State-by-state Tiny Home Regulations Explained For Beginners

State-by-state Tiny Home Regulations Explained For Beginners

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tiny house regulations

One of the challenges of building a tiny home is understanding the zoning laws and housing regulations set by the state. Only when you have read and understood the provisions can you decide whether building a tiny home in that state is a good idea or not.

Home regulations for tiny homes are usually placed to ensure the safety and quality of living of its occupants. However, because the tiny house movement is fairly new in the US, several states don’t have a concrete framework on how to deal with them. 

Additionally, there are a lot of legal issues that surround tiny homes once you consider building one in a particular state, county, town, or jurisdiction. In some cases, you need to consult with a real estate attorney to ensure that everything is legal. 

Tiny Home Regulations in the Different States

If you are new to the concept of tiny homes and where you can build them, we created this article for you. Here we will briefly explain some of the requirements you need to comply with to be able to make a tiny house in a particular state. 

tiny house zoning laws

1. Alabama

Tiny houses aren’t widely prevalent in Alabama yet. Zoning requirements and building codes vary from one county to another. In some cities, they even have their unique provisions on their zoning laws. 

In short, it’s quite challenging to build a tiny home in Alabama, given that the state is not quite ready to accept this housing revolution. However, there are a few counties that are showing some great potential. In some areas of Jefferson County, for example, they allow them as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) provided they are smaller than 200-square feet. 

2. Alaska

The Last Frontier state has a slightly more accommodating treatment of tiny houses. Roughly 40-percent of Alaska’s population dwells in the Anchorage metropolitan district. This unified home rule municipality allows tiny homes on wheels (THOWs) in their jurisdiction. 

However, there are also some limitations to THOWs ownership in Anchorage. For example, tiny mobile houses are considered as recreational vehicles and can only be parked on lands designated as R-5 zoning. 

On the other hand, tiny homes built over a foundation must comply with residential building codes. Furthermore, homeowners are required to get a conditional use permit before they can develop their unit. Sewage and water connections are also needed if the structure will be built within city limits. 

Areas around the city of Anchorage have slightly more flexible laws, but there isn’t anything specific yet about tiny house building codes. While there are a few tiny homes in Alaska, their popularity has grown over the past few years. 

3. Arizona

Arizona is considered one of the friendliest states when it comes to the tiny house movement while there are no statewide zoning requirements and building codes for small homes, many of its jurisdiction favor micro-housing. 

In Pima County, for example, it’s legal to construct a tiny home on any lot that is designated as single-family detached houses. However, the small house must be built over a permanent foundation. In case you didn’t know, Pima County is the second most populated county in Arizona and encompasses Tucson and its suburbs. 

Meanwhile, THOWs can be categorized as factory-built homes if they are placed on a fixed foundation. In addition, Pima County has also come up with its building codes specifically for tiny houses. For example, loft areas must have access to stairs or ladders, plus they must meet fall protection essentials.

Coconino County, located on the Arizona northern border, is also following the footsteps of Pima. Other counties in the state have also shown interest in the movement. 

4. Arkansas

While Arkansas is not yet on the list of friendly states towards tiny homes, it’s at least pointed in the right direction. The town of Rogers, for example, allows tiny homes in their residential area provided that they are built over a fixed foundation. The town has also rezoned an area near Bella Vista Lake Park to accommodate tiny houses.

Meanwhile, tiny house regulations and codes may still differ by county, city, or town. Some jurisdiction has also placed size restrictions for tiny houses. Walnut Ridge city, for example, limits the minimum size of a tiny home at 600-square feet, which is a bit big’ in micro-housing standards. 

Restricting the size of tiny homes has made it challenging to build tiny homes that are usually 400-square feet or smaller. Consequently, the state also views THOWs as RVs and therefore restricts these types of dwellings to mobile home or RV parks. Furthermore, the complicated zoning laws are slowing down the development of potential tiny home communities in the area. 

5. California

The recent housing crisis in California has made the state more open to micro-housing alternatives. Most cities in California authorize its residence to build tiny homes and treat them as ADUs. Historically, the state is also known as a travel destination for people who live in camper vans and mobile homes.

However, California does not legally allow people to live permanently in tiny homes or RVs. The exception being Sonoma County, which is vulnerable to wildfires every year. The local ordinance allows displaced persons to temporarily live in mobile homes and THOWs outside the burn zones even without permits. 

Additionally, California Title 25 also doesn’t allow RVs to be used as dwelling units. The state’s Health and Safety Code also bans truck campers, motor homes, truck campers, and travel trails, with or without a motor engine, as a permanent or temporary residence. 

On a lighter note, the city of Fresno allows THOWs to be used as secondary dwelling units. Fresno is the first city in the US to allow tiny mobile houses as ADUs in residential neighborhoods. San Francisco followed suit and has allowed secondary dwelling units in the city’s residential areas. 

