a viable place in which one can permanently live, it must pass certain standards. Unfortunately, tiny house designs are not conventional enough to check all the boxes. 

This does not mean tiny houses are not safe abodes for living. They are not just equipped with the ideal specs for standard house living in America.

Particularly, tiny houses, despite being well-designed, will inevitably have ventilation challenges. Tiny houses have limited space, making indoor airflow high-maintenance. If a family is not savvy enough, it will add to their home-related expenses, considering they might add HVAC systems and dehumidifiers.

That safety issue alone is why some state governments find it hard to regulate, and ultimately, approve of tiny houses and tiny house living in general. 

4. To prevent greedy landowners from taking advantage. 

an abandoned shotgun house in New Orleans.
A shotgun-style house in New Orleans

Apparently, because of the demand for tiny houses, some greedy landowners in the US have taken advantage. 

For instance, some landowners in 2017 have built many rental shotgun houses in residential land, going beyond the required number of properties built in a land. 

Shotgun houses are tiny dwellings, with widths measuring less than 12 feet. Minorities, such as African-American families in Southern parts of the United States, mostly live in shotgun houses. 

Having more than the required number of houses in a residential zone brings many issues. Besides that it’s illegal, it will also compromise the quality of life of the residents in that area, especially the children’s. 

The danger doesn’t end there. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), housing has a significant impact on a child’s development. Along with constant moving, this inconsistency might cause a behavioral problem in the kid. 

5. They are strict with recreational vehicles (RVs). 

white RV with extended porch.
RVs have stringent regulations in some states as well.

Finally, some states are stringent with tiny houses because they are the same way with RVs and towing. 

Since tiny houses on wheels are considered RVs, the same strict rules also apply to them. Other RVs such as campers and travel trailers also fall under the same roof. 

We’ve mentioned here that states are likely to be less uptight with recreational vehicles. However, it’s the opposite for a few towns. The concern lies in the dwelling disengaging from the SUV or any car that hauls the tiny house.

Some states don’t also allow parking in some areas, but the aim is to make sure the occupants in the RV won’t be in harm. 

Therefore, if you’re planning to invest in a tiny house on wheels, it’s best if you check the enforced regulations for RVs in your town and neighboring cities. 

You should also study the required lane usage, trailer lights, parking rules, and even required safety items. Not only will studying those protect you from theft and accidents but will also save you from paying penalty fines. 

Final thoughts

There you have it. The next time someone asks you “Why are tiny houses illegal?”, you can share these five main issues.

It’s unfortunate that some money-hungry capitalists are taking advantage of the tiny house movement. Because of this, tiny houses are becoming not so tiny and even pricier. 

Nevertheless, there’s good news and bad news. 

The good news is that some states have become looser with their restrictions, making zoning laws beneficial to tiny house residents. The bad news, however, is that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) might be out to get the tiny house movement. 

Related questions

How to start a tiny house community? 

First, you have to study your town’s zoning and construction codes regarding tiny houses. You need to find land in a residential zone. After that, you still have to deal with an endless barrage of legalities. Expect submitting requirements, meeting with town officials, and, of course, estimating how much everything would cost. 

Why are tiny houses on wheels? 

Most people choose to build a tiny house on wheels to exempt themselves from construction codes. Tiny houses on wheels have looser regulations since they are not defined as structures but as recreational vehicles (RV). Also, people who own these types of dwellings like to move around. They love the feeling of not having a permanent home. 

All About Tiny Houses is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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