Greg Johnson of the Small House Society published a video on how city housing codes influence tiny house living.

In a 4 minute video he covers a viewers question, “where can you legally put a tiny house on wheels?”

Greg does a great job of explaining the problems we face in addition to different ways you can get around them.

He also briefly discusses cities that are beginning to allow this type of housing as completely legal accessory dwelling units.

Greg talks about the challenges faced by code enforcement to catch folks sleeping in recreational vehicles, campers, and tiny houses.

I’ll let him do the talking, Hope you enjoy and be sure to visit the Small House Society for more information related to the tiny house movement.

Tiny House Living and City Zoning and Building Codes - How to Get Around Them

Photo Courtesy of the Small House Society and Greg Johnson on YouTube

If you want to listen to Greg’s tips on how to get around building codes and city zoning, I encourage you to watch his 4-minute video below:

What did you like best about the tips Greg gave us? Share your thoughts and challenges in the comments below.

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Alex

Alex has been living in small spaces for more than 7 years, he's the founding editor of TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter, and has passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. Send in your story and tiny home photos so we can share and inspire others towards simplicity too. Thank you!

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{ 46 comments }

  • kim January 20, 2012, 11:33 am

    Very interesting video, thanks for posting. We’ve been living on and off in our RV and one of the main issues has been finding places to live (apart from trailer/rv parks) for extended periods of time. Bylaws seem to be the enemy of the full time rv’r and tiny house dweller.

    From our experience it’s often the neighbors that get involved, they are the ones that can tell how long you are staying, and depending on the neighborhood, can often get quite insistent in dragging in that mean old bylaw officer.

    It’s informative to know the reality, so was pleased with the video

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    • Alex January 21, 2012, 7:30 am

      I appreciate you sharing your experience, Kim. I can certainly seeing that being a problem and that’s usually what it is.. Neighbors who don’t like what you’re doing. I think that’s why it’s important to get out, talk, and make friends. Possibly- before you park and claim it home as you may be able to predict who’s who and what they’re okay with. Saving you future hassles, etc.

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  • aili January 20, 2012, 3:06 pm

    I was so excited to see this link. But you are saying the same thing that gives the Tiny Movement a bad reputation. People EVADING the laws and/or LIVING on other people’s properties. This is NOT what we want. We want to be able to purchase a piece of land and legally park a tiny mobile or legally build a home that is less than 200 square feet. We don’t want tips on how to be outlaws or slackers.

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    • Scott January 20, 2012, 5:19 pm

      I wouldn’t say it’s an outlaw or slacker thing to do. It’s not his fault the average voter is okay with big government, and trading liberty for security. Are nation is full of people that say things like “There oughta be a law …” without batting an eye. But just because it’s law doesn’t make it wrong, or make someone a criminal for building their own house. I believe there are still laws on the books in some places that make it illegal to sleep with your shoes on, and laws that prevent non-Christians from holding office. Sometimes the moral thing is to break the unjust law. Either that, or play them at their own game by finding loopholes and such. Disconnect electricity for a day to avoid a consecutive day hookup law == smart.

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      • Alex January 21, 2012, 7:35 am

        Thanks, Scott, great points. I’m all for laws that help keep people safe while not infringing on their rights.

        When a law is created to prevent folks from doing something which doesn’t put anyone at any risk/harm, I believe it should be questioned.

        At that point, “loopholes” should be found and taken advantage of with respect to the people, officials, and gov’t in the area.

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    • Alex January 21, 2012, 7:27 am

      Interesting point, Aili.. If there are really enough of us that want this in a given area (or are willing to move, etc) and will gladly pay for land and a tiny house on wheels to be built for them, then I don’t see why an RV park purchase and “conversion” isn’t possible right now. I’m casually exploring this option here in SW Florida as there are tons of developers here.

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      • jim sadler January 28, 2012, 3:53 pm

        I have lived in South East Florida for decades. I am now just a bit north of Palm Beach on the treasure Coast. Miami Dade will no longer allow new mobile homes at all nor will Broward county (Ft. Lauderdale). Palm Beach is now negative on all mobile homes and Martin county has severely restricted all mobile homes as well. Any piece of land that allows a mobile home in Martin county will be very, very expensive. Some parks have been forced to close down.
        This has to do with mobiles not paying property taxes and also the presence of families with children creating school expenses and is topped off by insurance industry horrors since the three hurricanes hit us six years ago. Nobody wants to write insurance in south Florida now and mobile homes amplify that issue.

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  • Gene Wallen January 20, 2012, 6:19 pm

    I agree with Aili, all you need is one complaint and you`re gone, or since it has wheels, impounded. Wheels do not make a RV, a RVIA sticker does.