Overall, while specific rules about tiny homes vary by county and city, California is quite supportive of the tiny house movement. 

tiny home rules
PHOTO by Pedro Szekely via Flickr

6. Colorado

The state of Colorado and the tiny house movement has a rich history together. One of the pioneers of the tiny home movement, Jay Shafer, started his company Tumbleweed Tiny Homes in Colorado Springs. Furthermore, nothing says nomad living than being on the magnificent rocky mountains. 

That being said, tiny house regulations in Colorado still vary depending on which county, city, or town you currently reside in. The town of Walsenburg, for example, has waived the minimum square footage of a tiny home to allow people to build their micro houses. Furthermore, the town also has limited stairway regulations and revised the minimum width requirement for exit doors. 

Colorado’s Park County, a well-known destination for tiny home supporters, also has specific allowances for stick-built dwellings. Such as:

  • The living room of tiny homes must be at least 220 square feet and must have an additional 100 square feet for every person living in the unit more than two occupants.
  • Each tiny home must have a separate lavatory, bathroom and water closet, shower, and a bathtub.
  • The Refrigeration unit, kitchen sink, and cooking appliances must have a clear working space of at least 30-inches. 
  • Efficiency dwelling units that are not part of a multi-unit structure are required to have provisions for mechanical equipment such as pressure tanks, heating components, and hot water.
  • Life safety requirements, including light and ventilation, must be met no matter what the size of the dwelling. 

Meanwhile, the county’s Land Use Regulations still require manufactured and modular dwellings to be at least 600 square feet at grade level. Overall, Colorado is one of the best places in the US to build a tiny home.

7. Connecticut

One of the least progressive states in terms of accepting tiny homes, Connecticut, has many restrictions for site built micro-housing. They also have several limitations to THOWs, which the state classified as RVs. In short, it’s one of the countries that may get you into trouble when you build a tiny home.

However, this situation could change in the near future. Connecticut requires affordable housing for its residents, and tiny homes offer an alternative solution. Right now, it’s only waiting for someone to advocate micro house in its communities. 

That being said, there are numerous challenges ahead. The state has strict zoning laws that don’t support the idea of someone living in a tiny house. As such, if you are a resident of Connecticut, you need to look elsewhere to build your tiny house. 

8. Delaware

Building a tiny stationary house in Delaware is quite tricky at the moment. The state doesn’t have specific regulations for small homes. The great news, however, is that many organizations promote micro-housing as an affordable dwelling for their communities.

Meanwhile, THOWs are more promising, given that the state regulates them. For example, tiny mobile houses need to get titles within the next 30 days after it was purchased. These THOWs must also be no bigger than 400 square feet. Furthermore, they should not be longer than 40 feet and must be 8 feet or shorter per the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

9. Florida

Unsurprisingly, America’s go-to-place for vacations is all for the tiny house movement. While not every county allows tiny houses, the majority of Florida does allow them– be they mobile or stationary. 

If you have a THOWs, you need first to register it with the state’s DMV. Fortunately, Florida has plenty of tiny house communities and RV parks where you can park your unit. They also have several little house hotels where you can experience the “downsized” lifestyle for a small fee. 

Below are some specific provisions that your tiny house met if you want to build in a particular area in California:

  • In Orange County, your tiny stationary house must be at least 400 square feet to be considered as an ADU.
  • If you plan to build in St. Petersburg, your small dwelling must be at least 375 square feet and should not exceed 750 square feet in meeting their ADU requirements.
  • People who want to park their THOWs in Sarasota county can only stay in an RV park for no more than 45 days. If you plan to stay longer, your unit must sit on a foundation. 

Since every case is different, you might need to hire a local tiny house builder or an attorney to help you sort out what is legal and what is not. 

tiny home bylaws

10. Georgia

Another state that we can call tiny house friendly, Georgia, is on the right track of establishing more tiny home communities. The small house regulations are not state-wide, but most jurisdiction allows both mobile and stationary micro-housing. 

Consequently, almost all counties in Georgia follow the 2012 International Residential code as part of their local building codes. If you want to build a tiny home, you must abide by the standards specified in this document. 

The city of Atlanta allows tiny homes used as guest houses to be built or parked in R1 to R5 zoning districts. However, when someone permanently stays in these structures, it’s now classified as ADUs and not guest houses. The state only allows ADUs to be built in the R-5 areas.

Meanwhile, THOWs currently don’t have any definition or restriction in most zoning ordinances. Moreover, renting out an ADU is illegal in Georgia.  

Some cities, like Chamblee, allow tiny house communities or cottage cluster development in their area. However, they are limited to NR-3 districts only. THOWs must also be on a permanent foundation, or they can only still be on these sites for no longer than 180 days or six months.  

11. Hawaii

The warm tropical islands of Hawaii are the perfect place to build a tiny house. The state has launched several initiatives to promote small houses as alternative housing for their farm workers. THOWs are also allowed if they are registered as recreational vehicles through the state’s DMV.

However, there is a minimum floor space of at least 220 square feet for the tiny home to be legal. Most county codes also require that the dwelling have its kitchen, living area, and bathroom. You can also build your tiny homes on a privately owned piece of land, or you can purchase a plot of land for your small dwelling. 

Meanwhile, a custom-built travel trailer is considered by the Hawaiian DMV as “house trailers.” As such, they don’t need to comply with the International Building Code (IBC). While they are considered dwelling units, these trailers are subject to severe zoning restrictions. 

Over the years, Native Hawaiians have faced several issues regarding the rising prices of real estate and housing, especially in Hawaii’s main islands. Shortly, tiny houses might be a staple housing option for its people.  

12. Idaho

In 2017, Idaho became the first state to implement the International Residential Code (IRC) for its tiny houses. As such, Idaho has come up with definitions for the many types of small houses. These definitions will serve as the basis for future regulations on micro-housing. 

 According to Idaho’s definition a tiny stationary house, it can be either:

  • Site Built Tiny House- is a small home that is constructed at a permanent location and is designed without the intention for it to be moved.
  • Modular Tiny House- is a structure or building component that is not a manufactured home with closed construction. It can either be substantially or entirely assembled or prefabricated at a location that is not the building site. 

Meanwhile, the state treats travel trailers, motor homes, camping trailers, and truck campers as recreational vehicles. Aside from recreational purposes, these mobile tiny homes can be used as an emergency human habitation. The state also limits their length to only 8.5 feet or shorter. 

Idaho is the first state to elaborate on tiny houses, RVs, manufactured homes, and modular dwellings in the same reference document. While building codes and regulations for tiny houses still vary by town, city, and county, a statewide law is right around the horizon. 

tiny house order

13. Illinois

Depending on what area of Illinois you want to build your tiny home, it can be allowed or prohibited based on their zoning laws. For example, most suburbs, including Chicago, prohibit tiny houses. However, some areas in the state don’t expressly prohibit micro-housing. 

On the flip side, tiny mobile homes are quite welcome in most places in Illinois. However, you need to look at the specific County rules where you can place them. Furthermore, they must also be registered on the state’s DMV, which will then classify it as a recreational trailer. 

Depending on the county, THOWs can be parked in private properties, campgrounds and mobile home parks.

14. Indiana

The state of Indiana does not have a statewide regulation when it comes to tiny houses. Instead, it allows counties to create their own specific building codes. However, the state has particular laws when it comes to private homes constructed and later be occupied by its builders, which is referred to as the Log Cabin Rule. 

Under this rule, tiny homes built in the state of Indiana are required to have a foundation. Furthermore, the rule also sets several guidelines in lieu of traditional housing in Indiana. 

A few tiny house communities have also emerged in the state. In some residential neighborhoods, they have allowed tiny homes to be built alongside traditional housing options. Meanwhile, some places like Bloomington, Carmel, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and Southbend have specific building codes and zoning laws. 

If you plan to build a tiny home in cities like Urbana, Springfield, Rockford, and Naperville, then it’s best to consult the local zoning offices. 

15. Iowa

Iowa is one of the hardest places to build a tiny house. The state has complicated building codes and regulations that vary from one town, city, or county to another. While some of the metropolitan areas are catching on the tiny house movement, there are still too many restrictions. 

Joppa, a non-profit group, proposed to build tiny houses near Des Moines. However, they were not given permits because the jurisdiction has not adopted the International Building Code’s section on tiny houses. 

Meanwhile, the Iowa Falls Council has changed its city code to reduce the minimum size for new homes from 600 square feet to just 500 square feet. However, tiny houses are usually much smaller, with an average floor size of 300-400 square feet. While building a small home in Iowa’s cities is quite difficult, it’s possible to build in rural areas that have more flexible regulations. 

16. Kansas

The state of Kansas quite welcomes the tiny house movement. However, you need to navigate some bylaws to ensure you can build one, especially in metropolitan areas. You will also find more success constructing a tiny home on a permanent foundation than a unit that sits on a trailer.

Stationary tiny houses also must follow specific guidelines, such as:

  • At least one room should be at least 120 square feet. Other places, except for the bathroom and kitchen, need to be 50 square feet or larger, according to IRC 2012.
  • ADUs are not allowed in RS3 or RS5 districts. However, they are permitted in areas such as RS7, RS10, RS20, and single-dwelling residential areas like RS40. 
  • Tiny houses can use solar panels and small wind devices. However, the latter needs to be no taller than 35 feet. Furthermore, propane usage is regulated by the International Fire Code (IFC).
  • Composting toilets are not allowed. 