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    • Alex January 21, 2012, 7:52 am

      Thanks Gene. I think there are a bunch of variables so each situation calls for a different solution or “work around”.

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  • Ryan January 21, 2012, 3:06 am

    I understand where both of you are coming from. I think that one of the biggest hindrances keeping people from making the leap in their own lives, is the fact that some people view those who do, as “outlaws or slackers.” But that’s why it’s a MOVEMENT. The blog and the video are just stating the facts. If you want to buy a plot and put a tiny house on it, you’re probably going to have to find some rural land. That’s the way things are now, and it takes people challenging the laws and regulations, to affect change.

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    • Alex January 21, 2012, 7:24 am

      Couldn’t have said it better, Ryan, thank you.

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    • jim sadler July 7, 2012, 9:56 pm

      Politics should not control where people live. I watched a battle over a developer wanting to build condos with two and three bedrooms. The city fought with every weapon they could to stop it. The city insisted on single bedroom units only and they wanted over 55 rules for purchasing. They knew which segment of the population could spend the most, act up the least, and not add to the need for more schools. To the city two and three bedroom units meant more kids and more teens and they are considered as negatives. Land here is very expensive and a small lot can cost more than homes normally do and the city does check everything they can and frequently. Yet states like Texas have so much cheap land that entire cities of tiny homes could hide away there.

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  • Alex January 21, 2012, 7:23 am

    I see where you’re coming from, Aili, and the laws are frustrating and ridiculous and will take time to change. For now- those who are doing it are being creative with solutions. Some cities are already accepting the changes. In others you have to take your own risks. If you’re not willing to do that, then you can still simplify your life and get the smallest apartment/condo you can find.

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  • aili January 21, 2012, 8:50 am

    I live in a city in Massachusetts and own a home. I’m ready to take the leap but I’m not willing to invest time and money and then feel like any minute my tiny HOME can be taken away. So here’s my plan. Go to the city, purchase a city-owned small lot in a depressed area, hire an architect to certify my hand-drawn plan for a 220 sq. foot house and see if it flies with the Building Inspector. I want to do it legally. I want to do it publicly so I’m not afraid of the neighbors ratting me out and I can be an example for the wanna-bes. There’s got to be a way to do this legally.

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    • Alex January 21, 2012, 9:35 am

      Good idea, Aili, I like your spirit. Another way is buy a 600-1200 sf house, live in it while building your 220 sf guest house/studio then rent out the larger home.

      Just curious are you allowed to keep an RV or trailer on your property in MA?

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    • Michael August 8, 2014, 11:07 am

      You will be hard pressed to find any building codes that allow you to build a structure smaller than 1,200 square feet on your property. Most standardized, nationalized uniform building codes say that your house must be 1,200 sq feet, bathrrom must be no less than 50 sq ft, etc. Houston, Texas is the largest city that has no zoning codes and otherwise you will be looking for land in mountain areas, forest areas, and other areas where you are isolated from large cities. The City Planning Board doesn’t want you to get away with paying less than $3,000 per year in property taxes, and the Supremem Court never said Zoning was unconstitutional, which it is. So go live like a nomad in the mountains to be free or live like a slave with the rest of Americans in over sized, over taxed, and over regulated housing. Don’t forget to pay your large electric and heating bills too. Who said America was free? That was 100 years ago. Today it is trendy to be a slave and allow government officials to tell you how to live your life. Get on board man.

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  • Alex January 21, 2012, 9:55 am Reply Link
  • aili January 21, 2012, 10:56 am

    Buying a “normal” house and putting a Tiny on the land isn’t breaking any ground it’s just circumventing the zoning. What about the person who can’t afford that? Similarly, the Commonwealth has few towns that will permit a permanent RV for habitation on your private property unless it’s zoned for RVs or mobile homes. Most only allow for extreme situations like our recent tornado that permitted residents to TEMPORARILY live in an RV on their land. I stand by the assertion that we need to live the way we want to live within the confines of the current zoning and eventually the zoning will relax. Look at cell towers, they were difficult to build at one time and needed special permits. As the corporations continued to build LEGALLY, the towns relaxed the zoning to comply with society’s change in need.

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    • Alex January 21, 2012, 11:54 am

      If you can’t afford to do that then the work around is to make connections with people who have land until you find a good fit. Some home owners are looking for that.. The elderly, etc.

      These methods which you refuse to consider are making huge differences in some people’s lives right now.. I still agree with you that we should respect laws. My point is we have to look at what folks can do right now, and there are workarounds.