Meanwhile, THOWS are allowed on campgrounds. However, there are no codes that allow you to park them in your backyard or any privately owned land. 

17. Kentucky

Kentucky is also moving forward in terms of accepting tiny houses in some of its areas. The state, however, still doesn’t have anything specific about tiny homes and how they should be regulated. As such, most jurisdiction requires tiny homes to be reviewed under building codes meant for traditional houses. 

Louisville is one of the few places in Kentucky that has a concrete guideline when it comes to building tiny homes. However, they are required to follow some local codes before the structure can be built or assembled. 

Site-built tiny homes built on a permanent foundation are processed and reviewed the same way as any new house. Meanwhile, THOWS fall under portable dwellings which are not intended to be placed permanently on a site. 

The state also recognizes tiny house kits as modular or prefabricated dwellings. For this type of tiny house, local or municipal agencies may review or ask for additional documentation before the structure is assembled on site. However, if it’s been assembled off-site, it will be classified as “pre-manufactured” and requires the approval of the state of Kentucky. 

state by state tiny home laws
Photo by paula soler-moya via Flickr

18. Louisiana

In 2019, the state of Louisiana finally made its guidelines about tiny houses. Unfortunately, the new guidelines that follow the IRC 2015 only apply for tiny houses built on a foundation and not on THOWs. 

All cities in Louisiana follow the 2015 IRC, which requires at least one room in the tiny room to be at least 120 square feet big. It also states that lofts need to have stairs (not ladders) and a window. Additionally, it also insists doors to be at least three feet wide and ceilings to be 7 feet or taller.

That being said, it will be difficult for a tiny home builder to follow such complex provisions. Tiny house regulations in Louisiana also change from one town, city, and county to the next.

19. Maine

As one of the leading states that support the tiny house movement, Maine is an excellent choice to build your small dwelling. They are the first state to implement statewide building guidelines specifically for tiny houses. It’s even possible to convert old boats into floating tiny houses that you can register as a secondary dwelling. 

The state defines tiny homes as dwellings that have a floor area of 400 square feet. If you build your tiny home on a permanent foundation, it needs to comply with Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code (MUBEC), which covers dwellings that are 400 square feet or smaller that are built on foundations.

With the passage of MUBEC, municipalities can now give out building permits for tiny homes. However, they still have to follow certain standards such as skylights and ladder access for lofts. The new tiny house building code, however, does not cover mobile tiny homes.  

On the positive note, some areas, such as North Yarmouth, allow THOWs to be parked privately owned lands. However, the lot should be larger than 30,000 square feet and has existed before the tiny home provision was passed. Consequently, tiny houses that still have wheels can only be placed on-site for less than 120 days a year. 

tiny house zoning laws per jurisdiction

20. Maryland

Demand for tiny homes in Maryland has been on the rise for the past few years. However, the state’s zoning laws prevent more people from living in micro-housing options. You are also more likely to construct a tiny home in rural areas than in Maryland’s metropolitan areas.

However, there is a bit of silver lining for the tiny house movement. The state is more lenient towards THOWs as they are treated as RVs. As such, mobile tiny homes can be parked in RV parks. Consequently, most RV parks restrict parking on their facilities to just a few months. 

Generally speaking, Maryland has not fully acknowledged the role of tiny houses as an alternative housing option. 

21. Massachusetts

The Bay State is a bit friendly to tiny homeowners. You can own a small home built on a foundation with ease as long as you register them as ADUs. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to own THOWs in Massachusetts. 

Tiny homes registered as ADUs are widely accepted in many cities and towns in the state. Some of these areas include Ashland, Bedford, Medfield, and Rockport, just to name a few. Specifications for an ADU vary from one city or town to the next, so check out with the zoning authority first. 

Massachusetts has not yet defined what THOWs are, making it difficult to own one. However, they still allow camping using THOWs, but using them as permanent dwelling remains illegal. Additionally, the town of Nantucket allows an additional ADU dwelling that is 550 square or smaller. 

22. Michigan

In the past few years, Michigan has revised some provisions of its zoning regulations to accommodate tiny houses. Residents who are advocating affordable housing options are also pushing for tiny homes to be considered as ADUs in metropolitan areas. 

A few places also allow tiny houses to be built in designated areas. The town of Briley, for example, considers tiny homes as “Economy Efficient Dwelling.” However, there are certain specifications that tiny house builder must comply with such as:

The tiny home’s floor area must be at least 240 square feet big and should not exceed 500 square feet. 

Additionally, the unit’s height should not exceed 12 feet, while its length should be between 20 and 30 feet. 

An economy efficient dwelling must be built over an approved fixed foundation. It must also comply with Michigan’s building and sanitary codes, and obtain a certificate of occupancy. 

Michigan allows tiny houses in agriculture areas, recreational forest areas, and residential two zones. 

23. Minnesota

Minnesota is quite lukewarm when it comes to the tiny house movement. There are several municipalities in the area that support micro-housing options, especially for the disabled and elderly. However, the major cities in the state have no specific regulations about them.

In some areas, you can build them as ADUs as long as they are built on a permanent foundation. The structure must also comply with Minnesota’s State Building Code.

Meanwhile, you can also register a mobile tiny home as an RV. However, there are only a few places in the state where you can park them, such as RV parks and campgrounds. 

tiny home zoning laws per jurisdiction
PHOTO by Greg Gjerdingen via Flickr

24. Mississippi

The state of Mississippi used tiny houses as emergency shelters after the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina. Seeing the positive benefits of micro-housing, several companies in the country now sell small homes. However, the local government is not yet in full support of such an initiative. 

On a lighter note, there are a few places where you can likely build a tiny home. These places include Biloxi, Gulfport, Hattiesburg Jackson, Meridian, and Tupelo, just to name a few. Just to be sure, research first the local building code of each municipality before attempting to construct or buy a tiny home. 

Tiny house builders in the area, such as Tiny House Life, usually construct units with a floor space between 100 to 900 square feet. It is also expected that tiny houses will get more attention in the next few years because of its increasing demand. 

25. Missouri

Located in the Midwest region, Missouri has 6 million residents and is the 18th most populated state in the country. However, it is also one of the few states that haven’t officially dealt with micro-housing. 

Building a tiny home on a foundation can be quite difficult because of complex zoning laws. Some of its largest metropolitans like Jefferson City, Springfield, Kansas City, St. Louis and Branson all have varying building codes. 

THOWS are considered RVs and are not meant for permanent living arrangements. Furthermore, you can’t park them in public places and are not even allowed for city-use. If your THOWs is less than 220 square feet, it does not require any special permits to be used in Missouri’s highways. 

The state, however, allows temporary residence in tiny homes in times of a disaster. 

26. Montana

Montana is one of the few places where building a tiny home is next to impossible. The majority of the local ordinances have yet to recognize tiny houses as a means of affordable housing. Hence, it’s still illegal to build a tiny home in most areas of the state.

Some jurisdiction does allow tiny self-built houses, but only when they sit on a trailer. In this case, these THOWs are considered as travel trailers or RV and have the same restrictions as the latter. 

27. Nebraska

Nebraska is one of the first states to draft an official document that discusses the different kinds of tiny homes. However, the paper also mentions that it’s up to the local jurisdiction how they will deal with tiny homes in terms of zoning requirements. 

Mobile tiny homes that are manufactured by tiny home builders must pass the requirements of the Federal Manufactured Home Act by the Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD). Only those manufactured mobile tiny houses with HUD labels can be sold legally on the market. 

Meanwhile, modular housing units need to comply with the IRC and the National Electrical Code. On the other hand, THOWs needs to pass the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards for RVs. 

On the other hand, tiny stationary homes need to comply with the zoning requirements of the local jurisdiction. Overall, building or owning a tiny home in Nebraska is quite complicated and needs extensive initial research. 

tiny home laws to abide
PHOTO by david__jones via Flickr

28. Nevada

The desert state of Nevada is quite upbeat about the tiny house movement. Depending on the local ordinance of the area, you can even live in THOWs provided that the owner complies with local regulations. 

Clark County, for example, allows tiny homes that are over 200 square feet provided they get a building permit. While their code doesn’t specifically talk about tiny homes, you can work around some of the loopholes in their regulations. 

In most cases, it’s more favorable to build a tiny home on a foundation. However, you should not register them as ADUs because they can’t have cooking facilities like a kitchen. 

29. New Hampshire

When the 2008 financial crisis hit, New Hampshire was strongly hit by the effects of the housing bubble. This prompted the state to legalize tiny houses and ADUs. Your best bet to build your tiny home is on the Coos County, which sits on the Northern part of New Hampshire. 

The state has also passed several laws that allow ADUs to be built on private property, provided they comply with the local building codes. Additionally, the state does not require ADUs and tiny homes to be occupied by the owner. However, they do require the owner to live on-site, preferably on a larger main residential structure. 

There are also thirteen towns on New Hampshire that don’t have zoning laws such as Alexandria, Ellsworth, Haverhill, Warren, Chatham, and Lempster. You can build a tiny home in these areas without having to worry about common issues like minimum square footage requirements. 

30. New Jersey

In recent years, New Jersey has developed a great interest in affordable tiny houses. However, complicated zoning laws still hinder its growth in the state, prompting many tiny homeowners to go under the radar. 

Some of your best bets where you can build a tiny home are the towns of Rockland and Haverstraw. The former allows THOWs in their residential areas, provided that they are not used for permanent residential use. 