      Worse comes to worse a person has to move (and that’s one of the reasons tiny homes are being built on trailers..as a workaround), but I don’t know of a law where officials can take your trailer/rv away from you because you camped in it and weren’t supposed to. I’ve just never heard of that happening before.

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  • jim sadler January 21, 2012, 4:27 pm

    Where to put it is a huge issue. In some places land is scarce and laws and regulations can b awful. Another consideration is property taxes. There are places where property tax is trivial and other places where property taxes are violent and repressive. What cities fear are providing services such as schools without taxes on dwellings. If they only allow very expensive homes then high taxes can be collected.
    Look for loop holes as best you can. the system is not your friend. Example: They may not regulate living on a boat or allow a boat to be beside a home. By a boat hull and set up the interior as a living space and keep it on a trailer. Bad boat hulls cost next to nothing at all. Use a camper as the cabin for your boat. If you need to but the home and rent it out while living in your boat, which is hooked into the home’s utilities. The fact that society in general can not afford to support itself is one very good reason to live in a tiny home. Rebels are welcomed.

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  • Janet January 22, 2012, 6:12 pm

    Greetings from the Arkansas Delta — Just wanted to let folks know my husband and I have a 4 acre plot of land that we bought here in eastern Arkansas SUPER, SUPER CHEAP!!!! Anyone that has a tiny house on wheels is WELCOME to come and stay on our land for free– the only thing we would ask in return is for construction help (and expertise!) in building our small cabin. No money would exchange hands. We are one hour from Memphis, TN. and live one block from the Mighty Mississippi River! Contact me if interested! Animals and kids welcome too!

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    • Theresa January 22, 2012, 9:43 pm

      Oh wow, I travel that route every time I visit my mom in Alabama. I would love to stop by and help out. I’m a journeyman carpenter, certified. I look foreward to building my own tiny house, someday. Perhaps we’ll meet up. I love Tennessee…beautifull in the Autumn!

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    • Alex January 23, 2012, 9:04 am

      Thanks Janet that’s very kind of you.

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    • Phillip March 14, 2013, 6:21 pm

      Hi Janet, I’m curious to know where you live? I grew up in the same area you are describing. My wife and I are currently building a 248 sq. ft. house on wheels. My email is pskipper89@gmail.com, I would love to get in touch some time.

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  • Theresa January 22, 2012, 9:40 pm

    Yes, legitimacy is at the core of the issue, here. We just want legitimacy, to live as we wish. It’s the American way, isn’t it? I grew up a military brat, and that is the perspective I have on the American dream. It’s not to have a bunch of stuff, but to BE who you want to BE, and lIVE as you want to LIVE…..however big or small. Rock on tiny home dwellers!

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    • Alex January 23, 2012, 9:05 am

      Thanks, Theresa, right on!

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  • sesameB January 23, 2012, 4:21 pm

    EXCELLENT video! Rock on,Alex too!!!!!!!!!
    Barefootin’ in rural south central sunny Arkansas, living in my very own tiny house

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  • Kenny January 27, 2012, 2:21 pm

    My thoughts? People need to be left alone, as long as they are not hurting anyone.

    As long as rents take over 30% of folks wages due to abysmal minimum wage…folks should just step off those looking to live with a roof of any type over their heads.

    By chance, is there any help with someone like myself who is seeking to affordably convert their tiny detached garage into an ADU/studio/tiny house?

    I would love to share a video with you Alex, maybe folks subscribed can give me ideas and direction with the project?

    I am in Portland by the way :) We do have some hoops to go through and I am trying to learn about those as well.

    Cheers,

    Kenny

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    • Alex January 27, 2012, 4:10 pm

      Hey Kenny, that sounds fun. I can show the video of what you’re working with and we can all do a group collaboration. Talk to you soon. Alex

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    • jim sadler January 28, 2012, 4:09 pm

      The cities rarely come looking at home interiors. If you convert a closed in garage using stealth the chances are they will not know it until you try to sell the home. Then it becomes and issue and you might want to be able to quickly turn it back into a garage.
      Avoid going to a supply store like Home Depot and driving back home with a bunch of supplies as building inspectors frequently follow vehicles fro those types of stores to check permits. So if you go and buy a bunch of plywood be certain and stop and have lunch with a buddy and maybe make another stop before driving home. Do not order a concrete delivery to your home or any other action that would tell the world you are doing construction in your home.
      Why not build a tiny home on wheels inside the garage? As long as nobody sees it you’ll be fine and if an inspector should take notice for some reason you are only building it there not keeping it there.