Meanwhile, the town of Haverstraw allows tiny houses granted they are used as ADUs or as a caretaker’s cottage. That being said, there are also a few places that allow tiny house communities, especially if they contribute to solving social problems. 

31. New Mexico

New Mexico is one of the best places to build your tiny home, primarily because of its mild continental climate. Additionally, the state allows people to build tiny houses provided they follow local building codes and regulations. 

The state requires tiny houses here to have at least 70 square feet of floor space and at least be 7 feet tall. The structure must also sit on a permanent foundation and comply with the state’s Energy Conservation Code. 

Furthermore, the dwelling must have sanitary facilities like bath, sink, toilet, and shower. The kitchen and bathroom sinks must also have access to both cold and water. There are a few other requirements which you can check out on the building code of a particular town or city. 

Albuquerque also provides its guidelines for constructing tiny homes. It’s also possible to live in a converted THOWs that sits on a foundation, so long as you get a residential certificate. You also need your THOWs to comply with a permit if you want to tow away or move your tiny home. 

32. New York

The populous state of New York is not an ideal place for tiny houses. The state doesn’t authorize temporary structures, where tiny homes fall according to their state laws. 

Consequently, you can register your THOWs on the state’s DMV; you can’t live there permanently. There is also a small chance that you can live in a tiny home built over a foundation on areas that are farthest from the city.

Overall, we do not advise you to build your tiny home in New York, unless more positive regulations on tiny homes are in place.  

33. North Carolina

North Carolina is currently divided with the issue of tiny houses. Some residents are worried that these alternative housing can drive the prices of their properties down when allowed near residential areas. Meanwhile, some acknowledge its potential as an affordable dwelling for those who can’t afford traditional housing options. 

Your best bets to build your tiny home are in the towns of Wilmington and Winston-Salem. The former requires tiny homes to be 150 square feet or larger for a single occupant structure. It also needs to have an additional 100 square feet for every additional occupant, and the building must abide by its local housing ordinances.

Meanwhile, the town of Winston Salem allows tiny homes as ADUs provided that they sit on a single-family lot and are occupied by caretakers or relatives. Meanwhile, THOWs need to be examined and approved by the state’s DMV inspector before hitting the road. 

34. North Dakota

North Dakota is not very keen on the tiny house movement despite its popularity. Very few places have laid out a framework on how they should regulate these micro-housing options. The few places that do require them to meet standard building codes and other restrictions. 

Your best bet in living in a tiny home is in Burleigh County, which has loosened its ordinances to allow tiny homeowners. However, tiny houses built here are not considered as ADUs but are more leaning towards housing for the elderly family members. 

Burleigh County also has a minimum square footage requirement of 965 sq. ft., which is too big to be considered as a “tiny home.” They also require THOWs to be placed on a foundation. Additionally, micro houses need to have access to water, electricity, sewer, and gas.

tiny house laws

35. Ohio

Ohio’s housing crisis has forced many people to live in tiny homes under the government’s radar. Many neighborhoods and communities have yet to set minimum square footage and other regulations about micro-housing options.

However, they are mostly allowed as ADUs and must have a minimum square footage of 950 square feet or less. In cities like Cleveland and some other counties, you can file for “variance” for the local government to grant you a special permit to build your tiny home. 

In this case, you need to go to the City Hall or zoning office and submit your case. There are a few instances that the local government will allow you to build a tiny home, such as using it for housing an elderly member of the family. 

36. Oklahoma

Oklahoma has also faced a housing crisis in the past decade or so. Because of this, the state has become more welcoming about the idea of tiny houses. However, regulations are not yet in place for micro-housing options. 

Currently, there are small tiny house communities in northwest Oklahoma City and in the Wheeler District where you can build your unit. However, you have a better chance of complying with zoning requirements if you build them outside the cities.

Furthermore, the state is more lenient with stationary tiny houses built over a foundation than THOWs. The state treats tiny mobile homes as RVs and is regulated as such. 

37. Oregon

Tiny houses are quite popular in Oregon and for a good reason. The state’s outdoor scenery is quite exceptional, and tiny homes that sit near these natural sceneries are perfect for accommodating tourists. 

The city of Portland allows tiny houses built on a foundation provided they meet the city’s building codes. Meanwhile, THOWs and RVs can be hosted in a residential property for a limited amount of time. 

Oregon is also home to the famous Tiny House Hotel, which lets you experience what it’s like to live in a downsized dwelling. They also allow THOWs to be parked in RV parks and campgrounds. However, mobile tiny homes need to be registered with the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) before you can drive them around. 

However, some places in Oregon are not yet clear about their stance on tiny houses. As such, it’s best to check with local zoning authorities if it’s allowed in their area or not. 

38. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is generally a tiny house friendly state. It is home to Elizabethtown, which claims to have the biggest tiny house community in the country. Many of Pennsylvania’s rural areas also allow tiny houses to be built on private lands. 