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  • Aili January 28, 2012, 5:21 pm

    Seriously? Who wants to live that way? Read your zoning by-laws and city ordinances and build in accordance with the law until popular demand can change things.

    I’m in the process of this exact endeavor and while it is taking additional effort to build tiny in compliance it is well worth the effort. Building and living tiny is supposed to be about gaining some PEACE and simplicity in your life … sneaking home from Lowe’s with building supplies is not my definition of living in peace!

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    • anne May 1, 2014, 7:05 am

      Aili, You may feel you can wait for the world to change and maybe you can. Some of us can’t, there is always risk in life of one type or another. I am sure people who have had property confiscated by the government due to eminent domain thought they had rights too. Truth is laws are almost impossible to change, and there’s nothing wrong or illegal about finding ways around them. Thats what lawyers do everyday. Good luck and peace to you, hope we can both get what we want and need.

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  • Nichole July 15, 2012, 6:58 pm

    Great conversations here on the tiny blog. I am so grateful for everyone’s contributions and have learned so much. My husband and have been searching for an “affordable” home in Delaware for six months to get out of the city where people are literally killing each other in the streets. The housing stock is tricky as most of the starter homes are old and in need of major repair. In addition, many homes have been wrecked by previous homeowners in the foreclosure process. Land is roughly $35k+ per acre.

    We are clearly in need of an alternative. We currently live in a 350 sq ft efficiency and are exploring the transition to a tiny home, but the problem still is…where do we build and where do we park? I see a lot of mobile home parks in Delaware. Does anyone in this tiny movement have experience with converting a mobile home park to a tiny mobile park? I read legitimate mobile structure in parks must be “manufactured.” Any idea how to get around this? We are exploring the idea of purchasing a mobile park for this purpose. If anyone has any resources along these lines please drop me a line. I would rather invest in a tiny home development rather than a 2000 sq ft started home with large utility bills and taxes. This is a great affordable housing project for the community. Peace.

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  • Bobby Nu July 22, 2012, 12:06 pm

    Bunnell Florida….have a 1 acre pond was thinking a floating foundation 20X30 feet and a tiny house on it….from my understanding code might have a problem dealing with house boats….any thoughts ….Bob

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  • MsDawn September 8, 2012, 12:48 pm

    I have several tiny/small projects on my 6 acres. I had to throw the helpers out the other day and they called all kinds of people on me. I dealt with animal control already and of course all my ducks were in a row. The police on the other hand were jerks. IE… you can’t have only one meter, you aren’t up to code…they claimed I was running an rv park … NOT, I am renting one rv spot to make the bills/expenses here as I am disabled. I am waiting on the code people and adult protective services . I don’t know what is gonna happen but we need laws to be changed. I bought in the county and not the city cause I didn’t want this kind of hassle and wanted to live small and self reliantly. Not sure if the fact the 2 tiny buildings we live in with a sep bath house was already here when we bought or not helps protect me or not. UGHHH

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  • Harry September 29, 2012, 9:56 pm

    I’m enjoying the information here. Just wondering if anyone is doing anything around the Treasure Coast Florida. I’m trying to retire and would like to end up there but, retirement is minimal income so would like to have something small and perhaps mobile.

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  • Ray March 14, 2013, 12:41 am

    Can someone tell me if I can build a tiny home in miami dade county. Its going to be in a outside urban development boundary.. Currently its a 5th wheel trailer but I would like to take apart and rebuild it. I also wanted to actually extend it out to make it bigger. I’m I able to do this without breaking any laws?

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    • Tiki August 11, 2014, 9:32 pm

      Hi Ray, I’m in the Miami-Dade area and I’m looking to build a tiny home. Have you found any info?

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  • luis diaz August 27, 2013, 3:22 pm

    Hello I’ve been researching on tiny houses and been wanting to acquire a cheap piece of land near central fl, i have carpentry skills therefore i’m opting to build a tiny house instead of buying a regular house and get in debt, i have a few questions on locating an onsite tiny house, if anyone can help please contact me at adnone1art.diaz@gmail.com

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  • DwM May 17, 2014, 6:49 pm

    Legal? What is legal? At one time it was illegal for a “colored” person to ride in the front of the bus. Rosa Parks did not wait for the “majority” to vote for the legal issue. She was not hurting anyone, she had the right. Ladies and gentlemen our American laws have gotten out of hand. Protection has grown into oppression. You want to live in a smaller than “legal” domicile? Do it. If the government of this free land comes against you, call on the other Americans across this free land to stand up with you. Believe me they will.

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    • Sean C August 19, 2014, 7:52 pm

      Well said!

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