Even some of the state’s largest cities are also getting into the action. Philadelphia, for example, has no minimum square footage for tiny homes. However, they require the structure to be compliant with the guidelines of IRC 2009.

Under this building code, a tiny house must be at least 120 square feet or bigger. Habitable rooms in the structure must also be at least 70 square feet, with the exception of the kitchen. Furthermore, rooms should be 7 feet or longer in any direction except for the food prep room or kitchen. 

Overall, the state is an exceptional place to build your tiny home, given their lax regulations. Before building a tiny home, though, make sure to check with the local municipality for specific details they have on tiny houses. 

tiny home regulations
PHOTO by Doug Kerr via Flickr

39. Rhode Island

The smallest state of the US is not yet sold with the idea of tiny houses. In most places, tiny houses are more likely to be referred to as sheds, where gardening tools are kept. 

In most areas, such as the city of Providence, tiny houses have not yet been acknowledged by their local ordinance. However, the state recently allows tiny houses to be used as ADUs for single-family homes where there is a senior relative aged 62 and above. 

40. South Carolina

South Carolina is among the states that currently experience rising real estate costs. As such, some counties are now leaning towards allowing tiny houses as an alternative to the more expensive traditional housing options. 

Places like Greenville County and Rock Hill allows tiny houses on a foundation provided they meet minimum square footage. For Greenville, that’s 400 square feet or larger, and for Rock Hill, it’s 850 square feet or bigger. 

However, building codes and regulations still vary in different places in South Carolina. On the flip side, many counties are beginning to consider the merits of small dwelling units. 

41. South Dakota

In the past decade or so, South Dakota has made significant changes in how they regulate tiny houses. Several places have stepped up and created a concrete framework on how to control small homes, especially the towns of Beresford and Spearfish. It’s expected that other towns and cities in the state will follow in their footsteps. 

In Spearfish, a tiny stationary house built over a foundation is required to comply with the local building code. Additionally, they must also obtain permits to construct residential zoning districts in the town. THOWs can also be parked on any commercial campground in the area. 

Meanwhile, Beresford requires tiny houses to be no less than 8.5 feet wide and 20 feet long. The minimum floor area is set at 187 square feet and only requires an additional 50 square feet per occupant. Additionally, THOWs must be set on a foundation; its trailer must be licensed and must be secured to withstand severe weather when parked. 

Overall, it’s one of the best places to establish a tiny home community, given its “considerate” nature to micro houses. 

42. Tennessee

Tennessee is quite divided with regard to the tiny house movement. Several counties and cities allow them provided they comply with building codes and regulations. However, some municipalities ban them altogether. 

If you are planning to build your tiny house in this state, you may want to consider the following places:

Warren County- authorizes tiny dwellings as long as they are at least 138 square feet. 

Dandridge- created their guidelines for building tiny houses. However, they only allow those built over permanent foundations and needs to be between 100 and 300 square feet. 

Knoxville- still follows the 2012 IRC when it comes to tiny houses. As such, the dwelling must have at least 120 square feet for single person residency and 320 square feet for two-person occupants. The town also only allows up to three people to live in tiny houses at a time. 

Meanwhile, towns like Etowah have made it harder to build tiny houses because of a recently amended ordinance. To create a tiny house in Residential 2 and 3 zones, it needs to be 600 square feet or larger, which is way big for your typical micro house. 

43. Texas

The Lone Star State is one of the most welcoming places for the tiny house movement. Texas widely accepts and regulates micro-housing options– both on the foundation and wheels. Additionally, there are several small home builders in the area where you can get your unit for a reasonable price. 

While there is yet a statewide definition and guidelines, several towns and cities have favorable regulations to tiny houses. Some of these places include:

  • Spur – which prides itself as the “first tiny house friendly town” in the US, does not have any minimum square footage requirement for tiny homes. Additionally, they allow THOWs on private property provided that its wheels are removed. 
  • Breckenridge- allows tiny houses built on a foundation as long as they are at least 320 square feet.
  • Austin- the city, allows tiny stationary houses of any size. Meanwhile, they treat THOWs and RVs and regulate them as such. 
  • Fort Worth- allow tiny houses as ADUs provided they are less than 400 square feet big. However, you need to apply for their Town Hall manually. 

Overall, the state of Texas has one of the best policies when it comes to tiny houses. While there are some restrictions in some places, building a tiny home is generally legal. 

small home regulations per state
PHOTO by Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr

44. Utah

Utah is one of the most visited tourist destinations, especially during the winter months. Tiny houses are viable optional housing for tourists who are into outdoor activities. The state is also home to some of the best tiny home builders that supply the mountain states. 

Building codes and regulations about tiny homes vary from one town, city, or county to another. Below are some of the best places to build your tiny home:

Eagle Mountain City- allows tiny houses on the foundation to be built in residential areas. However, THOWs need to be in a base and are restricted in Tier I residential zones. 

Salt Lake City- authorizes tiny houses to be used as ADUs provided that they are at least 650 square feet large or has a half square footage of the main structure (whichever is greater).

Washington County- stationary houses in residential areas require them to be connected to basic utilities like water and power. The structure must also be at least 300 square feet big. Meanwhile, THOWs are considered as park model RVs.

Overall, Utah is one of the best places to own a tiny home because of its more lenient treatment of micro-housing options. 

45. Vermont

The Green Mountain State is relatively lenient when it comes to tiny houses, especially on THOWs. However, many of its major cities are quite strict when it comes to constructing tiny homes in metropolitan residences.

On the positive note, there are a few places where you can register your tiny home as an ADU such as Burlington. The city does not have minimum square footage for ADUs. In the town of Williston, however, tiny homes are restricted to a maximum of 1,500 square feet. 

46. Virginia

The tiny house movement has been on the rise in Virginia for the past few years. However, while many of its significant cities allow micro-housing, the state has tighter regulations compared to everywhere else. 

Fortunately, there are a few places which are more lenient than others. Virginia Beach, for example, treats tiny houses as residential space provided that they meet Virginia’s building code. Staunton County is also another place that allows tiny homes as long as they are at least 200 square feet large. 

47. Washington

In recent years, tiny houses have become more popular in the state of Washington. The majority of the cities in the state allow tiny homes to be used as ADUs. However, building a THOWs is more challenging because of the many restrictions, especially where you can park it legally. 

Below are some of the best places where you can establish your tiny dwelling:

Seattle- generally allows tiny houses built on a foundation when you register them as ADUs. However, the city doesn’t allow THOWs in residential communities. 

King County- also allows tiny stationary houses in their area. However, they only have a few places where you can legally park your THOWs.

Woodland- permits people to build their tiny homes provided they are used as ADUs. Additionally, they need to be 300 to 800 square feet big. 

Ultimately, if you want to live in a tiny home– you’ll find more success on a unit built over a foundation than its wheeled counterpart. 

small houses rules per jurisdiction
PHOTO by Diana Robinson via Flickr

48. West Virginia

The tiny house movement hasn’t gotten any significant traction in the state of West Virginia. However, there is a lot of potential in micro-housing, especially as a temporary shelter for disaster-stricken residence. 

The majority of West Virginia has yet to adjust the building codes and housing regulations to accommodate tiny homes. One of the few exceptions includes the town of Charles in Jefferson County. The township restricts tiny houses registered as ADUs at a maximum size of 1,700 square feet. 

49. Wisconsin

The Badger State classifies stationary tiny houses as ADUs, while tiny houses are still left without any definition. With that said, Wisconsin is not the best place to build a tiny home because of the many restrictions in place.

However, there are a few places that welcome the idea of micro-housing. Madison, for example, is considered as “portable shelters” and should be no more than 150 square feet. On the other hand, Dane County allows them as long as they are registered as ADUs with a floor area that is no larger than 800 square feet. 

50. Wyoming

Wyoming has stunning mountain views and tons of outdoor activities to offer. For this reason, tiny houses have become quite popular as an alternative dwelling near-natural destinations in the state. Consequently, several cities and townships have also made specific definitions and regulations about tiny houses.

In the town of Cody, which is located near the Yellowstone National Park, tiny homes on wheels are considered as RVs. As such, they should follow all restrictions and requirements, and not that of an ADU. 

Meanwhile, the town of Casper classify THOWs as trailer homes and are only allowed to park with R-6 zoning. On the other hand, tiny stationary houses are allowed on private lands provided they are larger than 120 square feet. Additionally, the unit’s living room and bedroom should at least be 220 square feet combined. 

Wyoming is also using tiny houses as rental properties to help boost its tourism. Tiny homes built on a foundation are also defined as “efficiency dwelling units. 

Conclusion

If you have made it to this point, congratulations! 

As you can see, some states have more complicated laws and regulations on tiny homes than other places in the country. Ultimately, if you want to build a tiny home in a particular area, make sure you first check with the city council or zoning law officer, if your plan is plausible or not. 

Related Questions

Do tiny homes need permits?

In most states, you need to obtain building permits before you can construct a tiny home. Doing so will ensure that the structure is built based on existing building codes and zoning laws of the town or county. 

If you make or buy a THOWs, you may also need to apply for a special driving permit, especially if you intend to drive it on major highways or roads.

Do tiny house owners pay real estate taxes?

If you build your tiny house on a foundation and it sits on private or residential property, you are likely required to pay taxes. However, some places impose tax breaks on residents who live in tiny homes. Meanwhile, if you live in a THOWs, you are less likely to be required to pay real estate tax. 

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